How to Assess a Candidate’s Soft Skills During Interview

Employers are increasingly looking for retail job candidates who demonstrate a valuable range of soft or transferable skills. While a candidate might look good on paper, smart hirers are looking beyond the resume to identify attributes which will help an employee fit in well, work as part of a productive team and offer extra qualities…

Employers are increasingly looking for retail job candidates who demonstrate a valuable range of soft or transferable skills.

While a candidate might look good on paper, smart hirers are looking beyond the resume to identify attributes which will help an employee fit in well, work as part of a productive team and offer extra qualities – think leadership, communication and problem-solving skills.

The trouble is, soft skills assessment is not an easy task.

So, what’s the best way to identify promising candidates in an interview?

Ask the right personal questions

This kind of question is a good way to home in on a candidate’s approach to work, how they collaborate with others and how quickly they learn.

It’s important for the hirer to know what each candidate expects from the role and feels able to give.

Consider questions like:

  • What has been your most significant career achievement?
  • What kind of work environment brings out the best in you?
  • What qualities do you bring to the team?

Throw in some situational questions

These are theoretical questions designed to tease out a candidate’s soft skills.

Rather than being based on actual experiences, they probe a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in areas such as communication, leadership ability and critical thinking by asking them how they would react in a range of different situations.

Examples include:

  • What would you do if your manager made a mistake that no-one else picked up?
  • How would you react if you saw a colleague struggling in their role?
  • As manager, how would you handle a case of bullying in your team?

Dig deep with behavioural questions

Generally regarded as the most effective way to assess a candidate’s soft and transferable skillset, behavioural questions are based on candidates’ real-life scenarios and experiences.

By asking a candidate how they found an innovative solution to a retail challenge, you can establish the candidate’s degree of creative thinking, flexibility and confidence in their work.

When examining a candidate’s past behaviour, it’s easier to visualise how well they are likely to fit into your current workforce.

Match your questions to the particular trait you seek, as in the following examples:

  • Flexibility: Have you ever been asked to tackle a task you’ve never done before, and how did it turn out? Did you learn anything from it?
  • Cultural fit: Which of your previous workplaces have offered you the best working environment, and why?
  • Collaboration: Can you give me an example of conflict in one of your work teams, and how did you handle or resolve it?
  • Communication skills: Can you tell me about a situation which demanded clever use of communication skills? What did you learn from it?
  • Leadership: Can you give me an instance of when you took control of a tricky situation? How did you resolve it?
  • Growth potential: Real growth tends to happen when we’re forced to deal with a crisis, or we make a mistake. Can you give me an example, and tell me how you handled it?
  • Prioritisation: Have you ever been asked to cover a colleague’s tasks as well as your own? If so, how did you organise your tasks, and what was the outcome?
  • Work ethic: Have you ever been asked to take on an urgent – and inconvenient – task at short notice? How did you react?
  • Critical thinking: Have there been any times you were asked to sort out a particularly difficult or complex situation? How did you cope?

Frontline Retail can also help in assessing soft skills, identifying staff with the perfect blend of skills and attributes for your firm. Please contact us to discuss further.