3 types of interview questions to effectively assess soft skills

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4 mins, 12 secs read time

It’s no secret that asking the right candidate interview questions is key to a great hiring process, especially when assessing soft skills. While there are numerous online resources offering soft skills examples coupled with interview questions to ask candidates, every role you’re hiring for is unique – and so the soft skills you’ll want to assess vary from role to role.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are traits and characteristics that a candidate needs to be successful at a particular role. Unlike hard skills, which focus on technical and practical abilities that can be measured using interview assignments, soft skills are difficult to quantify or measure that way.

According to Thomson Reuters, soft skills are now being called “essential skills” or “power skills” to reflect their importance, especially in hybrid workforce management.

The 7 soft skills

While there isn’t a single, definitive list of soft skills, there are seven common soft skills that you’ll likely want to include in your job descriptions and interview scorecards: communication, teamwork, problem-solving, time management, critical thinking, decision-making and leadership.

What interview questions to ask to assess soft skills?

As you think about the best interview questions to ask, it’s important to consider what success looks like for the specific role you’re hiring for. This important foundational step is called “role scoping”, and it helps you lead a more structured interview process. Ask yourself:

  1. What will a superstar accomplish in a year?
  2. What would they need to do in the first year to accomplish that?
  3. What core soft skills will they need to demonstrate based on these criteria?

Now it’s time for some inspiration. In this blog post we divide interview questions into three types, paired with interview questions examples tailored to assess the seven soft skills for each type.

1. Behavioral interview questions

Behavioral questions provide insight into how a candidate handled specific situations in the past. They’re great for assessing soft skills, which are often best demonstrated through real-life examples.

Behavioural interview questions examples:

  • Communication: Describe a situation where you had to communicate a complex idea to a non-technical audience. How did it go?
  • Teamwork: Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with someone you didn’t get along with. How did you handle it?
  • Problem-solving: Share an example of a challenging problem you encountered at work. How did you approach it and what was the outcome?
  • Time management: Describe a time when you had to manage multiple projects simultaneously. How did you keep everything on track?
  • Critical thinking: Describe a time where a project did not go as planned. What can be done to avoid a similar problem in the future?
  • Decision-making: Tell me about a time when you had to make a big decision on short notice. What was the outcome of your decision?
  • Leadership: Describe a situation where you were tasked with inspiring a team member. How did you get them excited about the project or task at hand?

2. Situational interview questions

Situational interview questions are similar to behavioral interview questions – but they are focused on the future and ask hypothetical questions. They’re great alternatives when candidates don’t have examples from past experiences to demonstrate a particular core soft skill.

Situational interview questions examples:

  • Communication: You’re tasked with delivering difficult feedback to a colleague. How would you address this issue through communication?
  • Teamwork: You’re working on a team project, and one team member is not contributing their fair share of the work. How would you address this situation?
  • Problem-solving: You’re working on a project that involves dealing with a challenging team member. How would you approach working towards a resolution?
  • Time management: You’re struggling with meeting a tight deadline. What would you do to get back on track?
  • Critical thinking: You’re tasked with improving a specific process in your department. How would you go about identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes?
  • Decision-making: You’re working on a project with a limited budget and resources. How would you prioritise your resources to achieve success?
  • Leadership: Imagine you’re in a leadership role and your team is not meeting its performance targets. How would you motivate and inspire your team to improve their results?

3. Open-ended interview questions:

Open-ended questions offer candidates the chance to showcase their skills without necessarily having to ground their responses in past experiences or hypothetical situations.

Open-ended interview questions examples:

  • Communication: How do you deliver constructive feedback to colleagues when needed?
  • Teamwork: When managing team projects, how do you ensure all stakeholders are informed and connected?
  • Problem-solving: What’s your go-to approach to identify and fix the problem?
  • Time management: What do you do to help your team meet deadlines?
  • Critical thinking: How do you prioritize tasks to ensure successful completion when working against a tight deadline?
  • Decision-making: When making big, difficult decisions, do you typically ask others for advice or trust your instincts?
  • Leadership: How do you lead your team to identify and implement a solution when facing roadblocks?

Interested in learning more about how to make confident hiring decisions with structured hiring? Download our guide “How to be an effective assessor of talent”.

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Injy ElDeeb

Injy ElDeeb

is an International Marketing Manager at Greenhouse with a flair for storytelling. When she's not busy working up content ideas, you'll find her curled up with a good book on the beach, cooking mediterranean food, traveling the world or hanging out with friends and doggos at the park. You can connect with Injy on LinkedIn.

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