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The value of asking soft questions in an interview

Bert Jacobs, co-founder of Life is good, a manufacturer of clothing and apparel, recently wrote an article for Inc.com, emphasizing the value of asking "soft questions" in a job interview. Jacobs' contention is that asking "soft questions" reveals important insights into candidates, and how they would function in the workplace and contribute to your organization.

Jacobs' company focuses on hiring candidates who display an optimistic attitude. To assess this quality, Jacobs asks applicants questions such as, "what do you love?" and "what is important to you?" While these questions may seem to focus on personality, Jacobs believes this is an essential attribute to individual's work.

Candidates' answers to these questions show what they prize most in their lives outside of work, something that Jacobs insists is important because it extends to their professional lives. 

"The point is they've got to be enthusiastic. They've got to embrace something that gives them joy and convinces them the world is a good place," Jacobs writes.

If employees are enthusiastic about something outside of work, it is a positive sign for Jacobs. Jacobs wants employees who are enthusiastic, who believe in the organization's message of optimism and will contribute to that company culture. 

Jacobs also asks candidates whom they admire. One particularly impressive response came from an applicant for a senior position at Life is good. The applicant mentioned three people: Nelson Mandela, Dr. Seuss and Paul McCartney. Optimisim in the face of adversity, the value of humor and play and devoting yourself to what you love — in this case music — are what the three individuals embodied, respectively. Similarly, these were qualities that Life is good valued highly, showing to Jacobs how the applicant's values aligned with the company's. 

While assessing candidates' hard skills is important, Jacobs reminds employers that it is also valuable to ask "soft questions" to determine candidates' cultural fit and long-term success with your organization.