The Soft Skills I Look for in Every Candidate

by Scott Davidson on May 23, 2017

interviewing a tech worker for soft skillsIn the business world, skills can be divided into two distinct categories: technical skills and soft skills.

Technical skills are the skills and experience required to do the tasks of a job. Coding, programming, and mechanical knowledge are all examples of technical skills that are required for different careers.

Soft skills, meanwhile, are the personal qualities that help employees interact with coworkers and succeed within an office environment. Soft skills are more difficult to quantify on a resume, so the interview is a candidate’s best opportunity to demonstrate the soft skills that they have.

These are the sought after soft skills I look for in every candidate that I interview.

Positive Attitude

Positivity is a contagious trait. One person with an exceptionally positive attitude can lift an entire team’s spirits. By that same token, it only takes one person with a negative attitude to bring the whole team down.

I pay close attention to a candidate’s attitude during an interview, especially how they talk about their former positions. If they spend the whole interview rehashing all the reasons why their previous job was terrible, that’s a red flag to me that they dwell on the negative instead of looking for the positive.

Being a source of positivity is one of the most powerful things you can be in an office. Strive to fill that role.

Problem Solving

When I ask a candidate to tell me a time that they solved a problem, I’m interested in two things: whether they solved the problem and, more importantly, what process they used to solve it.

The process is so important because there comes a time in every person’s career when they are tasked with solving a problem they don’t immediately have the answer to. Knowing how to break a problem down and see a process through to a solution is critical in those situations, and that requires a certain type of strategic thinking.


Today’s work environment is dynamic and constantly shifting. In order to succeed in it, workers must be able to adapt to situations on the fly and run in new directions when the work demands it.

To test adaptability, I’ll ask a candidate to tell me about a time that a deadline or objective changed mid-project, and how they handled that sudden change.

Good Communication

Good communication is essential to a company’s success. I’ve seen talented teams break down and miss deadlines solely because of poor communication.

For that reason, I put a premium on communication when I do interviews, and I like to dig into a candidate’s history of working within a team structure.

Team-First Mentality

The old adage is true: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But I’ve seen employees who are exceptionally talented – employees who should be strong links – hinder their teams because they were more concerned with personal recognition and success than the success of the team at large.

I pay special attention to how candidates talk about their former coworkers and team dynamics. Specifically, I’m looking for employees who are as invested in their coworkers as they are their own careers, and who prioritize team success as equally as personal success.

Strong Work Ethic

An employee with the right technical skills is capable of getting the job done, but without a strong work ethic, they may not get it done correctly, or on time.

Individuals who possess a strong work ethic push companies and teams towards solutions, innovation and progress. They have the drive to keep learning and bettering themselves and their organization. During an interview, I always pay attention to responses that reveal an eagerness to exceed expectations.

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