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55+ real-life interview questions for soft skills at every level

What are some interview questions that assess soft skills for general, VP-level, and administrative roles? Which kind of questions are better suited for assessing teamwork, project management, impact, people-focused, initiative, and risk-taking skills? 

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.

Real-life interview questions for Soft skills

According to research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, the majority of career success, accounting for 85%, is attributed to the presence of strong soft skills and people skills. In contrast, hard skills such as technical expertise and knowledge contribute to only 15% of one’s professional achievements. 

Soft skills are the fuel for any evolving organization. Building a team that excels in interpersonal finesse and strategic acumen is a challenging task. 

To empower HR professionals in this quest, we present a comprehensive guide featuring authentic interview questions curated by seasoned hiring managers. 

This guide is carefully organized across levels and soft skills. 

Tailored for HR professionals seeking to refine their hiring approach, these questions provide a roadmap to identify candidates who not only possess the technical prowess but also exhibit the crucial soft skills needed to thrive in diverse professional landscapes.

General real-life interview questions for candidates suitability

The following questions are designed to evaluate the candidate’s skills, experience, personality, and potential contributions to the company. 

  1. Why do you want to work for this company / Why are you a good fit for this company?

This question explores the candidate’s interest in the company and how their skills and values align with the company’s culture and goals.

Sample answer: 

“I am drawn to your company’s innovative approach and strong values. My background in technology and passion for sustainability align perfectly with your mission, making me a great fit for your team.”

  1. What are your career aspirations?

This question seeks to understand the candidate’s long-term career goals and how they align with the company’s path.

Sample answer: 

“My long-term goal is to grow into a leadership role where I can contribute to strategic decisions and mentor others, continually pushing for innovation and excellence in my field.”

  1. What are your salary expectations?

This question is about the candidate’s salary expectations to ensure they align with the company’s budget and compensation standards.

Sample answer: 

“Based on my research and understanding of the role’s responsibilities, I would expect a salary in the range of $X to $Y, but I’m open to discussing this further based on the total compensation package.”

  1. How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

This question assesses how the candidate perceives their own strengths and personality traits.

Sample answer:
“Innovative, dedicated, collaborative, analytical, and adaptable.”

  1. While you were in university, which courses did you get the most out of? Why?

This question explores the candidate’s educational background and the areas where they felt most engaged and successful.

Sample answer: 

“I particularly enjoyed my courses in data analysis and project management. They taught me how to approach complex problems systematically and work effectively in team settings.”

  1. Tell us about a time you received constructive criticism: what was said, what did you do to correct the situation, and how did you feel?

This question is designed to understand how the candidate handles feedback and their ability to grow from it.

Sample answer: 

“In my last role, my manager suggested improving my public speaking skills. I took a course and practiced diligently, which boosted my confidence and effectiveness in presentations.”

  1. How do you handle situations where your suggestions or recommendations are heard but ultimately not approved?

This question evaluates the candidate’s response to rejection and their ability to adapt to different opinions and decisions.

Sample answer: 

“I value diverse perspectives and understand that not all suggestions can be implemented. I focus on learning from these situations to refine future recommendations.”

  1. What is your biggest strength? Weakness?

This question aims to uncover the candidate’s self-awareness regarding their strengths and areas for improvement.

Sample answer: 

“My biggest strength is my problem-solving ability, and my weakness is sometimes being too detail-oriented, which I’m actively working to balance.”

  1. What has been your favorite project to work on?

This question seeks insight into the candidate’s work preferences and past experiences that they found fulfilling.

Sample answer: 

“My favorite project was developing a new analytics tool that improved our team’s efficiency by 30%. It was challenging but extremely rewarding.”

  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question explores the candidate’s future vision and alignment with the company’s potential growth opportunities.

Sample answer: 

“In five years, I see myself in a managerial role within your organization, leading projects that align with your strategic goals and mentoring junior team members.”

  1. What do you do outside of work?

This question aims to understand the candidate’s interests and activities outside their professional life.

Sample answer: 

“Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, reading about emerging technologies, and volunteering at the local community center.”

