Top 15 interview questions to determine who has them

By Daniel Abramson, HRSource

What are “soft skills,” you ask?

Soft skills relate to how you work. Technical skills relate to how you do it.

Soft skills include interpersonal people skills, communication abilities, listening skills, time management, problem-solving, leadership and empathy, among others. They are among the top skills employers seek in the candidates they hire because soft skills are important for just about every single job, especially in the furniture and appliance retail business.

Hiring managers typically look for people with soft skills because they add value and make someone more successful in the workplace, with a minimal learning curve to get up and going.

 Someone can be excellent with technical, job-specific skills, but if they can’t manage their time or work within a team, they may not be successful in the workplace.

Soft skills are also important to the success of most employers. After all, every job requires employees to engage with internal and external customers in some way. It seems like we hire for skills and fire on attitude and work ethic (hard skills vs. soft skills).

Here are 15 desired soft skill traits and related interview questions to help you gauge your candidate’s soft skills set. Choose the questions you prefer:

Adaptability: Tell me about a time you were asked to do something completely new. How did you react? What did you learn?  

Ambition: Can you tell me about an action you’ve taken to further your career? (Attend a seminar, read a book, listen to podcast?)  

Competition: Are you motivated by winning or the fear of losing? Why?

Curiosity: What is one new skill you’ve recently learned?  

Cognitive flexibility: What do you do to show the people you are talking to that you are listening but disagree? 

Time management: Tell me about a time you missed a deadline. How did you manage it and recover? 

Leadership: Can you tell me about a situation where you took the lead on a project?  And, what is the difference between a manager and a leader? 

Negotiation: You need to convince your manager that it is impossible to meet your targets. How do you go about proving it? 

Critical thinking: Why are you changing jobs? What could your current employer do or change to keep you? 

Perseverance: At what point do you abandon a project or an idea?  

Persuasion: What makes you the best candidate for this job? Why should we hire you over the three other people we’re interviewing?

Proactivity: Give me an example of a new idea you presented to your manager. What was the outcome?

Problem solving: You have over 400 unread emails in your inbox. You have an hour to deal with them. What do you do to make sense of your overwhelming inbox? 

Customer service: Tell me about a time you had negative customer or employee feedback. How did you deal with the situation?  

Breaking the Rules/working the edges: Give me an example of a time when you broke the rules in order to get something done quickly?

P.S. Here’s my pet peeve interview question: “Why do you want to work here?”… which quickly triggers the pre-rehearsed answer, “I want to join an ambitious company and participate in its exciting development with passionate people…” C’mon, really?

The goal of these interview questions is to find the right balance between original questions that don’t intimidate candidates but are precise and open-ended enough to let people express themselves and show you who they are and how they work — a.k.a., soft skills. 

Need help interviewing or evaluating a candidate? Feel free to call or email me. 

Daniel Abramson is managing lead of HRSource, a comprehensive collection of customized employment tools and turnkey solutions exclusive to BrandSource members. Contact Daniel at (540) 535-8484 or

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