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Assessing soft skills when interviewing

In the dynamic world of modern business, the value of soft skills cannot be underestimated. As industries evolve and workplaces become more diverse, it is imperative for organisations to recognise the significance of interpersonal skills in their employees. Assessing these qualities during the interview process is a formidable task, but one that holds the key to unlocking a team of exceptional professionals.

In this article, we delve into the best practices for evaluating soft skills during interviews to unearth the true gems among candidates.

Observe Non-Verbal Cues

Define the Soft Skills You Seek

Past Performance Predicts Future Success

Observe Non-Verbal Cues

The first step in assessing soft skills effectively is to clearly define the interpersonal attributes that align with your company's values and specific role requirements. Communication, adaptability, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, and emotional intelligence are commonly sought after soft skills. Tailor your interview questions to target these specific qualities, enabling a more focused evaluation.

Behavioral questions are an invaluable tool for assessing soft skills. Rather than hypothetical scenarios, inquire about the candidate's past experiences. For example, ask about a situation where they had to handle a conflict with a colleague, or how they managed a challenging project within a team. Their responses will offer insight into their problem-solving abilities, communication style, and emotional intelligence.

While candidates' verbal responses provide valuable information, active listening to their non-verbal cues can be just as revealing. Pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Are they maintaining eye contact? Are they fidgeting nervously or displaying confidence? These non-verbal cues can indicate their level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Validate Soft Skills Claims

Do not underestimate the value of conducting thorough reference checks. Reach out to the candidate's previous employers and colleagues to gain insights into their actual soft skills performance. Ask specific questions related to their teamwork, communication, and adaptability, allowing you to cross-verify their claims made during the interview.

Simulate Real-Life Scenarios

Role-playing exercises are like marmite, interviewers either love them or hate them. By incorporating role paly into the interview process you have an opportunity to observe how candidates respond to practical situations. For instance, ask them to play the role of a team leader resolving a conflict or a customer service representative handling a dissatisfied customer. Role-playing allows candidates to showcase their problem-solving, communication, and empathy skills in a controlled environment.

Observe Interpersonal Dynamics
Create a Structured Evaluation Process

The Quantitative Approach

Observe Interpersonal Dynamics

Create a Structured Evaluation Process

Several assessment tools are designed to measure emotional intelligence, providing a quantitative analysis of a candidate's soft skills. Incorporate these assessments as part of your interview process to gain a more comprehensive understanding of each candidate's emotional intelligence level.

Group interviews can be an effective way to assess how candidates interact with others. Observe how they contribute to group discussions, whether they actively listen to their peers, and how they handle differing opinions. Group interviews provide a glimpse into a candidate's teamwork, collaboration, and leadership abilities.

Formulate a structured evaluation process that allows interviewers to rate candidates objectively on different soft skills criteria. A well-defined scoring system will facilitate easy comparison and decision-making, leading to the selection of the best-suited candidates


Understanding the significance of soft skills is pivotal for building a successful and harmonious workforce. Emphasizing interpersonal attributes during the interview process can help organisations identify candidates who possess the qualities necessary to thrive in their specific roles.

Example questions to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills.

The effectiveness of these questions depends not only on the candidates' responses but also on the interviewer's ability to actively listen, observe non-verbal cues, and ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insights into the candidates' soft skills.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

2. Active listening

Possibly one of the most overlooked of the soft skills, the ability to hear and understand what others are saying, both verbally and non-verbally. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to build rapport, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others.

Example interview questions

Can you describe a recent conversation where you demonstrated active listening by asking clarifying questions and paraphrasing the speaker's points?

How do you ensure you stay focused and attentive during long or complex discussions?

When faced with a disagreement or misunderstanding, how do you show that you genuinely understand the other person's perspective before responding?

How can active listening skills improve my team?

Active listening is a vital skill for team productivity. It promotes better understanding, problem-solving, reduced conflicts, improved relationships, and better communication among team members. By fostering a culture of active listening, you can improve your team's productivity and achieve better results.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

3. Time management

The ability to manage one's time efficiently to complete tasks within deadlines.

Example interview questions

How do you prioritize your tasks when faced with multiple deadlines or projects?

Describe a situation when you had to manage your time efficiently to complete a project on schedule. What steps did you take to stay on track?

How do you handle interruptions and unexpected tasks without compromising your planned schedule?

How can effective time management bring positive change to my team?

Good time management skills enable team members to prioritise their work and focus on the most important tasks. By effectively managing their time, they can avoid getting bogged down by minor tasks and instead concentrate on the critical ones that will have the most significant impact.

