Best Questions For Soft Skills Assessment

It’s relatively easy to evaluate an applicant’s technical skills. You can verify employment and educational history, ask the interviewee to sit for a skills assessment, or simply engage them in conversation about their work experience and achievements.  This is great, as you want to be sure that the people you hire are actually qualified to do the work you need them to.

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as easy to assess soft skills. That’s a shame because while you can train someone to improve their technical proficiency, many soft skills are innate. If you hire someone without these skills, you could find yourself with an employee who struggles to fit in with their peers, can’t work as part of a team, and doesn’t know how to communicate effectively. At best that’s a struggle. At worst, you’ve got a real nightmare on your hands.

The best way to avoid this situation is to present potential hires with a set of questions to evaluate their soft skills. Here are a few to consider.

Tell me The Five Things That You Most Prioritise in a Job?

Cultural fit is a key factor in the hiring process. It’s not a soft skill on its own, but it is a measure of how an applicant’s soft skills, working style, and other preferences will gel with your work environment. By asking the candidate to list five things that are most important to them, you can gain quite a bit of insight. 

For example, imagine that you have an applicant who values a quiet place to work, plenty of autonomy, great benefits, a clear management structure, and an office with a door. That might be a problem if you are hiring for a startup with a tight budget, open office floor-plan, that emphasises group decision-making.

Give an Example of a Work Situation Where Things Went Wrong. How Did You Handle That?

The answer to this question can reveal many important things about an applicant. First, are they willing to be forthcoming about a negative situation they were in? How do they approach problem-solving? In a crisis, are they likely to focus on finding a solution or assigning blame? Did they showcase leadership skills, and support their colleagues? Can they look back at a challenging situation and articulate what they have learned? Their answers will reveal quite a bit about their attitude, work ethic, and leadership skills. Plus, an open-ended question like this will get the applicant talking. That’s a great way to assess their overall personality.

How do You Handle Multiple Tasks at Once?

It’s important that the person you hire is able to prioritise the tasks they are given. The ability to do this is a good indicator of organisational skills, the ability to be aware of the needs of the organisation, and communication skills. A worker who can organise their tasks for efficiency and effectiveness will be more likely to meet their deadlines, adapt to changes, and handle stressful situations. If the interviewee mentions that they would ask for help in setting priorities, don’t hold this against them. Their willingness to ask for help, and communicate their needs should be seen as a positive.

How Would You Explain a Complex Part of Your Job to a Client

This is a great question for an applicant in a technical field. All too often, people who work at tech jobs struggle to communicate effectively with others. Technical staff should be able to provide basic explanations of technical concepts to non-technical clients and coworkers. Use this question to see if they are capable of talking about their work without using jargon or tech-speak.

Share an Example of Working With a Difficult Person.

Karen Miller, an HR staffer at BestEssay.Education says, “A good employee will be able to work with all of their coworkers cooperatively. They will prioritise successful completion of projects over personality conflicts with others. When situations become too problematic to navigate, they will use appropriate channels to get help.” Professionalism means prioritising the needs of the organisation. It also entails communicating clearly, setting boundaries, and managing conflict.

What Does Constructive Criticism Mean to You?

How will your potential new hire take negative feedback? Will they use it to improve, or become defensive? One way to determine this is to learn how they interpret the phrase constructive criticism. One person may view all but the most flowery and positive feedback as an attack. That can be a real problem when you need someone to integrate into a team, and learn new processes and procedures. Prioritise interviewees who see constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve themselves.

Talk About a Time When a Coworker’s Mistake Negatively Impacted You?

It’s fairly common for interviewers to ask applicants about mistakes they’ve made, and the lessons they’ve learned from those mistakes. That can certainly turn up some useful information, but have you ever considered asking how an applicant handles themselves when others make a mistake? That can also reveal some useful insights into the applicant’s ability to get along with others, and show what they prioritise in a crisis. For example, are they able to work through potential frustrations, extend some grace to someone who has made a mistake, cooperatively work to fix the mistake, and work to help fix the problem. This question will also indicate whether someone is able to hold others accountable while still maintaining their professionalism.

Consider offering this question in written form. In some cases, people who may be hesitant to share details face to face are more forthcoming when they write. Here are some resources you can use to write the question to elicit the most open responses; Hemingway, Grab My Essay, Grammarly, and Studicus.

Do You Prefer to Communicate? Verbally or in Writing?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. However, the answer might impact how you see an applicant fitting into your organisation. If you live and die by meetings and conference calls, a worker who prefers to communicate via email will have some adjustments to make. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you should dismiss the applicant outright. However, you might want to probe a bit deeper into their thoughts about this, and their ability to be flexible. It may be noteworthy to you as well that written communicators are often introverts.

Final Thoughts

You dedicate a significant amount of time and resources to each person you hire. When a new employee works well, that benefits the entire organisation. Unfortunately, when they don’t, you find yourself back at square one. Since the cultural fit is key to employee retention, doesn’t it make sense to assess these skills during the hiring process? Try incorporating some questions above into your hiring process to help ensure that every new hire has the work ethic, leadership, and communication skills they need.