Soft Skills Assessment: A Critical Part of the Medical Hiring Process

Written by: Lisa A. Burke
Published on: Feb 10, 2020

 male recruiter

While hard skills allow potential employers to know whether a candidate possesses the requisite technical knowledge  to perform the job, an assessment of soft skills help determine whether the candidate would be a good fit across more interpersonal dimensions, such as work style and culture fit. This is especially important with regard to patient-facing clinical roles where the art of patient care is every bit as important as the science.

Representative Soft Skills to Evaluate

While soft skills vary based on occupation, there are a number that apply to a wide range of roles within the healthcare sector: Below are five examples:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration/Conflict Resolution
  • Versatility
  • Compassion/Empathy
  • Emotional Intelligence

Assessing Soft Skills

The best method for evaluating soft skills is with behavioral or situational questions. These are open-ended questions that allow the candidate to talk about their experience and foster follow-up questions for clarification and consistency.

  • Behavioral interview questions ask candidates to talk about a past experience.
  • Situational interview questions pose a scenario to the candidate that they are likely to face on the job.

Below are examples of interview questions for the soft skills noted above:


  • How would you explain a complex topic to a patient and their family unfamiliar with the subject matter?
  • Describe a situation when you had to calm a patient that was upset at some aspect of their care for which you were not responsible (e.g. physician ordered further tests they don’t think are necessary).

Collaboration/Conflict Resolution

  • Can you describe a time when clinical team members were not in agreement on a course of action? What steps were taken to resolve the issue?
  • How do you handle disagreement with a physician/administrator/supervisor?


  • How do you manage suddenly shifting priorities?
  • Describe a time you were required to step outside of your job description to cover the needs of patients?


  • Tell me about a time you had to step into a patient's shoes to understand their situation.
  • Have you ever attended to a patient with different values and beliefs and from your own? How did you handle the situation?

Emotional Intelligence

  • Discuss a time you faced an ethical dilemma at work. How did you deal with it and what was the result?
  • How would you handle an error on a medication order from the physician (e.g recommended a medication that patient is allergic to)?

candidate interviewScoring System

The best strategy in scoring candidate responses is to use a structured interview format so that questions are presented in the same order to every candidate. You can then utilize a rating system:

For example: Conflict Resolution

Low - Handles workplace conflict but some evidence of stress and tension in such situations. 

Moderate - Effectively manages workplace conflict, moderate degree of discomfort but can utilize effective negotiation skills.

High - Manages workplace conflict with high degree of professionalism, able to negotiate with others to accomplish tasks. offers healthcare recruiters up-to-date information with current hiring trends so they can attract and hire top caliber professionals to foster improved patient care. Contact our recruitment representative Philip Prigal to get started.