Conducting an interview soon? Check out the tips below for identifying key soft skills and assessing a team player attitude.
Top six soft skills to look for in a candidate:
- Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
- Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
- Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you adapt to that change?
- Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives.
- What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
- What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
- What would make you chose our company over others?
- What’s the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you and why do they think that?
- Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?
- Tell me about a time when you were communicating with someone and they did not understand you. What did you do?
- Tell me about one of your favorite experiences working with a team and your contribution.
- Describe the best partner or supervisor with whom you’ve worked. What part of their managing style appealed to you?
- Can you share an experience where a project dramatically shifted direction at the last minute? What did you do?
- Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
- Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
- Give me an example of a time when you felt you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?
- Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
- Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your coworkers or group? How did you do it? What were the results?
- Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?
- Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so.
- What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?
- When was the last occasion you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?
- What’s the biggest career goal you’ve ever achieved?
- Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?
- Tell me about a project that you planned. How did you organize and schedule the tasks?
- Describe a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?
- Give an example of a time when you delegated an important task successfully.
- How do you determine what amount of time is reasonable for a task?
What to look for when hiring a team player:
Humble: An individual who is humble is quick to point out the contributions of others and is slow to seek attention for their own work; they share credit and emphasize the team over themselves. Most importantly, a humble person defines success collectively rather than individually.
- Question: Describe your current team. What do you like and dislike?
- Insight: By asking a team related question, you are trying to understand whether the candidate values team effort and if they are willing to do what is necessary for the good of the team. Ask for the candidate to describe specific interactions with colleagues and experiences working on a team.
- Question: What are the most important accomplishments of your career?
- Insight: This question prompts you to look for more mentions of "we" rather than "I".
- Question: What was the most embarrassing moment in your career? Or the biggest failure?
- Insight: Look for whether the candidate celebrates that embarrassment or is mortified by it. Humble people generally aren’t afraid to tell their unflattering stories because they’re comfortable with being imperfect.
- Question: How did you handle that embarrassment or failure?
- Insight: Look for specifics about how the candidate accepted responsibility, what they learned from it, and if they actually acted on what was learned.
- Question: What is your greatest weakness?
- Insight: Look for answers that are real and a little painful. Candidates who present their weaknesses as strengths are often afraid to acknowledge real shortcomings. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to coach candidates with prompts like: “I really want to know what you’d like to change about yourself”. The key to the answer is not what their weaknesses are, but if they’re comfortable acknowledging something real.
- Question: How do you handle apologies, either giving or accepting them?
- Insight: Ask for specifics. Humble people are not afraid to say they are sorry, and they accept other people’s genuine apologies with grace.
Hungry: An individual who is career hungry is self-motivated and diligent; they constantly think about the next step and next opportunity to better themselves and their career.
- Question: What is the hardest you’ve ever worked on something in your life?
- Insight: Look for specific examples of a real, yet joyful sacrifice; the candidate shouldn’t be complaining, but is instead grateful for the learning opportunity.
- Question: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
- Insight: Look out for too many time-consuming hobbies that suggest the candidate sees the job as a means to do other things. Certainly not to say that you’re looking for someone who has no interests in life outside of work; however, a long list of hobbies like climbing Mt Everest, sled dog racing, storm chasing and whale hunting might just be a red flag when it comes to someone who is not going to put the needs of the team ahead of their personal pursuits.
Smart: A smart team member is interpersonally appropriate and aware. They have good judgment and intuition around group dynamics and the impact of their actions and words.
- Question: Have you ever worked with a difficult colleague or boss? How did you handle the situation?
- Insight: By asking the candidate about a difficult work relationship, you will learn if he or she can read situations and people and handle different personalities skillfully.
- Question: How would you describe your personality?
- Insight: Look for how accurately the person describes what you are observing. Smart people generally know themselves and find it interesting to talk about their behavioral strengths and weaknesses.
- Question: What do you do that others in your personal life might find annoying?
- Insight: Everyone annoys someone, sometimes. People smart candidates tend to moderate these behaviors at work.
- Question: What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?
- Insight: What you’re looking for here is the candidate’s self-awareness and self-control. Smart people know their pet peeves, and they own the fact that some of those pet peeves are their own issues. They also know how to deal with annoying people in a productive and constructive way.
- Question: Can you give an example of how you’ve demonstrated empathy to a teammate?
- Insight: The key here is to look for an indication that the person values empathy and whether they have an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses in this area.