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Interview for Soft Skills

A new set of essential soft skills has emerged in recent years, and assessing potential employees for these abilities is increasingly important. Because so many roles are now at least partially remote, strong communication skills, initiative, time-management abilities, professionalism and self-discipline are highly prized. Employers see these skills as having a direct impact on employee productivity, engagement and overall success.

Asking Questions that Show AND Tell

A candidate can claim to possess various soft skills on a resume. But these abilities are inherently difficult to measure on paper. So how can hiring managers suss out the hard facts when it comes to soft skills?

When evaluating a candidate’s soft-skill savvy, interviewers need to rely on questions that elicit real-world descriptions illustrating how a candidate uses those abilities at work. Here are some interview questions an employer can use to evaluate today’s most coveted candidate characteristics:

Communication Questions

  • Please give me an example of a time when you had to explain to your manager a complex challenge you encountered while working on a project.

  • Tell me about a successful presentation you made, and what made it so.

  • Describe a time when you had to convince someone resistant to an idea or a change.

  • Explain how you resolved a miscommunication on your team or conflict between colleagues.

  • Describe a time when you had to work cross-functionally with multiple teams or departments.

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Initiative/Self-starter Questions

  • Detail a situation when you recognized there was a better way to accomplish something, and you took the initiative to improve the process.

  • Give me an example of a project that you took from idea to executed deliverable.

  • Tell me about a time when you took on extra responsibility or went above and beyond your set role.

  • What is the first step you take when you are assigned a task with little or no direction?

Time-Management Questions

  • Talk to me about your process for organizing your day.

  • Tell me how you balance projects with competing deadlines.

  • How do you manage your schedule to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list?

  • What routines or productivity tools do you employ to manage your day?

Self-discipline Questions

  • How do you minimize distractions during the workday?

  • How do you motivate yourself to tackle the least appealing item on your to-do list?

  • Tell me about a time you missed a deadline. What did you learn?

Professionalism Questions

  • Tell me about a time you had to address problematic behavior from a coworker. What was your approach?

  • Remind me why you are leaving your current employer. (Note: A candidate with a finely tuned sense of professionalism will avoid negative comments about previous employers and managers.)

  • Have you ever encountered a situation when you were asked to share confidential or sensitive information? How did you react?

  • What aspects of professionalism do you believe are most important to this particular role?

A Final Word on Assessing Soft Skills

Considering the expanding influence of professionals in creative, marketing and tech roles, soft skills have never been more crucial. Moreover, candidates with elevated soft skills are well-positioned for success in today's era of remote work. As a hiring manager, it's essential to ask questions that will help you more fully evaluate an interviewee's strength in these key areas.

This post was updated on Dec. 8, 2023.