Soft Skills that Managers Look for in Software Engineers During an Interview

Nowadays, interviewers are assessing a person based on technical knowledge and soft skills. For validating soft skills, usually, interviewers ask real-life scenarios and how the candidate dealt with it. The inclusion of soft skills-based questions in interviews marks the importance of it in corporate life.

What are soft skills?

Undoubtedly, for a successful career, a person should possess immense technical knowledge. Additionally, they should also have assertiveness, innovation, creativity, confidence, and excellent communication skills to express themselves diligently. The perfect mix of technical and soft skills helps a software engineer to flourish and grow in their career. In an interview, the interviewer is interested in ‘how’ you found the solution. Because this helps them in noticing your inherent soft skills. Therefore, they are often not looking for the result you achieve, but they want to know ‘how’ you achieved it.   

Now, let us explore the top soft skills and associated interview questions that interviewers are likely to ask. 

Soft Skills
Image from Miro

Communication 

For a software engineer, communication is an essential soft skill. Here’s why it is a critical skill that is sought after so commonly: 

  1. Verbal Communication
    It is important to express thoughts clearly and precisely because vague and broken language will confuse people around you. The motto of communication is to effectively make other people understand exactly what you want to convey. Hence, it is required to effectively communicate verbally and nonverbally; internally and externally in the organisation. Meetings and discussions are a common activity in any project where good communication skills are important to articulate our thoughts to the receiver’s end.
  2. Written communication
    Written communication is usually over mediums such as emails or documentation, e.g. requirement documents. As these mediums are meant to track or capture important information of projects, without good written skills we risk the loss of information. 

 Let us have a look at some examples of interview questions related to communication. These questions will help us understand the common questions asked during an interview to assess communication skills. 

Example of  technical questions: 

  • What is the best programming language for a web application e.g. e-commerce platform? 
  •  Is API the only and best way for two different applications to communicate with each other? 

Example of non-technical questions: 

  • Tell me a situation when you had to explain a technical aspect of the software to a non-technical person. 
  • Explain the traits of a good Software Engineer. 
  • Tell me a situation when you suggested a solution to the management and they outright rejected it. How did you deal with it? 

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • Questions are generally open-ended and can be either technical or non-technical. 
  • In general, there are no right or wrong answers to the questions. The interviewer views the answers as to how do you share your views/answers across objectively and in a structured manner. 
  • The positive traits of the candidates would be a clear perspective in the answer, ability to clearly and confidently explain their thoughts.

Team Player 

Software development is team workHaving rapport with other team members will help us and the organisation in achieving growth.

A team player adds positivity to the workplace environment which uplifts everyone around and 
themselves. Such people make new connections and relationships which help them in career growth.

Let us now see a few interview questions that 
may be used to evaluate your team spirit.  

  • How will you ensure that your remote team member communicates well? 
  • How will you provide positive feedback to a team member who has done a good job? 
  • Do you love working in teams or independently? 
  • Have you ever dealt with working with a non-compatible team member? How did you handle it? 

What hiring managers listen to: 

  •  The interviewer is evaluating your interpersonal skills and how comfortable you are working in a team.
    Positive traits of the desired candidate are to have a good team spirit, be a great team player, and to have a belief in teamwork. For example, when dealing with a non-compatible team member, a good team player might spend some time walking that team member through to fill up knowledge gaps. Another example of team spirit is when one of the team members has done well, a team player will acknowledge the person’s effort by informing directly to the person or during a group catch up. 

Confidence 

The meaning of self-confidence is to have sound assurance and faith in your own self. You can achieve a grasp on any subject by training, learning, and gaining knowledge. When you have a strong understanding of the topic of the discussion you feel confident.
For example, when proposing a technical solution to your targeted audiences, your confidence would help to better convince them of your suggestions

Let us have a look at confidence related interview questions- 

  • How do you decide on choosing Technology A over Technology B for this recent project that you are working on? 
  • Tell me a situation which shows that your manager had great confidence in you. How did you address the situation? 

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • Are you showing confidence while answering all questions? They generally seek candidates who communicate with fluency in thoughts and language; And who are able to keep calm under pressure, etc. These signs show that you are confident and a good fit as an employee. 
  • When you know a subject you automatically tend to have strong self-confidence. So prepare well for the interview!

Assertiveness 

Assertiveness in this context refers to positively asserting your thoughts without coming across as aggressive. Even if we want to disagree with another person and need to convey the same, it can be done in a polite yet assertive tone. Assertiveness is to know the rights of our own and respect the rights of others. 

In assertive communication, we use more ‘I’ statements and not ‘You’ statements. 

An example of an assertive sentence is: I feel hurt. 

If we use ‘You’ in the same statement, it will come across like we are trying to pin the blame on someone else. Example – You hurt me. 

How to convert a sentence into an assertive sentence
Image from skillsconverged

Let us have a look at the assertiveness skills-based interview questions- 

  • Tell me a situation when you have to be assertive to assign tasks to the team and make them do it.
  • Tell me a situation where you had a different opinion from your manager and how did you manage it? 

