business

October 08, 2020   |   6min read

How to Crack the Soft Skills Interview?

Looking for a job might be a challenge, even for the tech professionals who, let’s be honest, usually don’t complain about the lack of job offers on the market. Yet, you might start your day with dozens of emails and LinkedIn messages from the recruiters promising you the world, and still have troubles finding the perfect offer. But let’s imagine you found the company: you’re attracted by their projects, company culture, declared compensation, and benefits (or anything else that is important to you). You send your resume, have a short initial call with a recruiter, and a technical evaluation where you can show off your tech skills. Finally, you are invited to the last stage of the recruitment process—an interview with your future boss and people & culture professional.

Even though tech professionals are in high demand, it’s safer not to assume that you are the only candidate invited for the final round of the recruitment process. While sometimes that might be true, at Polidea, we usually have 3 candidates that made it to the last stage. So, the big question is: how to become the one who gets the offer?

As you probably suspect, being offered a job requires not only technical expertise but also (sometimes even more importantly!) appropriate soft skills. If you made it to the final round, your technical expertise, aka hard skills are good enough; and so is (probably) the expertise of the other candidates. Your winning strategy should, therefore, be based on your soft skills in the workplace.

The feedback that we often receive from the candidates after the final interview for each role is that it’s highly visible that we pay great attention to interpersonal skills. In fact, we value them as much as hard skills. We not only deep dive into the candidate’s motivation, but also ask a bunch of behavioral questions that allow us to understand the candidate’s values and soft skills in the workplace. Having two great candidates, both of which meet our requirements regarding IT skills, we will probably choose the one who showcased the necessary soft skills, not the one who exceeds our technical expectations.

A woman talking on the phone in the office.

But what does “necessary soft skills” mean? ? Are they universal for every company and each role? Of course not. Every company has a unique culture and values a particular set of interpersonal traits. Pro tip: find out which soft skills in the workplace are greatly appreciated:

  • Read the job description carefully, all required soft skills should be mentioned there
  • Visit the company’s Career Site and read about the company’s values and how they are defined
  • Look for articles about the company’s culture on the company’s blog.

Maybe you’ll find an article like this one—because below, I will guide you through Polidea’s “A player” competences! Also, remember that we’re actively recruiting, so if you are looking for a change, check out our job offers right now!

Here’s our soft skills list:

Openness to feedback and ideas

This skill, for us, means being capable of accepting feedback and sharing it with others. We also check if you are respectful towards other people’s opinions and if you can engage in a discussion and find solutions respectfully.

A big plus is the knowledge of any feedback technique (it can be one of proven methods like “3x3 -method”, “stop, start, continue” or “situation, behavior, impact”—but not necessarily. Practical experience is far more important for us than theoretical knowledge. Do you have your good practices? Awesome! We’ll be happy to hear about them).

To evaluate this skill, we might also ask you about the difficult feedback you have received. What was it about? How did you handle it? Did you change anything in your behavior or maybe you thought the feedback was not constructive? If so, why?

We might also ask you about the situation in which you and your peers or your manager had different views on one problem. What did the decision process look like? Which solution did you choose? What do you think about this solution?

Apart from anecdotal questions, what we can do, is to ask you an easy question about your opinion on something (say, Scrum ceremonies) and disagree with you. A short discussion will follow and we will be able to assess how you react to a different opinion; it’s ok not to change your mind. The key to success lies in listening to your interlocutors and respecting their arguments.

Honesty

We understand honesty as telling the truth about your knowledge and experience as well as stating opinions openly, while being respectful at the same time. We value candidates who can admit their failures, lack of knowledge, or their weaknesses, rather than exaggerate their achievements and expertise. We all make mistakes—that’s the proof we are trying new solutions and that we are learning. The heart of the matter is to learn your lesson.

This is a meta-competence that we might evaluate based on the whole interview (also the technical part). But the questions that specifically aim to check this skill concern your achievements, as well as things that did not go well. What we suggest is to take some time before the interview to recall the specific situations that you consider successes and failures; you can even write down what was it about , what was your goal, what action you performed, and what was the result. It might come in handy in other job interviews as well.

Hint: we like straightforward people, but it doesn’t mean we accept disrespectful or rude remarks.

Communication during the interview

If I had to guess, I would say that this particular soft skill is important for most companies and for most roles. No matter if you are a software or test engineer, project manager, or a salesperson, we want to understand your opinions and motivations, we want to feel comfortable talking to you, we definitely want you to listen to our questions and answer them. Yet, this skill might sound like a very difficult one to master. Let me give you few tips on how to improve it:

  • Ask for feedback: Ask your manager, your peers, and even the recruiters for feedback regarding your communication. Do it on the regular basis and try to improve the areas that were criticized (and be proud of yourself for the areas that have been recognized). Every improvement counts—you will eventually master this skill by making small steps.
  • Keep it simple: Bear in mind that the interview lasts around 60-90 minutes and during that time we have a bunch of questions to discuss. While we want to exhaust the topics, we are also limited by time. Therefore, try to keep your answers simple and clear. You can also ask us if your answer was sufficient or if you should elaborate on your statement.
  • Listen: To communicate effectively, make sure you understand your interlocutor’s point of view and their questions. Try not to interrupt, make sure that the speaker has finished their question before jumping to your answers. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Creativity and proactivity

We understand those skills as the ability to come up with new ideas and initiatives, as well as seeing multiple perspectives and trying to have an impact on the project. We value candidates who are capable of challenging the status quo constructively.

To evaluate these competencies, we will ask you questions about your past experiences: yet, we won’t give you straightforward hints about what exactly we are looking for. Trying to assess your proactivity, we won’t ask you about a certain situation where you behaved proactively; we will rather ask about a difficult situation in a project, in which innovative and creative approaches were needed. We will appreciate it if you demonstrate that you had original (and even bold) ideas. Thus, it’s up to you to showcase your soft skill development by telling us about cases from your previous or current projects.

Hint: remember to be honest and talk about the situation that really happened. If you talk about a solution suggested by another member of your team as of your own, it will probably be disclosed by the interviewer.

Though the behavioral questions (the questions about how you’ve handled certain situations in the past) are considered the best way to gauge your skills, sometimes we might ask about the imaginary situation as well. We can describe a case and ask you for a proposed solution. Try to be open-minded and propose more than one way to deal with a problem. It also makes sense to ask us for details and show us that the solution depends on many factors. We will appreciate it if you had arguments to support the viability of the proposed action.

Conclusion

I hope that describing the soft skills we value and sharing a few tips will help you prepare for the job interview, especially for Polidea. If you need more hints on how to prepare for an interview, read the article about our best practices.

Justyna Grzywaczyk

People & Culture Lead

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