It helps team members work more efficiently, enabling them to complete more work in less time. This can lead to higher productivity levels and increased output from the team.

When each team member is responsible for managing their time effectively, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and be accountable for their own productivity. This, in turn, can lead to greater team accountability as a whole.

Improves wellbeing: Good time management practices can help reduce stress levels by providing team members with a clear sense of direction and control over their work. By knowing what tasks need to be completed and when to complete them, avoiding feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

4. Leadership

Being a great leader requires the ability to motivate and guide others towards a common goal.

Example interview questions

Describe a challenging project or situation where you took the lead. How did you inspire and motivate your team to achieve the desired outcome?

How do you encourage collaboration and ensure everyone's voices are heard in a team setting?

Can you share an example of how you provided constructive feedback to a team member to help them improve their performance?

How can I build on leadership skills?

Leadership skills can be developed through a combination of training, experience, and personal development. Here are some ways to improve your leadership skills:

Seek out leadership opportunities: Take on leadership roles in your personal and professional life. This could include volunteering for leadership positions in community organizations or taking on leadership roles at work.

Learn from others: Seek out mentors and study the leadership styles of successful leaders. Identify the traits and behaviours that make them effective and try to emulate them.

Develop your communication skills: Effective communication is a key component of leadership. Practice active listening and work on your public speaking skills.

Learn to delegate: Effective leaders know how to delegate tasks to their team members. Learn to trust others to take on responsibilities and focus on the big picture.

Embrace feedback: Seek out feedback from others and be open to constructive criticism. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement.

Continuously learn and develop: Read books, attend workshops and conferences, and pursue further education to continuously develop your skills as a leader.

Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, effort, and dedication to become an effective leader.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

5. Critical thinking

Strategic thinking and complex problem-solving skills are critical for professionals who need to make effective decisions in today's fast-paced business environment. These skills involve the ability to analyse and evaluate complex information, identify patterns, and make decisions that can achieve long-term goals.

Critical thinking involves the ability to analyse and evaluate information and ideas to form logical conclusions.

Example interview questions

Describe a situation when you had to analyse complex data or information to make an important decision. How did you ensure your decision was well-informed?

How do you approach problem-solving when facing unfamiliar challenges or situations?

Provide an example of a time when you identified potential risks or weaknesses in a project and suggested proactive measures to address them.

How will developing problem solving skills get better results for my team?

Developing problem-solving skills can bring many advantages to your team. With these skills, team members can make informed decisions by assessing risks and evaluating potential outcomes, which results in better decision-making based on logic and critical thinking.

Effective communication and idea-sharing become essential when solving problems, leading to better collaboration and relationships within the team, reducing conflicts. Efficient and productive work are achieved when the team members can solve problems more effectively.

These skills help identify and address issues before they turn into major problems, leading to higher quality work, staying ahead of competitors, continuously improving and producing better outcomes for the team and wider organisation.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

6. Team work

Collaborating and working effectively with others to achieve a common goal.

Example interview questions

Can you share an example of how you contributed to a successful team project and how you supported your teammates throughout the process?

Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult team member. How did you handle the situation, and what was the outcome?

How do you promote a collaborative and inclusive team environment where everyone feels valued and heard?

How to encourage teamwork?

Foster a sense of shared purpose: Make sure that everyone on the team is clear about the team's goals, and how their individual work contributes to those goals. Encourage team members to see themselves as part of a larger whole, and to take pride in the team's accomplishments.

Promote open communication: Encourage team members to share their ideas, opinions, and feedback with one another. Create opportunities for open dialogue, such as regular team meetings or brainstorming sessions. Encourage respectful and constructive communication, and make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard.

Create opportunities for team members to work together on projects or tasks. Assign roles and responsibilities based on each person's strengths and expertise, and encourage team members to support and help one another.

Celebrate successes: When the team achieves a goal or completes a project, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishment. This can help build morale and foster a sense of camaraderie among team members.

Address conflicts promptly: If there is conflict or tension within the team, it's important to address it promptly and constructively. Encourage team members to resolve conflicts through open communication and problem-solving, and intervene if necessary to help mediate the situation.

Lead by example: As a leader, model the behaviour you want to see in your team. Be supportive, communicative, and collaborative, and encourage a positive and constructive team culture.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

7. Creativity

The ability to generate new ideas and innovative solutions to problems. One of the greatest challenges to developing creativity skills is allowing the time to think creatively.

Example interview questions

Describe a situation where you came up with an innovative solution to a problem or introduced a creative idea that positively impacted your team or organization.

How do you foster a creative mindset in your work and encourage others to think outside the box?