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • How do you handle confrontations and were you able to stay calm during such scenarios? 
  •  Do you get fearful of the idea of asserting some idea to higher management? 
    The positive trait for a candidate is to stay calm yet assertive. Stand up for what is right for you and aim to arrive at a positive conclusion. 

Note: More about assertiveness here.

 

Problem Solver 

To solve a problem we need to understand the root of the problem. This requires an analytical mind with decision-making skills.

You may be asked about an incident in which you got into a problem and solved it on your own. This will indicate that you are a problem solver and can work independently

Let’s have a look at a few problem-solving soft skills related interview questions: 

  • Tell me a situation when you faced an issue and did not have all the information to deal with it. How did you handle it? 
  • Tell me a situation when you came to know that you will miss the deadline for delivery. What did you do then? 
  • Cite a scenario where you got into a technical problem and how you proceeded from there. Did you wait for your seniors to help you or you debugged your code/technical scenario by yourself?  

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • Interviewers evaluate the candidate on his ability to gather and analyse data.  
  • The candidate should have the ability to analyse possible solutions and reach a final decision. 

Openness to feedback 

Feedback is communication with someone about a task which they have done, to either encourage that or to improve that task. Feedback should be constructive, to improve the overall quality of the task at hand. Acceptance of feedback can be difficult for some people. Constructive feedback helps a person to accept the feedback and improve themself after receiving it.

The ability to accept negative feedback without feeling offended is a trait of openness to feedback. 

Let’s have a look at interview questions related to the openness to feedback soft skill:

  • Few users provide their feedback on a feature that you have just released that has the worst user experience. How will you react to such comments? 
  • How do you deal with negative feedback from your manager? 
  • Do you think feedback helps in improving the performance? 

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • The interviewer is looking for openness to feedback during the interview.  
  • Also, the candidate’s ability to provide feedback to other people. 
  • How do candidates deal with positive and negative feedback situations?

Creative thinking 

A creative mind is a flexible mind, which adapts to the changes in requirements pretty quickly. Their creativity helps in developing technical solutions promptly. Such skills are important especially when a development team faces a challenge perhaps due to system architecture. This person will then be able to quickly come out with a ‘workaround’ solution so that the team can proceed with development.

Let’s have a look at creative thinking related interview questions: 

  • How will you react when your team member has suggested an idea which is unorthodox but effective. 
  • Do you discuss with your teammates the new ways of doing project tasks? Give me an example.
  • Tell me a situation when you applied creative thinking to an already existing official process to make it better. 

 What hiring managers listen to: 

  • They ask about situations about your ability to apply creativity to find solutions to daily activities or complex issues.  
  • Creativity leads to innovation and that’s why they are looking out for it.

Trustworthy 

Trustworthy people are dependable, credible, and they value other people. Therefore clients/customers look for a trustworthy team; managers and organisations look for trustworthy individuals to onboard. They look for dependability and commitment as primary traits. 

Within a team, often people look up to a trustworthy senior whom they can trust and share their ambitions.  

Similarly, a senior will provide the most challenging responsibility to a subordinate whom the senior trusts the most. 

Let’s have a look at the trustworthy skill-related interview questions: 

  • What would you do when you are asked to do something unethical by your senior? 
  • Tell me a situation when your commitment to the project was tested? 
  • Tell me a situation when you failed to meet the commitment. How did you deal with it? 

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • Desirable software engineer soft skills are reliable and dependable. They are looking for candidates who follow work ethics, complete tasks within deadlines; and take responsibility with enthusiasm. 
  • The examples that you choose to answer their questions should show these qualities.

Adaptive 

Employers want their employees to be adaptive to changes, environment, and technical skills.

In software development, employees need to re-skill and upskill themselves. If a person is resistant to changes they may not be ready to learn new things.

Flexibility, learning capacity, and problem-solving are required traits of an adaptive employee.

Let’s have a look at the adaptive soft skills related interview questions: 

  • Tell me a situation where you had to work on a task which was out of your role and responsibility 
  • Tell me a situation where you had to adapt yourself to new software in the project quickly?

What hiring managers listen to: 

  • The interviewer is looking for adjustment in activities and approach if there are changes of any type in the project – team, deadline, software, tasks, etc.  
  • How quickly you adapt and make positive changes in your attitude is the key to answer these questions.

Inquisitive 

It is a tendency to be intellectually curious, to know, and to learn new things.

In the software industry, every other day technology evolves. Therefore all software professionals need to keep up-to-date with the latest technology in the market.

An inquisitive person will learn new technology out of his curiosity and thus will learn better. Also, it is a mindset of wanting to find out more on the information of a project/specifications before getting started. So that a clearer high-level picture is formed before starting the actual project.

Leaders are naturally inquisitive, so that they know more and stay ahead of everyone.

Let us look at inquisitiveness related interview questions: 

  • What is your learning style and how often you practice it? 
  • What do you do in your free time outside office hours?

What hiring managers listen to:
The interviewer is looking for positive traits- observation, curiosity, learning, passion for various subjects. 

 

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