  1. Tell me one thing that is not on your resume that I should know?

This question encourages the candidate to share unique aspects of their background not evident from their resume.

Sample answer: 

“I am fluent in Spanish, which has helped me in several projects involving international teams.”

  1. What contributions could you make to our organization?

This question is about what the candidate believes they can bring to the company in terms of skills and contributions.

Sample answer: 

“With my skills in data analysis and project management, I could contribute to optimizing processes, driving innovation, and enhancing team productivity.”

  1. What do you expect from a job with us?

This question seeks to understand the candidate’s expectations and whether they match what the company can offer.

Sample answer: 

“I expect to work in a dynamic and supportive environment that values continuous learning, offers opportunities for growth, and aligns with my passion for technology.”

  1. If you were an interviewer, what do you think the three most important criteria would be for hiring someone for this position?

This question asks the candidate to think from the perspective of an interviewer, focusing on key hiring criteria.

Sample answer: 

“I would prioritize a candidate’s technical expertise, cultural fit, and potential for growth and adaptability within the company.”

  1. How do you relieve stress?

This question aims to understand how the candidate manages personal stress and maintains a healthy work-life balance.

Sample answer: 

“I find that regular exercise, meditation, and spending quality time with family and friends are effective ways for me to manage stress.”

  1. If we hired you, what is the top position you see yourself holding?

This question is intended to gauge the candidate’s ambition and where they see themselves fitting within the company’s hierarchy in the long term.

Sample answer: 

“If I were to join your team, I aspire to eventually reach a senior leadership role, where I can significantly contribute to the company’s strategic direction and success.”

Real-life interview questions for VP level and above

The following questions are targeted towards a senior-level position, likely at the Vice President level or above. The questions are designed to assess leadership qualities, strategic thinking, team management skills, conflict resolution abilities, operational understanding, and resource allocation insights.

  1. Would you describe yourself as a leader? Please give an example of a time that you showed leadership in a role.

This question probes the candidate’s self-perception as a leader and asks for a specific instance demonstrating their leadership.

Sample answer: 

“Yes, I see myself as a leader. For instance, in my last role, I led a cross-functional team in a company-wide digital transformation project, which successfully enhanced operational efficiency and employee engagement.”

  1. How would those whom you’ve mentored or managed describe you?

This question seeks to understand the candidate’s leadership style from the perspective of their team or mentees.

Sample answer: 

“People I’ve mentored would likely describe me as approachable, supportive, and challenging. I believe in empowering my team while providing them with the guidance and resources they need to succeed.”

  1. Give an example of a time that you improved or optimized a process that was outdated.

This question looks for specific examples of the candidate’s ability to innovate and improve existing processes.

Sample answer: 

“I identified an outdated inventory management system that was causing inefficiencies. By implementing a new automated system, we reduced errors by 25% and improved overall inventory turnover.”

  1. How do you deal with setting objectives and team deliverables?

This question assesses the candidate’s approach to goal setting and managing team expectations.

Sample answer: 

“I set clear, achievable objectives aligned with our strategic goals. I involve the team in the planning process, ensuring everyone understands their role in achieving these deliverables.”

  1. How do you resolve team conflicts?

This question examines the candidate’s conflict resolution skills within a team setting.

Sample answer: 

“I address conflicts by fostering open communication and encouraging team members to express their viewpoints. I mediate to find a mutually agreeable solution, ensuring that the team’s cohesion and productivity are maintained.”

  1. Describe the operations of your organization.

This question aims to gauge the candidate’s understanding and management of their current or previous organization’s operations.

Sample answer: 

“My current organization operates in the tech sector, focusing on software development and digital solutions. We have agile teams working on various projects, supported by a robust operational framework that emphasizes efficiency and innovation.”

  1. How many staff do you have?

This question seeks to understand the scale of the candidate’s current or past managerial responsibilities.

Sample answer: 

“In my current role, I oversee a team of 50 professionals, including managers, technical staff, and support personnel.”

  1. What would your ideal support organization look like both in terms of people and budget? Why would you set the organization up in this way? Who would you add to your team?