Can you share an example of a project where you took a unique approach that led to exceptional results?

How can creativity improve the performance of my team?

Creative thinking can help team members to approach problems in new and innovative ways. By encouraging your team to think outside of the box, you may be able to identify solutions that would not have been otherwise apparent.

Being creative can inspire team members, leading to an increase in productivity. When people are engaged and motivated, they are more likely to take risks and be productive.

Creative thinking often leads to new and innovative ideas, which can help your team stay ahead of your competitors. By encouraging your team to think creatively, you may be able to develop new products or services that set your team apart.

Working creatively in groups can foster collaboration and teamwork, improve morale, with the team feeling more valued and satisfied in their work.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

8. Adaptablility

The ability to adapt to changing situations and environments. To improve adaptability skills, one can practice flexibility, seeking feedback, and being open to change. Additionally, being proactive, staying up-to-date with industry trends, and seeking new experiences can also enhance adaptability.

Example interview questions

Describe a time when you had to adjust your plans or approach due to unexpected changes. How did you handle the situation and maintain productivity?

How do you stay calm and focused in a fast-paced and rapidly changing work environment?

Can you share an example of a situation where you successfully adapted to a new role or responsibility outside your comfort zone?

How can adaptability improve the performance of my team?

Adaptability is a crucial skill for teams to perform effectively, especially in today's rapidly changing business environment. Here are some ways adaptability can improve your team's performance:

Being adaptable allows your team to respond quickly to changes in the market, customer demands, or internal factors. A team that can adjust to new circumstances quickly and efficiently is more likely to succeed than a team that resists change.

Teams that are adaptable are more creative and innovative in their approach to problem-solving, being able to come up with new ideas and solutions to complex challenges.

Providing your team members with opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge can help them to be more adaptable. This can include training programs, conferences, and mentorship opportunities.

Encourage your team members to think creatively and share new ideas. Provide opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration, and recognize and reward innovative thinking.

Open communication is key to building trust and fostering adaptability within your team. Encourage your team members to express their thoughts and ideas, and be responsive to their feedback.

As a leader, you can model adaptability by being open to change and demonstrating a positive attitude towards new challenges. Encourage your team members to follow your lead, and provide support and guidance as they navigate new situations.

Celebrating successes can help to build momentum and motivate your team to continue pushing forward. Acknowledge your team's accomplishments and celebrate their hard work and achievements.

By implementing these strategies, you can help to improve the adaptability of your team and create a more dynamic and resilient work environment.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

9. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, or EI, is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions and those of others. It involves the capacity to regulate emotions, perceive social cues, and manage relationships effectively. EI can impact every aspect of a person's life, from work to personal relationships.

Example interview questions

How do you recognize and manage your emotions to maintain a positive and productive work environment?

Can you describe a situation where you showed empathy and understanding towards a colleague facing a personal or professional challenge?

How do you handle criticism or feedback, both positive and negative, in a constructive and emotionally intelligent manner?

How can improved emotional intelligence enhance my team?

Developing emotional intelligence within your team can have a positive impact on their performance and overall success. Here are some ways emotional intelligence can improve team performance:

Provide Training: Provide your team with emotional intelligence training to help them understand the key concepts and develop their skills.

Foster a positive work environment, lead by example, encourage self-reflection and provide opportunities for growth.

Emotionally intelligent individuals are better communicators because they are able to understand the emotions and perspectives of others, which helps them to communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings.

Teams with high emotional intelligence tend to work better together because they are better at resolving conflicts, building relationships, and supporting a positive work environment.

Emotionally intelligent individuals are better at decision-making because they are able to consider the emotions and needs of others as well as their own, which leads to better decisions and more successful outcomes.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

10. Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution involves the ability to resolve disagreements and conflicts in a constructive and positive manner.

Example interview questions

Can you share an example of a conflict you encountered at work and how you helped resolve it through effective communication and collaboration?

How do you approach conflicts when dealing with differing opinions or viewpoints within a team?

Describe a time when you had to mediate a conflict between two colleagues. How did you ensure a fair resolution?

How will developing conflict resolution skills improve the performance of my team?

Developing conflict resolution skills can have a positive impact on the performance of your team in several ways:

Conflict resolution skills help team members communicate effectively and respectfully, leading to fewer misunderstandings and a more positive work environment. When team members can communicate well with one another, they are better able to collaborate and work towards common goals.

Conflict is a major source of distraction and can cause team members to lose focus on their work. By developing conflict resolution skills, team members can learn how to address conflicts quickly and effectively, minimising disruptions to the team's productivity.

