Interview Questions For Soft Skills

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Interview Questions For Soft Skills

Soft skills are the unsung heroes of success - but so often, we forget all about them in job interviews. We favor technical skills, education, and experience forgetting that soft skills are what tip the scales in favor of those who properly wield them.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, "soft skills" are how individuals interact with others and approach their work. Often including things like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, and time management. While hard skills refer to specific technical knowledge or abilities, soft skills involve a person's behavior and attitude.

These job interview questions for soft skills are designed to help you identify candidates who not only have the necessary technical qualifications but also possess the soft skills that will enable them to excel in their roles. Remember, while technical skills are important for performing specific tasks, people skills are vital for building a great team.

There's a growing recognition in the marketplace that soft skills are the most powerful indicators of success a person can convey in an interview. As the old saying goes, "hire for culture, then train for skills." This increasing emphasis has necessitated the introduction of interview questions for soft skills. Two great examples of job interview questions for soft skills would be, "How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?" (OR) "Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult team member. How did you manage the situation?"

Unlike interview questions about hard skills which require simple technical answers, questions like these allow hiring managers to collect interview insights into an individual's problem-solving abilities, conflict resolution skills, and teamwork capabilities. These are great interview questions for screening candidates early in the interview process as they don't require technical knowledge and can be asked by anyone on the hiring team.

In addition, asking specific questions about soft skills will allow you to observe how a candidate responds. Interview questions about soft skills often take the form of situational or behaviorally-based inquiries that require the candidate to provide real-life examples and specific details rather than just stating general answers. When assessing these replies, the interviewer can visually walk through a problem as a candidate explains it to understand their brevity, communication skills, level of self-awareness and accountability, and the ability to reflect on past experiences and identify patterns that can be learned from.

In the end, identifying candidates with strong soft skills can lead to better job performance, employee satisfaction, and overall team success- and using interview intelligence to screen for these skills is the first step in finding the perfect fit.

Soft Skills In Software Engineering

Software engineers get a "bad wrap" when it comes to soft skills. Often dismissed as lower on the emotional intelligence (EQ) scale, they're stereotyped as being solely focused on technical skills and lacking in soft skills. However, this couldn't be further from the truth.

In reality, many of the software engineers that I've worked with in my career have incredible emotional intelligence and possess a wide range of soft skills that have been essential to their success. In fact, the tech industry is increasingly recognizing the value of soft skills in software engineering and actively seeking out candidates with strong people skills as the nature of the job requires collaboration and communication with team members at every level of the organization as well as, stakeholders, and clients.

Soft skills in software engineering build better teams, increase productivity, and foster a positive work environment and that's why they're a vital assessment step in the recruitment process.

Soft skills interview questions for developers and engineers could be as simple as, "Can you describe a situation where you had to adjust your communication style to work effectively with a team?" This question seeks to understand the candidate's adaptability to be present with others on the team as they work through a complex problem. Another example could be, "How have you contributed to a positive work environment in the past?" which aims to gauge the candidate's team spirit and interpersonal skills.

Asking open-ended, behavioral-based, soft skills interview questions (a mouthful, I know!) will require a candidate to draw on real-life experiences where they've applied interpersonal skills to enhance or diffuse a given situation. This will provide valuable insights into their thought processes, empathy, approach to working with others, how they handle challenges and conflicts, and their overall attitude towards contributing to the team.

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

Understanding the difference between soft skills and hard skills is important for employers who are "culture conscious." While hard skills refer to specific technical knowledge or abilities that are necessary for a particular role, soft skills involve a person's behavior and attitude. It's worth noting that interview questions for technical skills are very straightforward - assessing a candidate's soft skills, on the other hand, can be far more nuanced.

For example, a technical interview question might be: "How have you implemented (XYZ feature) in a previous project?" On the other hand, a soft skills interview question might look like this: "Describe a time when you had to explain a complex technical problem to a non-technical team member or client. How did you ensure they understood?" This question is twofold, testing the candidate’s technical knowledge and their ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively with other non-technical people.

If you'd like to see more structured interview questions like this, click here to generate a personal interview guide. You'll be prompted to paste your job description into the text box, and we'll email you a custom guide including interview questions for your next software engineer interview.

Soft Skills Interview Questions With Answers

In the last two sections, we alluded to the assessment of the candidate's responses to your interview questions. Let's make that the focus of this section.

Interview Questions for Soft Skills with Answers

1. Can you give me an example of how you handle disagreements within a team?

Team disagreements are a common topic of soft skills interview questions. Handling egos, aligning teams, and conflict resolution are all aspects of working in a fast-paced environment. A great answer to this question may be: "In general, I believe in direct, but respectful, communication to address disagreements. In my last role as a software engineer, a colleague and I had very different views on the direction of a project. After meeting with our manager, we realized that we both had the project's best interest at heart so we combined elements from both proposals, resulting in a more comprehensive solution that was later praised by our team."

2. Describe a situation where you had to adjust your communication style to work effectively with a team.

Answering this question will assess not only a candidate's communication style but also their awareness of others, ie. emotional intelligence (EQ). A good response could be, "In my last role, I worked with a diverse team including non-native English speakers. I learned to simplify my language and slow down my speech so that everyone on the team was on the same page. Additionally, I started incorporating more visual aids into my presentations to ensure everyone understood the concepts being discussed. This approach was more inclusive and improved our team's overall collaboration."

3. Can you provide an example of how you've handled a high-pressure situation in the past?

This question evaluates stress management and resilience. A great response would be, "During a critical project, our team was way behind schedule due to some unforeseen technical issues. Recognizing the stress this put on the team, I organized a series of short daily check-ins to prioritize tasks and offer support where needed. I also scheduled a team happy hour so we could all blow off steam, play games, and have a drink together. This not only helped us meet our deadline but also grew team cohesion and morale."

4. How have you contributed to a positive work environment in the past?

I'm not a huge fan of this question, but I think it makes the candidate revisit their potential impact on team culture. A great answer could be, "I'm convinced that a positive and encouraging workplace begins with showing appreciation publicly. In my last job, I always made sure to shout out my colleagues' wins in meetings. It really helped us build excitement around long projects and made me grateful to have an effective team.

5. Describe a time when you had to explain a complex technical problem to a non-technical team member or client. How did you ensure they understood?

There's a great line from the movie "Margin Call," where the CEO says to one of his analysts (who's an actual rocket scientist), "Please, speak as you might to a young child or a golden retriever..." Now, we're not advocating talking down to people, but your candidate's ability to take extremely complex technical jargon and communicate it to non-technical people is actually a sign of a skilled communicator. Responding with something like, "I was tasked with explaining a very complex software bug to a client lacking a technical background. I used a simple analogy, comparing the software issue to a plumbing problem in a house, where certain pathways were blocked and needed fixing. I then outlined our plan to resolve "the bug" in straightforward steps to ensure that they understood. I then asked them to summarize their takeaway, which led to a productive discussion and ultimately, their increased confidence in our team's ability to solve the problem (which we did!)."

These questions are so important. That's why including soft skills interview questions with answers like these has been one of the fastest-growing trends in tech. They provide candidates with a more accurate view of the challenges that they may face in the role and give employers insights into their interpersonal and problem-solving abilities. Win, win!

If you'd like to see how interview intelligence can help you assess candidates' soft skills more accurately to assess their contribution to your team, book a demo of Pillar today!