This question probes the candidate’s strategic planning skills in terms of organizational structure and resource allocation.

Sample answer: 

“My ideal support organization would be lean yet effective, with a mix of experienced professionals and emerging talents. A balanced budget would prioritize innovation and training. I would add more data analysts and customer engagement experts to enhance our decision-making and client relationships.”

Administrative real-life interview questions

The following questions are focused on availability, work hours, and the candidate’s flexibility regarding overtime. This set aims to ascertain the candidate’s suitability in terms of schedule compatibility and start date.

  1. Our office is open 9-5, can you work those hours full time?

This question seeks to confirm if the candidate is able to commit to the standard office hours of the organization.

Sample answer: 

“Yes, I am available to work full time during the standard office hours of 9-5.”

  1. How do you feel about working overtime?

This question is intended to gauge the candidate’s willingness and ability to work beyond regular office hours when required.

Sample answer: 

“I am willing to work overtime when necessary, especially to meet project deadlines or during peak work periods. I believe in maintaining a balance, but I understand the importance of flexibility in meeting business needs.”

  1. If you are offered a position, when would you be able to start?

This question aims to determine the candidate’s availability to begin the new role, factoring in any notice period they may need to serve in their current position.

Sample answer:

“If offered the position, I can start after a two-week notice period to my current employer, ensuring a smooth transition.”

Real-life teamwork interview questions

These questions are designed to assess the candidate’s ability to work effectively within a team, their preferred management style, and their comfort level with both individual and group work.

  1. How well do you work in a team?

This question evaluates the candidate’s teamwork skills and their experience working collaboratively.

Sample answer: 

“I thrive in team settings. I value diverse perspectives and believe that collaboration often leads to more innovative solutions. My experience in various team-based projects has strengthened my communication and interpersonal skills.”

  1. How do you prefer to be managed and what’s your working style?

This question explores the candidate’s preferred management style and how it aligns with their working style.

Sample answer: 

“I prefer a management style that is supportive yet allows autonomy. I am proactive and self-motivated, but I appreciate constructive feedback and clear communication. This approach helps me stay aligned with team goals while leveraging my strengths.”

  1. Do you prefer to work in a team or on your own?

This question aims to understand the candidate’s preference for teamwork versus independent work.

Sample answer: 

“I enjoy both team and individual work. While I appreciate the collaboration and shared ideas in a team, I also value the focus and efficiency of working independently. Balancing both allows me to contribute effectively in various situations.”

Real-life project management interview questions

These interview questions focus on project management skills, requiring the candidate to demonstrate their ability to handle competing priorities, oversee projects from inception to completion, articulate their significant career achievements in project management, and detail their approach to goal setting and progress monitoring.

  1. How do you schedule your time when you have a set of competing priorities? Please give an example.

This question assesses the candidate’s time management skills and their approach to handling multiple tasks simultaneously.

Sample answer: 

“I prioritize tasks based on urgency and impact. For instance, while managing two major projects, I scheduled daily tasks focusing on critical deadlines first, then allocated time to less urgent tasks, ensuring timely progress on both fronts.”

  1. Please give an example of a project that you owned and what the process was like from start to finish.

This question seeks a detailed account of a project the candidate managed, highlighting their end-to-end project management skills.

Sample answer: 

“I led a website redesign project. It started with requirement gathering, then moved to design, development, and testing phases. Regular team meetings and stakeholder updates ensured alignment. The project was delivered on time and met all specified requirements.”

  1. What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date? Walk me through the plan, how you managed it, how you measured its success, and the mistakes you made.

This question aims to identify the candidate’s most notable project achievement, including their planning, execution, and learning experiences.

Sample answer: 

“My most significant accomplishment was implementing a new CRM system. I developed the plan, coordinated cross-departmental teams, and set KPIs for success. Despite initial resistance, the project significantly improved customer engagement. I learned the importance of change management in this process.”

  1. Tell me about a major project you recently finished. Specifically, how you set the goals and monitor your progress?

This question explores how the candidate sets goals and tracks progress throughout a project.

