soft skills

Interview Preparation: Soft Skills & Behavioral Interview Questions

Interview Preparation: Soft Skills & Behavioral Interview Questions

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soft skills

Through our Abel Personnel blogs, we’ve recommended how to construct your resume and explained how your resume leads to your interview; however, it’s the interview that results in the job offer.
We also provided some initial insights on how to prepare for the interview. Digging deeper, let’s address behavioral interview questions and how you can build a tool box that will illustrate your soft skills in the best light.


Soft Skills

Okay, so what are soft skills?

Your resume best captures your hard skills.  Hard skills can be taught and are technical skills.  They relate to job experience and expertise, degrees and certifications.  Soft skills, however, are learned through life experiences or ingrained in your nature.  Employers seek to identify your soft skills through behavioral interview questions, to better understand who you are as an employee.

Why are soft skills important?

According to Oxbridge Academy, soft skills are more important than ever for five key reasons:

  • Hard skills are useless without soft skills to back up their task-related knowledge.
  • Soft skills are more difficult to learn and therefore more valuable.
  • Today’s workplaces are collaborative, relying heavily on soft skills to get things done.
  • Soft skills such as empathy and a sense of humor improve the customer experience.
  • The future of work lies in soft skills; these human characteristics can’t be replicated or replaced by automation or artificial intelligence (AI).

What are the top three soft skills for 2021?

  • Problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity.
  • Ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity.
  • Communication.

These skills seem to crop up repeatedly in annual lists of skills most desired by hiring teams.  For example, LinkedIn’s annual release of the Global Talent Trend report puts some of these soft skills at the top of the list for desirable employee traits.  LinkedIn says some of the more in-demand soft skills this year include:

  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Persuasion

The Ladders says the soft skills you need for 2021 include:

  • Active listening
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Work ethic

Emotional intelligence (EQ) also is a key soft skill for 2021, encompassing such characteristics as empathy, motivation, self-awareness, self-management, and social skills.


Behavioral Interview Questions

How do employers use behavioral interview questions?

The idea is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and therefore future success.  Behavioral interview questions are situational interview questions.  They allow employers to gather details that will help them make a strong hiring decision.  The result of making an uninformed hiring decision does not just cost an employer a tangible dollar amount, but the employment of an underqualified employee can also leave a bad impression on existing clients, promising new prospects, and internal employees.  Behavioral interviewing helps ensure the employer is hiring the right fit for their company.

Behavioral questions ask the applicant to describe actual past behavior on the job, which in turn helps an employer predict their future behavior.  A traditional question such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” is more generic.  Answers to behavioral questions give stronger comparisons between candidates that easily assess their approach to the position.  Typically, behavioral questions start with “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…”

Creating Your “Toolbox”

In your preparation for the interview, we advise that you fill your “toolbox” with a variety of scenarios of the achievements you’ve acquired in your work history that illustrate your soft skills.  This is where those scenarios come in.  The interviewer’s questions and probes require details, not speculation of how you would handle a situation or a general response.  Through your responses that illustrate specific situations, the interviewer will be listening for your soft skills.

Now that you know some of the top soft skills employers are looking for, ensure that the real-life success scenarios you have in your toolbox feature some of these soft skills.

A great success story should mention details like who, what, when, where, and why.  At the same time, it’s important to keep your story as concise and simple as possible during the interview.

The STAR Method can help you keep track of the information to include in your story.  This will help ensure you’re sharing all the details the hiring manager wants to hear.

STAR is an acronym:

  • S- Situation- Set the scene. Who, what, when, where, and why?
  • T- Task- What were you tasked to do? What was the goal?
  • A- Actions- Share specific actions you took. Try to match your actions to their job needs.
  • R- Results- What happened? What was the outcome? Be specific and share numbers when possible (financial, percentages, analytical).

Begin by explaining the (S)ituation.  Provide all necessary context.  What was going on?  Set the stage for your interviewer.

Then share the (T)ask, which should always be followed by the (A)ctions you took to complete the task (taking the problem to your supervisor to resolve wouldn’t be considered a success story).  End your story with the (R)esults.  What happened and why?

Always think about what additional information you can include, making your success story more powerful.  As long as it is relevant to the story and demonstrates your job-related ability, include it.  Then cut anything that feels like “fluff” or filler.  Include all the necessary details, but keep it simple.

Resist the urge to embellish your story or make something up.  The best stories are authentic.  Plus, it’s difficult to remember a false story that could later come back to bite you.

Focus on finding the stories that best demonstrate your ability to perform the skills the interviewer is seeking for the job.  What are you most proud of?  Did you learn any life lessons?  What makes you different from every other person doing the same type of work or projects?  These are the sweet spots you’ll want to share with the interviewer.

Securing the right talent for an employer is essential for their success.  And, in finding the right talent, it’s important to look not only at the hard skills required for a position but the soft skills that will impact the business environment.  At Abel Personnel, we understand the complexities and challenges surrounding the hiring process of our clients and talent alike.  Our team at Abel Personnel can help.  Visit us at for job placement opportunities and recruitment assistance for your hiring needs.


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