What are soft skills questions to ask an applicant?


Soft skills questions to discover a person’s skill level…

After a yucky customer service experience, I began thinking about soft skills. Soft skills are very different from hard-core skills. See, hard skills directly correlate with the job. Soft skills and hard skills are indeed distinct in nature and serve different purposes within the realm of work. Hard skills are specific abilities and knowledge that are directly related to a particular job or field. They are typically acquired through training, education, or hands-on experience and are often measurable and quantifiable.

In specific industries like software development, hard skills can be things like programming languages, database management, or expertise in specific software applications.

In healthcare, hard skills might be medical procedures, patient care techniques, or operating specialized medical equipment. Employers usually value hard skills when assessing job applicants, as these skills directly impact a person’s ability to perform tasks well and productively. Similarly, a cashier needs the [hard] skills to count cash and operate a cash register.

An applicant may have all the hard skills in the world, but that alone doesn’t make them a good employee, does it?

Soft skills relate to the ability to do a job and how it gets done. Does that make sense? Leaders care about soft skills because they speak to how a person affects culture, gets along with people, and approaches tasks. Knowing the soft skills questions to ask can give you an idea of how a person will respond in a given situation.

Below is a list of soft skills and soft skill questions you can ask. Remember, every situation/job/applicant is different, so if you know the soft skill you’re exploring, you can easily frame the right question for that skill.

Listen to my podcast on Soft Skills

My terrible customer service experience – she needed soft skills

I went to a local Dollar Tree not long ago to pick up some miscellaneous items.

Anyway, I walked to the counter, laid my items on the roller, and waited my turn. When it was my turn, the cashier just started ringing up my items. No greeting. No eye contact whatsoever.

Actually, it made for a rather awkward few seconds.

I inquired whether or not she was having a bad day.

With a half eye-roll, she said she was not.

I told her it seemed she was because she didn’t even say hello or look me in the eye. Honestly, I don’t think she cared.

Soft skills do make a difference with both internal and external customers.

Think about it: if every single employee at the Dollar Tree store behaved like the cashier, it would negatively impact the store’s image and eventually hit them very hard in the pocket. Soft skills matter.

I think soft skills are, to some degree, even a bit more important than hard skills.

Why? Because I think it’s easier to teach hard skills than it is to teach soft skills. You know, I can teach a person to use a computer program, but it’s difficult to teach them to have a strong work ethic or organizational ability. What do you think?

I designed a soft skills training, and it was a blast!

My favorite soft skills training I’ve ever facilitated was at a local community college several years ago. The team was incredibly open and flexible. They “ate up” each process and really ingested the data. Even after I followed up with my client months later, it seemed the training made an impact.

Check out my soft skills quiz.

As you know, I love training and creating resources.

During my time with my client, I created a soft skills quiz. Check it out by clicking the image below:

Another reason I absolutely loved working with this team was because they were among the first clients to request soft skills training.

That made them innovative and forward-thinking in my mind. I was determined to deliver quality resources that would impact long-term culture.

Personality and Soft Skills

It won’t surprise you that some soft skills come quite naturally to specific temperaments. For instance, the Blue temperament has an innate ability to leverage many soft skills employers value, like communication, teamwork, flexibility, and adaptability.

Other soft skills include:




Interpersonal skills

Time management


Strategic planning

Handling criticism

Analytic ability

Nonverbal communication


Public speaking

Visual communication

Writing skills




Thinking outside a box


Good listener

Willingness to learn

Managing difficult converstaions















Intercultural competency







Leader and NOT a follower




Following direction

Handling pressure

Meeting deadlines


Emotion management


Technologically savvy

Life balance

soft skills questions

Soft Skills Questions

Some of these questions will help you discern a person’s soft skills. These soft skills questions are straightforward, but some are designed to test integrity as well.

Don’t ask leading questions. Leading questions “prime the pump” or, as MediaCollege.com says, “… subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way.”

How to do you manage stress?

Describe how you interact with coworkers.

What inhibits you from being successful?

Explain a time when you had to do something completely new or unfamiliar.

What do you find most important in a job experience?

When people challenge you intensely, what is your immediate response?

Give an example when you had to work with someone different from you. How did you manage that situation?

Tell me about a time you were angry at work, and I mean really angry. What happened, and how did you handle it?

Share a time when you had a serious problem at work, and your manager wasn’t available.

Can you tell me about when something didn’t go according to plan? How did you handle it?

What happened when you worked with someone difficult to work with? How did you navigate the situation?

Tell me a time when you had to explain something to someone who couldn’t seem to understand.

Tell me about a time you enacted revenge on a colleague.

When did you get in your own way at work? How did you handle that?

What do you do to ensure a project meets it’s objectives?

Describe a project or situation that best illustrates your organizational skills.

Share a time when you had to analyze a situation or process and make recommendations.

What steps do you take to figure out an appropriate course of action?

Give an example of when you went completely out of your way to please a difficult customer/client.

Share a time you had to use written communication to get a point across.

When was the last time you thought outside of the box, and how did you come to that conclusion?

Share a time you had to serve a customer you didn’t like.

Have you ever had to make a super quick decision? How did you decide what to do?

Tell me when you had to “speak up” to your manager.

Share about a time when you felt honesty was NOT the best policy.

Tell me a time you made an unpopular decision on the job.

What is your greatest leadership experience (you as the leader.) Recall one you’re most proud of.

Have you ever been jealous of a colleague? Why and how did you handle it?

Tell me about a time you had a workplace setback. How do you handle that?

Share a time competition challenged you and how you managed it.

Describe an experience in which you felt your manager was completely wrong and how you dealt with it.

Have you ever worked for an unqualified manager? How did you handle that?

In Summary…

I attempted to talk about the importance of soft skills in the workplace, distinguishing hard skills, which are directly job-related, and soft skills, which influence how tasks are approached and how individuals contribute to the work environment.

The author shares a customer service experience to illustrate the impact of lacking soft skills. A list of various soft skills and a personal training anecdote are provided.

The post emphasizes the value of personality temperaments in specific soft skills and introduces questions to assess them in potential candidates.

The overall message underscores the significance of integrating both hard and soft skills for professional success with practical tools like a soft skills quiz and interview questions provided.


I’ve also found a great article on Monster.com:
“Chameleons at work: How to identify soft skills and workers who can adapt.” Read the article: https://hiring.monster.com/employer-resources/recruiting-strategies/talent-acquisition/soft-skills-hiring-strategy/

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Leveraging the 4 personality styles to help you when working with different personalities in the workplace.  You can also learn how business personalities play a role in how you approach work and manage work personalities in general. I also answer the question” “how does personality influence communication at work?” Your temperament plays a role in everything. I love talking about it and exploring exactly how!