Interview Smarter: 8 Key Assessments for Soft Skills

Hard skills are the quantifiable, certifiable and genuinely measurable skills you expect your employees to have. Your hard labor employees should be able to operate certain machinery, lift a certain amount of weight and stay safe in each physical situation. Your office employees should be skilled in using certain software programs. Any employee might require a certain college degree, certificate or number of years of experience. All of this is easy to measure and assess during or even before an interview.

Soft skills are qualitative skills and they’re harder to measure. These include the way your employee might handle different situations, and involve their ethics, beliefs and attitudes as well as the decisions they make. These are often the hardest to assess in an interview (and on the job!) and yet, they’re often the hardest to influence post-hire, and the most impactful to the employee’s success at your company.

So, how do you assess the soft skills of your prospective hire? Start here:

Which Soft Skills Matter Most?

First, we have to understand the number of soft skills we could look at is nearly infinite. Any quality, trait, opinion or feeling could be relevant to a given role. However, these are the soft skills we think are the most universally essential:

  • Teachability
  • Collaboration
  • Leadership Potential
  • Humility
  • Inquisition
  • Initiative & Work Ethic
  • Organization
  • Flexibility

That said, you might think of 20 more that matter more to you. Fortunately, the questions below assess multiple soft skills at once and will help you to paint a better, more qualitative picture of your interviewee, quickly and effectively.

Interview Questions that Assess Soft Skills

Ask: Can you give me an example of your role in a recent group project? How did you end up in this role?
What to Look For:
An answer that explains the nature of the team, how your interviewee contributed to the tasks and how much initiative they took during planning & execution. The answer should avoid lazy passivity, negative comments about working with others or an inclination to “take over” or “do all the work.”

Ask: Tell me about an instance where you needed help. What did you do?
What to Look For: An answer that explains what type of help was needed (guidance, an extra hand, information share, etc.) as well as who the candidate approached for help and how. Someone who “never needs help” or was too scared to ask could be a red flag.

Ask: When was the last time a manager criticized your work or rejected your ideas? What happened next?
What to Look For: An answer that explains the work or idea that was critiqued, the nature of the criticism, and especially how they responded & acted thereafter. Answers should not include anger, defensiveness or hubris.

Ask: What strategies or tools do you use daily to stay organized?
What to Look For: A strong, confident list of tools, strategies or ideas about organization & examples of how they work.

Ask: What is your greatest challenge as a leader? How do you work through it?
What to Look For: Experience as a leader (even in a non-work or small group context) and specific examples of a challenge & course of action.

Ask: How do you stay informed on the latest trends or ideas in your industry?
What to Look For: A list of blogs, publications, news programs, podcasts, classes or some type of resource your candidate frequents. The more, the better. Also, it’s a good sign if your candidate actually uses the information they gather by practicing and working on skills.

Ask: How did you get to know your colleagues & develop relationships at XYZ Company?
What to Look For: Your candidate should have taken initiative to meet people, find common ground, offer help and take advice when given. A poor answer would include never having built any relationships, encountering a lot of conflict at that position or waiting for colleagues to build the relationships.

Ask: Tell me about a time you disagreed with a manager. How did you handle the situation?
What to Look For: The candidate should demonstrate an openness to discuss disagreement and the willingness & flexibility to meet at a compromise.

With these eight soft skill interview questions, you’ll be well on your way to hiring the perfect, well-rounded candidate. For more help with finding the just-right hire for your open position, collaborate with Malone. Get started in your area today!



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