Sample answer: 

“I recently completed a marketing campaign project. The goals were set based on market analysis and company objectives. Progress was monitored through weekly KPI reviews, team meetings, and adjusting strategies as needed to ensure we met our targets effectively.”

Real-life impact interview questions

These questions focus on assessing the candidate’s impact and contributions in their professional career. The questions are designed to evaluate how the candidate defines success, their ability to initiate and implement improvements, drive change within an organization, and instances where they exceeded expectations.

  1. What is your definition of success? What are important contributions you want to make in your professional career?

This question seeks to understand the candidate’s personal definition of success and their goals for making significant contributions in their career.

Sample answer: 

“Success to me is making a tangible difference in my field, through innovation and leadership. I aim to contribute by developing solutions that streamline processes and enhance efficiency, ultimately driving organizational growth.”

  1. Tell me about a time you made an improvement to a process or your team. How did you determine an improvement was needed? What did you do?

This question explores a specific instance where the candidate identified and implemented a process improvement.

Sample answer: 

“I noticed our reporting process was time-consuming, so I introduced an automated tool that cut down report generation time by 50%. I identified this need through team feedback and efficiency metrics, then researched and implemented the solution.”

  1. Tell me about a time where you initiated change in an organization.

This question seeks to understand the candidate’s ability to be a change agent within an organization.

Sample answer: 

“I initiated a shift to agile methodologies in my previous role. Recognizing the need for more flexibility in our project management, I proposed this change, led the training, and oversaw the transition, which resulted in improved project turnaround times.”

  1. What were the biggest wins in your most recent role?

This question inquires about the candidate’s most significant achievements in their recent position.

Sample answer: 

“In my last role, my biggest win was leading a project that resulted in a 30% increase in customer satisfaction and a 20% increase in sales. This success stemmed from a new customer engagement strategy I developed and implemented.”

  1. Tell me when you went above and beyond the call of duty?

This question asks for an example where the candidate exceeded their regular job responsibilities.

Sample answer: 

“I went above and beyond when I voluntarily took on the responsibility of mentoring new hires, in addition to my regular duties. This not only helped them acclimate faster but also improved our team’s overall performance and morale.”

Real-life people-focused interview questions

This set of real-life interview questions is centered around people management and interpersonal skills, evaluating the candidate’s ability to interact effectively with colleagues, assist and motivate team members, value diversity, handle difficult clients, and influence others. The questions aim to understand the candidate’s emotional intelligence and relationship-building abilities.

  1. How would your past coworkers describe your interactions with them? Why would they describe them this way?

This question assesses how the candidate perceives their relationships with colleagues.

Sample answer: 

“My coworkers would likely describe me as approachable and supportive. I always strive to be a good listener and offer help where needed, which has fostered a positive and collaborative working relationship with my team.”

  1. Share an experience when you drew someone out of a funk and helped them overcome a challenge.

This question explores the candidate’s ability to support and motivate others during difficult times.

Sample answer: 

“A team member was struggling with low morale due to personal issues. I scheduled regular check-ins, provided flexible work options, and offered encouragement. This support helped them regain focus and overcome their challenges, positively impacting their work.”

  1. What are the most important qualities you look for in teammates? Your manager? Why?

This question delves into the candidate’s expectations and values in their professional relationships.

Sample answer: 

“In teammates, I value reliability and open-mindedness. For managers, I appreciate transparency and decisiveness. These qualities foster a trustworthy and dynamic work environment that encourages growth and effective collaboration.”

  1. Tell me about a time when you tried to help someone but felt ineffective.

This question seeks an example of a challenging situation where the candidate’s assistance didn’t have the desired effect.

Sample answer: 

“I once tried to help a colleague with a project but realized my approach didn’t align with their working style. I learned the importance of adapting my support to better suit individual needs and preferences.”

  1. What kind of people do you have trouble interacting with? How do you deal with them?

This question aims to understand the candidate’s ability to handle challenging interpersonal interactions.

Sample answer:
“I sometimes find it challenging to interact with highly resistant individuals. I deal with them by trying to understand their perspective, finding common ground, and communicating in a clear, respectful manner.”

