How to Conduct a Soft Skills Interview: 5 Questions to Ask Candidates
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“Soft skills get little respect but they will make or break your career,” said Peggy Klaus, best-selling author and communication and leadership expert.
Around 90% of new hires who fail during the first 18 months at a company fail because they lack soft skills. Data shows that soft skills matter, especially in a remote work environment where communication skills are even more critical due to the lack of in-person contact.
More and more leaders and recruiters understand that even the most knowledgeable engineer, well-educated accountant, or savviest social media marketer may ultimately have poor job performance if they have no self-awareness, questionable work ethic, and personality traits that lead to workplace conflict.
Fortunately, a trained hiring manager can ask behavioral interview questions during the interview process to understand a candidate’s soft skills and, in turn, anticipate their likelihood of succeeding in the role. In this article, Deel’s People team shares its secrets to testing candidates for soft skills.
5 soft skills interview tips to learn more about your candidate
Testing for soft skills can be more complicated than testing for technical skills, also called hard skills. A candidate either has technical know-how (sometimes even measured by certification) or doesn’t. But measuring someone’s leadership skills? Emotional intelligence? There’s no box to tick.
Here are a few tips for measuring a candidate’s soft skills during a remote job interview:
- Approach soft skills assessment based on seniority: Evaluate a candidate’s soft skills based on the seniority level they’re applying for (an associate won’t need to have incredible leadership skills but someone applying to manage a team should)
- Be an assertive listener: During the hiring process, pick up on verbal and nonverbal clues and read between the lines (the candidate’s tone of voice, posture, handshake, and facial expressions are important indicators of their communication styles, confidence, professionalism)
- Brush up on your own communication skills: Ask open-ended questions to get more information about the potential candidate’s soft skills, personality, experience, and education
- Focus on the job seeker’s potential role: The soft skills you’ll look for also depend on the candidate’s role (someone coding software won’t need excellent body language as much as a salesperson)
- Skip generic questions: Generic questions may lead to rehearsed, basic answers, so ask for specific examples, context, and situations from a candidate’s previous roles
Common soft skills to look out for when working remotely
Each position comes with its own set of necessary soft skills. But certain soft skills apply to nearly every role, especially in the remote work environment.
Here’s a list of the most important soft skills to test in a job interview:
- Problem solving
- Time management
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Decision making under pressure
- Interpersonal skills like emotional intelligence or empathy
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5 essential soft skills interview questions
Many people believe remote job interviews are more challenging than in-person interviews. But they’re just different from what we’re used to. You still want to learn whether a candidate will get along with their future team members, be a productive contributor, and end up a cultural fit for your company.
Here are five common interview questions and answers you want to hear from your potential new employee.
1. Can you describe a few of your favourite coworkers and what you like about them?
The answer tells you what a candidate values in their coworkers. It reveals the behavior they deem worthy of praise and the importance of teamwork in their career.
You can also learn a lot about whether or not they would fit into your company culture. For example, if they favored coworkers who lifted spirits through humor and kindness, a formal environment might not be the right cultural fit. But a startup with a less professional culture might.
If the candidate praises colleagues who were always there to help, they might not succeed (or be happy) in a highly independent position.
2. Can you share a situation where a project went wrong and how you reacted?
The answer to this question teaches you about the candidate’s adaptability, ability to handle problems, and readiness to take ownership of their mistakes.
Ask the applicant to give you as many details as possible about that situation without disclosing anything confidential about their previous employer. Look for cues that show how they were able to pivot, the steps that took them in the right direction, and their overall demeanor when faced with such obstacles. And ask them follow-up questions to see how well they can describe the root of the problem rather than lament the undesirable outcomes.
3. What does your typical workday look like?
This question reveals a lot about a candidate’s time management skills, self-discipline, and organization.
Burnout is the buzzword of the post-covid work environment. Setting boundaries and managing priorities are much more important when working from home and controlling your own schedule.
Screen for time management and organizational skills by asking more specific questions:
- How do you organize your workday?
- How do you prioritize tasks?
- Given the following scenario, which task would you prioritize?
To avoid ending up with well-rehearsed, typical answers that are not very useful, request a detailed walk-through of the day. Once the candidate starts listing their common activities you will have a much deeper understanding of their time management skills.
4. Who would you consult to solve a particular problem?
The answer to this question reveals the candidate’s teamwork and communication skills and gives you a glimpse of their leadership style.
Present your candidate with a problem or a situation typical for their position: a new sprint for an engineer, new content series for someone in marketing, or a revamping of the hiring process for a recruiter. Ask the candidate about the people they would involve to make this possible and how they would present the project, including its goals and timeframe.
Possible follow-up questions:
- Why do you believe this person is crucial to this project?
- Who do you think should own the delivery of a certain part of the project?
- What technique would you use to keep track of all the information and deadlines?
5. What's the best of the following options?
This question tells you about the candidate’s ability to make decisions under pressure and prioritization skills.
Present a candidate with a scenario and give them a few possible solutions. For example, ask the candidate what they would do if their manager weren’t available to help with an issue they couldn’t solve. Would they take action themselves, reach out to their manager outside of official communication, or consult with a senior team member?
Make sure that you ask questions related to the company and your industry in general and position-specific questions. Give the candidate enough information to decide, but don’t make the answers too obvious. Always present three options, where two are pretty similar, and follow up once they choose their response.
Hire the best talent with Deel
Once you identify the best candidates for your company, we can take it from there—no matter where the candidate lives.
Deel is a global employer of record that enables you to hire from over 150 countries in minutes. With locally compliant contracts, mass payments, straightforward onboarding procedures, employee benefits administration, and multiple withdrawal options and currencies, we create the best possible experience for your international employees.
Want to know more about how we make global hiring simple? Book a demo with one of our experts and ask away.