Top 5 Soft Skills & How to Evaluate Them Before Hire

It’s important to find the right candidate to fit the role as well as the company’s culture. It’s not only about the candidate’s personality and technical skills, but their soft skills are a very important aspect in determining whether the candidate will fit in within your company.

Behavioral prompts and questions are designed and used to help evaluate soft skills. Here are the top 5 soft skills and the best way to evaluate them.

Communication skills (written and verbal) – This soft skill is very important for the productivity of the company as a whole. Every employee needs to have effective communication skills in any organization.

How to Evaluate: There are many ways to evaluate this skill during the interview. During a phone interview, you will only be able to evaluate their verbal communication skills as the candidate articulates responses to your questions. However, the best way to evaluate verbal communication is during an in-person interview. Reviewing their cover letter, requesting work samples, or communicating over email are great ways to evaluate written communication skills before they’re hired.

Adaptability & Ability to Learn –Especially if the position or the industry is constantly evolving with new concepts or ideas, you want a candidate that has the ability and willingness to learn.

How to Evaluate: This is a little difficult to evaluate before the candidate is hired. The best way to evaluate is to ask the candidate to recap on a time where they learned something new and implemented it in their career. Another way of evaluating this is if you sense that there is a skill the candidate is lacking, ask them how they are actively improving that skills. If the candidate gives you a generic response or a non-answer, this might mean either they have not thought about improving or learning new ideas or skills or they don’t have the urge to learn new concepts.

Work Ethic & Works Well under Pressure – In a fast-paced workplace, it’s important that you hire employees who work very well under pressure and can maintain a positive attitude and work ethic throughout.

How to Evaluate: To evaluate these soft skills, you will need to make calling references a priority. Be sure to request the relationship they have to each of their references. You can even outline what kind of references you want (i.e. “at least one former or current employer and two people you have worked with.”) You can also view their LinkedIn profile for endorsements and recommendations (or lack thereof.)

Dependability & Self-Motivating – As an employer, you can’t micromanage each of your employees to make sure they get all of their tasks done. Not only is that bad for company morale, but no one has the time for that. So for the sake of getting the necessary tasks done promptly, you will need employees that are dependable and self-motivators.

How to Evaluate: During an interview, whether it’s over the phone or in-person, make sure to ask, “During slow times, how do you keep yourself motivated and avoid burn out?” For any behavioral question, always look out whether or not they give a detailed and well-thought out answer or just settle for a generic-sounding response. A detailed answer may not necessarily mean that’s what they do in every situation, but they at least put thought into their answer and can figure out a way to self-motivate, if necessary. Be sure to also talk to their references and ask about the candidate’s dependability.

Teamwork & Leadership – Working together and showcasing a form of leadership is very important when the position requires some collaboration with other individuals in the company or department.

How to Evaluate: These are soft skills that require a good answer to a couple of behavioral questions.

  1. “Can you tell me about a time you worked as a group?” – You might get a few red flags from candidates during this question because a lot of candidates may speak poorly about the members of their group in order to display themselves as “I’m the best.” A candidate who works well with others will display the good qualities of everyone in their group and how they all worked cohesively. Even if the group failed, a good candidate would explain how the group failed as a whole rather than how one individual ruined it for the rest.


  1. “Tell me about a time when you had to ask for help.” – You wouldn’t expect this prompt to help you evaluate teamwork or leadership. However, when someone admits to failure and how they learned or worked through their failure, it shows the sign of a leader who can be humble enough to ask for help. A red flag response is when a candidate gives a non-answer, such as “I can’t really think of one.” No one is perfect and this candidate could be a dangerous hire because when they find themselves in need of help they may be too uncomfortable to ask for it.

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