Screening for soft skills during the hiring process can be a challenge. To help you navigate this, we’ve gathered tips from professionals, including presidents and consultants. From valuing adaptability and empathy to using scenario-based questions, discover the strategies these experts recommend.

Value Adaptability and Empathy

Adaptability and empathy are crucial. A candidate who can quickly adjust to conditions that constantly change is extremely valuable in the workforce. Those who have a strong work ethic and can handle unforeseen circumstances are a force to be reckoned with.

An open-minded person overall is someone everyone wants on their team. Empathy, the ability to understand others’ feelings, is definitely the key to having an all-inclusive workplace environment. Without empathy, your team is lacking its full potential of what they could produce and how they can impact those around them.

Joann John
Specialist – Pilot Recruitment and Development

Utilize Behavioral Interview Questions

One effective strategy for evaluating soft skills during the hiring process is the use of behavioral interview questions. These questions aim to uncover specific, detailed examples of a candidate’s past behavior, which is a strong predictor of future performance.

Tailor your interview questions to focus on the specific soft skills relevant to the job. For instance, if collaboration is key, ask candidates to describe a situation where they needed the cooperation of peers to achieve a project goal, and inquire about the outcome. If you’re seeking someone who takes initiative, ask about times they went above and beyond their job requirements.

Behavioral interview questions offer valuable insights into an individual’s soft skills and can instill confidence in your hiring decisions.

Renee Frey
President, TalentQ, Inc

Test for Effective Communication

The most important soft skill we require from all our candidates is effective communication. Our organization’s number one rule is to make data public by default. This means that there needs to be a very high level of communication and transparency in the entire team for everyone to work harmoniously.

During the hiring process, we test our candidates with several highly targeted questions to which they need to provide answers. These questions are primarily focused on resolving situations, communicating about the project and reporting on what they have done.

Gordana Sretenovic
Co-Founder, Workello ATS

Observe Candidate Behaviors Throughout Process

Screening for soft skills requires paying attention to the candidates’ behaviors as they go through the hiring process. It’s important to look at the smaller details outside of their resume and interview answers.

For instance, when hiring a customer service professional, an employer should observe all applicants’ tone, professionalism, and interpersonal skills during the interview, as well as their responsiveness, written communication skills and attention to detail when exchanging emails. Doing so can differentiate a decent candidate from an excellent one.

Benjamin Farber
President, Bristol Associates, Inc.

Apply Situational Judgment Tests

Utilize Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs) to appraise candidates’ soft skills. These tests present candidates with hypothetical scenarios related to the role and require them to choose the most appropriate action from a set of options. SJTs assess problem-solving, decision-making and interpersonal skills, offering insight into how candidates approach challenges.

GEM Recruiting AI

By analyzing their responses, HR and hiring managers can better understand a candidate’s cognitive process, alignment with organizational values and suitability for the role.

Pallavi Goyal
AGM-BD and Ops, SilverPeople

Incorporate Role Reversal Scenarios

A highly effective tip for assessing soft skills in candidates is to incorporate a “role reversal” scenario during the interview process.

This goes beyond the standard soft skill questions and helps gain a deeper understanding of a candidate’s true capabilities. It encourages candidates to step into others’ shoes, showcasing their adaptability, empathy and problem-solving abilities, ultimately helping you make more informed hiring decisions.

Aliza Dodge
Consultant, EC1 Partners

Define and Calibrate Soft Skills

With soft skills, it’s important to define what it means to embody a given skill.

For example, if you’re looking for “effective communication,” there’s a good chance that each person on the hiring team will have a different definition. Without a shared understanding of what it means to be “effective” at communicating, everyone will define it in their own way. This is often why hiring teams struggle to remain calibrated when evaluating candidates.

To get ahead of this, have a kickoff meeting with the hiring team that includes a calibration discussion for any soft skills. Using evaluation rubrics can also mitigate bias and help interviewers be more objective.

Alex Lahmeyer
Founder and DEI Consultant, Boundless Arc

Use Scenario-Based Questions

One effective approach involves utilizing scenario-based questions that encourage candidates to provide detailed insights into how they would navigate complex or challenging situations. By presenting hypothetical scenarios that mirror real-world challenges, you can gain valuable insights into candidates’ problem-solving abilities, communication skills, adaptability and overall emotional intelligence.

This technique not only helps assess their soft skills but also offers a glimpse into their thought processes and decision-making capabilities, allowing you to make a more informed hiring decision.

Nicola Clarke
Executive Recruitment, Kepler Search

Pose Situational Questions

What has worked best for me in the past was asking situational questions. One example is asking for a time when a direct report under this person’s mentoring was able to get promoted. This will be a great opportunity to understand their leadership and coaching skills. However, you can also revert the question and ask for a time when the mentorship didn’t lead to a promotion. That way, you can also learn about their problem-solving skills.

Pollyana Hii
Senior Sourcer, Scale