A few weekends ago, while supervising a Habitat for Humanity build outside of Atlanta, I was reminded just how important soft skills are for accomplishing complex projects. While some of our team members had never participated in a Habitat build – much less worked construction – communication, resourcefulness, and creative thinking really helped us come together as a team and complete our portion of the build on schedule.
Whether it’s a volunteer project or a workplace challenge, when it comes to success, the right soft skills matter just as much as the right technical skills. Employers know this; that’s why they are placing an even greater focus on soft skills interview questions during the hiring process. If you are unable to effectively collaborate with others, clearly communicate your ideas or think creatively, then it doesn’t matter how talented you are – chances are you won’t be a good fit in the workplace.
Soft skills interview questions are tricky, however; few interviewers are going to flat out say, “Tell me about a time you were a team player” or “Tell me about a time you used feedback to improve workplace performance.” It’s up to you, as the interviewee, to weave these skills into your answers.
Here’s three effective ways to master soft skills interview questions and answers for your next big interview:
Share an anecdote. Effective storytelling is key is to successfully weaving your soft skills into each interview answer. Master the art of interview storytelling by following the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, and Results. In 60 seconds or less, give an overview of the situation and the task at hand. What actions did you take to address the issues? Finally, quantify and qualify the results you achieved thanks to your soft skills.
Demonstrate a diversity of soft skills. Being a team player, for example, means balancing cooperation with initiative. Flexibility is a valuable asset; problem-solving skills and resourcefulness are equally important when unexpected issues inevitably arise. When preparing for an interview, select stories that highlight multiple soft skills. Be sure that these stories also demonstrate that you are a good fit for the workplace’s culture; even the strongest skill set can’t overcome a poor workplace culture fit.
Win with confidence. Don’t just say you have the skills the company needs; exude a positive attitude, enthusiasm, and confidence during your interview. And remember, while confidence is key, so too is the ability to learn from past mistakes. When asked about your “greatest professional challenge”, reference an experience where you applied lessons learned from past feedback to foster professional growth.
If you are a hiring manager, what soft skills do you consider most important for on-the-job success? If you are an interviewee, how have you demonstrated your soft skills during the interview? As an executive recruiter, I’m interested in hearing more from both perspectives and welcome your thoughts.