When team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions without fear of conflict, they are more likely to contribute new and innovative ideas. A team that is able to manage conflict well can leverage diverse perspectives to come up with creative solutions to problems.

A team that is able to resolve conflicts in a positive and productive manner is likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction and morale. This can lead to greater engagement and commitment to the team's goals.

Overall, developing conflict resolution skills can lead to a more positive and productive work environment, and can help your team to achieve its goals more effectively.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

11. Networking

The ability to build and maintain relationships with others in order to achieve personal and professional goals.

Building a network of contacts can be a valuable asset in both personal and professional life.

Example interview questions

How do you approach networking to build professional relationships and expand your professional circle?

Can you share an example of how networking has helped you or your organization achieve specific goals or access new opportunities?

How do you maintain and nurture professional connections over time, even when there is no immediate benefit or need?

How can I encourage my team to network both within the organisation and externally and what benefits will this bring to their performance?>

Encouraging your team to network within the organization can bring numerous benefits to their performance, such as increased collaboration, knowledge sharing, and opportunities for professional growth. Here are some tips on how to encourage your team to network within the organization:

Be an example for your team by actively networking with other colleagues and departments. Share stories of successful collaborations that you have been a part of through networking.

Explain the benefits of networking to your team and how it can help them in their role, their professional development, and their career growth.

Organise events or meetings that bring employees from different departments together, such as team-building activities or cross-functional projects.

Provide your team with resources and tools that can help them network within the organization, such as internal social media platforms, employee directories, or networking events.

Acknowledge and celebrate successful collaborations and partnerships that result from networking efforts. This can motivate your team to continue networking and collaborating.

Encouraging your team to network within the organization can improve their communication skills, enhance their knowledge and expertise, and promote a culture of collaboration and innovation. This can ultimately lead to improved performance, better problem-solving, and increased job satisfaction.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

12. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to build trust and establish strong relationships with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders.

Example interview questions

Can you describe a situation where you actively put yourself in someone else's shoes to understand their perspective and feelings?

How do you show empathy and support to colleagues going through challenging times or experiencing difficulties?

Provide an example of a time when your empathetic approach helped strengthen a professional relationship or improved team dynamics.

How will encouraging an empathetic approach to working together within my team improve their performance?

Encouraging empathy within your team can have a number of positive effects on team performance, including:

Improved communication: When team members are empathetic, they are better able to understand one another's perspectives and feelings, which can lead to clearer and more effective communication.

Empathetic team members are more likely to work together and support one another, which can lead to greater collaboration and teamwork.

When team members are able to see things from one another's perspectives, they are better equipped to work together to find solutions to problems and challenges.

Empathy can help team members to understand and appreciate one another's differences, which can reduce conflicts and misunderstandings.

When team members feel understood and supported by their colleagues, they are more likely to feel motivated and satisfied in their work.

Overall, encouraging empathy within your team can lead to a more positive and supportive work environment, which can improve team performance and outcomes.

Click the buttons below for example questions you could ask to help assess an individuals interpersonal skills

1. Communication

THE most important soft skill to develop - the ability to convey information effectively and efficiently. Communication skills are essential in every aspect of our lives, whether it be personal or professional. It is essential to communicate effectively to build trust, rapport, and healthy relationships. Good communication skills are not just about speaking well; it is also about listening attentively and using the right tone and body language.

Example interview questions

Can you provide an example of a challenging communication situation you encountered at work, and how did you ensure your message was effectively understood by all parties involved?

Describe a time when you had to communicate a complex idea to someone with limited knowledge in that area. How did you ensure they grasped the key points?

How do you adjust your communication style when interacting with different stakeholders, such as clients, colleagues, or senior management?

How can developing communications skills in others improve productivity in my team?

When team members communicate effectively, they can share information, clarify doubts, and provide feedback more easily. This means that everyone understands what they are supposed to do, and how to do it, reducing the chances of misunderstandings and errors that can waste time and resources.

Good communication skills enable team members to express their ideas clearly and listen attentively to others' perspectives. This can lead to more efficient problem-solving and decision-making processes, as everyone is working together to find the best solution.

Communicating well encourages collaboration, essential for team success. When team members communicate effectively, they can work together seamlessly, sharing ideas and knowledge that can lead to better outcomes.

Effective communication creates a positive team dynamic, as everyone feels heard, valued, and part of the team. This can increase morale, job satisfaction, and motivation, leading to higher productivity.

Poor communication is often the root cause of conflicts and misunderstandings within teams. When team members have strong communication skills, they can resolve conflicts more easily, reducing tension and allowing everyone to focus on the work at hand.

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