  1. How do you deal with difficult clients?

This question explores the candidate’s approach to managing challenging client relationships.

Sample answer: 

“I handle difficult clients by maintaining professionalism, actively listening to their concerns, and offering solutions that align with their needs while also considering the company’s capabilities and policies.”

  1. How important is diversity to a team’s output? Can you support your answer with a real-life example?

This question asks the candidate to reflect on the value of diversity in a team setting.

Sample answer: 

“Diversity is crucial for a team’s success. In a previous project, having a diverse team with varied backgrounds led to more creative solutions and a broader understanding of our customer base, which significantly improved our product’s market fit.”

  1. Tell me about a time in your life when you’ve had to influence a peer or superior to do something that they don’t initially believe in.

This question inquires about the candidate’s ability to persuade and influence others, even in challenging situations.

Sample answer: 

“I once convinced my superior to adopt a new software that initially seemed costly. By presenting a detailed cost-benefit analysis and showcasing its long-term efficiencies, I was able to shift their perspective and the software significantly improved our workflow.”

Real-life initiative interview questions

These questions focus on accountability, decision-making, and personal initiative. The questions aim to assess the candidate’s ability to contribute significantly to projects, make informed decisions with limited information, and handle situations where they disagree with decisions being made.

  1. Tell me about a successful project you took part in. What was your role? In your opinion, what made the project successful?

This question seeks to understand the candidate’s ability to contribute to and assess the success of a project.

Sample answer: 

“I played a key role in a market research project. My responsibility was data analysis and reporting. The project’s success was due to thorough planning, a collaborative team effort, and our ability to adapt to changing market trends.”

  1. Tell me about a time you’ve made a decision without all of the relevant data. What did you do? How did you collect the information you did have? How did you come to the decision?

This question examines the candidate’s decision-making skills, especially in situations with incomplete information.

Sample answer: 

“Once, under a tight deadline, I had to decide on a marketing strategy with limited data. I used available market trends and previous campaign results to guide my decision. The campaign was moderately successful, and I learned the importance of agile decision-making.”

  1. What do you do when a decision is being made that you disagree with?

This question explores how the candidate deals with situations where they are not in agreement with a decision.

Sample answer: 

“When I disagree with a decision, I first seek to understand the rationale behind it. If I still have concerns, I present my viewpoint backed with data or alternatives. Ultimately, I respect the final decision and work towards its successful implementation.

Real-life risk-taking interview questions

This set of questions emphasize courage and adaptability, with a focus on how the candidate handles new challenges, sets and achieves difficult goals, and overcomes significant obstacles in their professional journey. The questions aim to evaluate the candidate’s resilience, problem-solving skills, and determination in the face of adversity.

  1. Describe a time when you were asked to do something you’ve never done before. What did you do?

This question assesses the candidate’s ability to adapt to new challenges and learn on the go.

Sample answer: 

“I was once tasked with leading a digital marketing campaign, a field I was unfamiliar with. I quickly upskilled myself through online courses and sought advice from experienced colleagues, which led to the successful execution of the campaign.”

  1. Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.

This question explores the candidate’s approach to setting and accomplishing challenging objectives.

Sample answer: 

“I set a goal to increase our department’s efficiency by 40%. I conducted a thorough analysis of current processes, implemented new software tools, and trained the team. Regular progress checks and adjustments were key to achieving this ambitious goal.”

  1. Tell me about a time you faced a major obstacle in moving forward with a project or goal. What was the obstacle? What did you do?

This question looks at how the candidate handles significant roadblocks in their work.

Sample answer: 

“During a product launch, we faced a major supply chain disruption. I negotiated with alternative suppliers and restructured the project timeline to accommodate the changes. This proactive approach helped us overcome the obstacle and launch the product successfully.”

As we wrap up this guide, we encourage you to embrace the importance of insightful interviewing, enabling you to discover candidates whose soft skills perfectly match your company’s values. 

Let these interview questions guide you in assembling teams that not only meet but surpass expectations, cultivating a culture of development, teamwork, and adaptability. 

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