30 behavioral interview questions to assess soft skills
Explore behavioral-based interview questions to help you identify high-potential candidates.
Asking behavioral interview questions is a good way to spot candidates who will thrive.
We surveyed nearly 1,300 hiring managers about which soft skills they look for and the behavioral-based interview questions they ask. While every role and candidate is a little different, interviewers called out the following soft skills as the best indicators of which candidates will excel.
In a rapidly changing work environment, adaptability is a key soft skill for thriving.
Adaptability is essential for employees. 46% of leaders said upskilling or reskilling was a top focus area this year. Employees who are adaptable are more likely to achieve better outcomes as priorities shift or setbacks occur, since they’re already comfortable making strategic adjustments.
5 behavioral interview questions to help you screen for adaptability
Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
Listen for excitement about tackling new challenges and a willingness to leave their comfort zone, knowing they’ll learn something valuable from the experience.
Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
Listen for eagerness to explore new ways of working and ways to improve based on what they learn, if they discovered a better way, and whether they embraced the change.
Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
Listen for understanding that their job may evolve and willingness to try something new and take the necessary steps to ensure that they were successful.
Tell me about the biggest change you’ve had to deal with? How did you adapt to that change?
Listen for acceptance that change is inevitable. Strong candidates will also share how they could successfully adapt to new situations and find the support they need.
Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your outcomes.
Listen for a willingness to be flexible when required, and the ability to reflect on what they learned from the experience, both good and bad.
According to learning and development (L&D) pros, the most important skills to master are resilience and adaptability, communication across remote or distributed teams, and emotional intelligence.
Looking for culture adds can help identify candidates that bring a new perspective and reduce hiring bias.
Culture adds have the potential to do great things at your company. That’s why many hiring managers have stopped evaluating for “culture fit” and are now asking themselves whether candidates are a “culture add” — someone who doesn’t just preserve your existing culture, but helps it evolve and grow. A recent Deloitte report noted that companies with inclusive talent practices generate up to 30% higher revenue per employee.
5 behavioral interview questions to help you screen for culture adds
What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
Listen for alignment between what’s most important to them and what the role and company have to offer.
Tell me about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energized, and productive at work. What were you doing?
Listen for indications that the work environment and day-to-day responsibilities are right for them.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
Listen for signs the candidate will bring new experiences and skills to the team, even if it’s unrelated to their specific role.
What would make you choose our company over others?
Listen for thoughtful, honest responses that tell you what they’re really thinking — not what they think you want to hear.
What’s the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you, and why do they think that?
Listen for self-reflection and transparency. The best responses will demonstrate that the candidate is open with the people around them.
The percentage of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture that will exceed their financial targets.
When a role requires teamwork, strong collaboration skills make a big difference.
Done right, collaboration improves productivity, efficiency, and morale. When it’s absent, it can create roadblocks for colleagues. In a role where your new hire will need to work well with others, assessing for collaboration can help you find someone who will succeed and drive others toward greater success.
5 behavioral interview questions to help you screen for collaboration
Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?
Listen for a willingness to try to see things from the other person’s perspective by identifying the cause of the tension and finding ways to improve the relationship.
Tell me about a time when you were communicating with someone and they did not understand you. What did you do?
Listen for patience. Great collaborators take the time to make sure they’re being understood and can adjust their style to align with others.
Tell me about one of your favorite experiences working with a team and the contributions you made.
Listen for energy and motivation through teamwork. A healthy mix of “I” and “we” statements communicates both individual and team contributions.
Describe the best partner or supervisor you’ve worked with. What part of their management style appealed to you?
Listen for an understanding of their own working style and what kind of personalities they work best with.
Can you share an experience where a project dramatically shifted direction at the last minute? What did you do?
Listen for a focus on keeping the team aligned and a comfort with tapping coworkers for additional help when a project demands it.
The likelihood that teams who collaborate will stay with a company compared with their more isolated peers.
Check out our other interviewing resources.
Hiring more people with leadership skills can help companies stay ahead of the competition.
Even when you’re not interviewing for a leadership role, hire people who can inspire. It’s not just the leader’s own skills and vision that drive success — it’s their ability to motivate and unleash the potential in others. Organizations with strong leadership are 13x more likely to outperform their competition.
5 behavioral interview questions to help you screen for leadership
Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
Listen for thoughtful reflection and a strong sense of ownership. True leaders don’t try to shift the blame to others, but consider what they could have done differently.
Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
Listen for a response that establishes credibility and uses compelling evidence to reinforce their viewpoint, rather than acting like they know best.
Tell me about a time when you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?
Listen for an understanding of how their behavior impacts those around them. Strong candidates demonstrate that they hold themselves to a high standard, and are an inspiration to their team.
Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
Listen for a careful consideration of outcomes. Great leaders seek advice when they need it — but they don’t shy away from making the final decision.
Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your coworkers or group? How did you do it? What were the results?
Listen for use of proof points and assertiveness without being pushy. Leaders should be open to discussing and addressing callouts from their teammates.
Hire someone with growth potential, and they’ll advance into the role and make it their own.
Most candidates are interested in advancing their career, not just doing more of the same. While it’s tempting to find individuals with similar skills and experience as the employees they’re replacing, hiring someone with growth potential is the smarter, long-term play. You’ll earn their loyalty — making them more likely to stay and grow with the company.
5 behavioral interview questions to help you screen for growth potential
Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? Who did you consult with?
Listen for the ability to rise to the occasion without stepping on toes. Great candidates respect all stakeholders and explore options before making a decision.
Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so.
Listen for an eagerness to learn and a willingness to ask for resources. Great candidates invest in continuous learning and actively seek out new opportunities.
What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?
Listen that the candidate is more invested in growth opportunities than they are in an immediate payoff; that they are interested in being challenged.
When was the last time you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?
Listen for they regularly requested feedback, an indication that the candidate sought constant self-improvement in their current or previous role.
What’s the biggest career goal you’ve achieved?
Listen for motivation and drive. They take pride in their achievements and use them to become more successful.
Candidates who excel in prioritization can delegate, take on, and juggle key tasks simultaneously.
Try to look for people who can manage their time effectively and pay close attention to details to ensure that things don’t fall through the cracks. This is especially important in roles that have firm due dates and tight project timelines. When employees know how to prioritize, they’re less likely to drop the ball or to burn themselves out.
5 behavioral interview questions to help you screen for prioritization
Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?
Listen for a clear and proactive process for organizing their time, like blocking off their calendar, creating a to-do list, and deprioritizing particular tasks.
Tell me about a project that you planned. How did you organize and schedule the tasks?
Listen for strong self-discipline and a methodical approach to meeting deadlines and driving a project through to completion.
Describe a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?
Listen for signs that planning and prioritization help the candidate to stay calm and focused, but that they also know how to lighten the load by delegating tasks.
Give an example of a time when you delegated an important task successfully.
Listen for an understanding of how to delegate and drive success. Candidates who are great at prioritizing make sure they’re clear about communicating instructions, deadlines, and expectations.
How do you determine what amount of time is reasonable for a task?
Listen for signs that candidates think carefully about how they’re spending their time and that they seek a healthy middle ground between work that is sufficient and work that is perfect.
Companies ranked a candidate’s ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work as the third most important skill.