Almost 70% of hiring managers say that “adaptability” is the most important soft skill they screen candidates for. Why? Because as recent events have proved, the company’s ability to adapt to unforeseen events and pivot fast is crucial for survival in the markets. So flexibility and adaptability interview questions have become the norm among employers.
In this post, we explain why flexibility skills are in such high demand and provide a roaster of sample interview questions and answers you may face during your job interview.
What Are Flexibility Skills?
Flexibility skills indicate your ability to rapidly adjust to a new way of doing certain things. They indicate your capacity to confidently deal with unexpected problems, think creatively, and perform tasks outside of your core competencies.
Some good examples of flexibility skills in the workplace are:
- Personal adaptability
- Mental resilience
- Cultural sensitivity
- Emotional intelligence
- Change management
- Intellectual flexibility
- Creative thinking
Why Is It Important To Be Flexible?
Because we live at times when rapid change is an inevitable part of life. External market forces such as economic, social, and political circumstances cast a ripple effect on businesses and the workforce they employ.
For example, last year’s obstruction of the Suez Canal caused major stock disruptions for retailers, forcing them to get more creative with procurement. Similarly, an offhand remark on Twitter from a company leader can sway the public’s opinion about the brand in moments.
So it should come as no surprise that “adaptability” and “flexibility” are ranked as the most in-demand skills in the modern workplace by LinkedIn Learning Report.
Employers want to ensure that they hire people who can effectively navigate through unexpected complexities both autonomously and as part of the team.
How Do You Describe Flexibility In An Interview?
Flexibility is a rather lofty concept. So the best way to describe it in a job interview is through examples. Rather than just stating that you are “well receptive to change”, show how you’ve responded to sudden workplace shifts such as the transition to remote work, new policy adoptions, or wider organizational changes in the business model.
Adaptability Interview Questions and Answers To Help You Practice
To help you prepare for your job interview, we made a lineup of sample interview questions about adaptability with extra tips and answers.
1. Tell Us How You’ve Adapted To the Remote Work Policy?
In 2020, many organizations had to forcefully switch to remote work. In 2022, few are looking back to bring workers permanently back to the offices. According to Gartner, 25% of knowledge workers will WFH most of the time this year, and another 45% visit the office 2-3 days per week.
So it follows that HRs want to know if you are already comfortable with working remotely, plus assess how you respond to sudden changes in your routine.
“My team went fully remote in March 2020. I already felt comfortable working independently and relied on Slack and Asana to collaborate with the rest. Initially, I had a bit of a hitch because I couldn’t access some local data. But after the IT team set up remote desktop access for me, I was back to working at my usual pace”.
2. Can You Describe Your Standard Response To Changes In A Corporate Policy?
Apart from major workplace shifts like remote work adoption or department restructuring, companies also often introduce new processes and workflows for standard procedures. In most cases, these are aimed at improving team efficiency or prompted by compliance.
In your answer, you should clearly demonstrate that you are a team player and fast learner, capable of adopting the new way of working:
“My employer recently updated their cybersecurity policy and prohibited BYOD. A lot of my teammates were a bit frustrated since we often used personal phones to test some app products. But I collaborated with the procurement team to get us several corporate smartphones for doing QA and the dissatisfaction was fast gone”.
3. Have You Ever Been Assigned A Task Outside Of Your Role Description? How Did You Handle It?
By posing this interview question, your counterpart prompts you to contextualize your flexibility skills with a quick example. So provide them with one!
“Yes, I was once asked to help the marketing team with landing page design. They wanted to understand what were the most common special requests, made during booking and translate these into promo messages. I collected the required data in a short presentation and took part in the ideation sessions. Using my suggestions, the team came up with several new copywriting slogans and I also pitched the idea of making organized shopping trips into an add-on service that is currently being implemented”
4. What Was The Biggest Change In Life You Had To Deal With?
The goal of adaptability interview questions like this one is to understand how adaptable and resilient you are on both personal and professional levels.
It also presents a great opportunity for you to talk about how your personal background has influenced your professional development.
Not sure what type of change counts as “big”? Think about the times you had to move to another city, change careers, or overcome a personal struggle.
“Switching from a career in the military back to “civilian” life was a major change for me. As a retired veteran, I wasn’t initially sure which career path I should take next. But after attending several group meetings at my local Veteran Center and talking to others, I’ve realized that I have plenty of amazing opportunities for myself and that my high discipline, mental resilience, and analytical skills were an asset for many professions. I took a two-year management program at community college and then landed my first job as Junior Procurement Manager at Acme Corps.”
5. How Do You Usually Respond To Work Setbacks?
Employers value candidates with well-developed emotional intelligence skills. These include your ability to effectively manage your own emotional responses to setbacks, as well as tactfully navigate around the frustrations of others.
Frame your answer similar to the one for “Tell me about the time you’ve failed” interview question. But maintain the focus on your emotional response and subsequent actions, rather than the reasons for the setback.
“In my last position, I worked for several months on developing a new Arts Education curriculum for K4 grade. It received glowing feedback from parents and the School Committee. But unfortunately, it was passed on due to the lack of funding. I was understandably upset. But I’ve channeled my energy into setting up a volunteer-led after-school art class with the help of parents and local art school students instead. It still runs to this date”.
Sample Situational Adaptability Interview Questions and Answers
Situational interview questions are common for testing the candidates’ adaptability as they encourage you to talk about your behaviors (and the rationale behind them).
Typically, you’d be asked to describe your actions in an unconventional situation or such that demands you to adapt to the new circumstances.
6. You’ve Been Assigned to a New Team and Your Collaborator Has a Very Different Work Style. How Would You Adapt?
Modern workplaces are full of big personalities — and oftentimes this creates some friendly competition and creative tension. Neither of these is a bad thing unless they turn into a personal conflict.
By posing this question the interviewer wants to understand how you can adapt to working with different people.
“I would schedule a quick 1:1 with my colleague, where we could candidly talk about our respective communication, task management, and collaboration styles. I understand that different styles can bring a different perspective to the table, so I’d work to find a way to combine both our styles for the greater benefit of the project.”
7. Your Manager Shortens The Timeline for the Project Without Consulting the Team. How Would You Handle the Situation?
Work now needs to happen at a faster pace as business priorities can change in a beat due to market calamities or other unexpected events. Though last-moment changes can be hard to accommodate (especially when the deadline’s too tight), try to show your consideration towards the need and briefly explain how you would handle the matter.
“First of all, I’d have a group discussion with the team to better understand the implications of the change on our respective workflows. So that we could figure out the feasibility of delivering on the said timeline and brainstorm alternative options (e.g., launching a product with fewer features).
Then I’d reach out to the manager to get insight into their reasoning for the shortened timeline. I’d explain the current status of the project and walk them through the possible options, we’ve discussed with the team. Ultimately, I’d work to adjust the timeline and find a reasonable compromise that works for the team, managers, and organization at large.”
8. How Have You Previously Adjusted to Working in New Industry?
You should expect this situational adaptability question if you had a career change or enter a new industry. Your reply should provide some reassurance on how you understand the new “playing field” and what you plan to do to learn more about it.
“Switching from B2C product merchandising to B2B product marketing will require some adaptation from my side, but I’m enthusiastic about the new challenges. Longer sales cycles and more nurturing touches open plenty of grounds for experimenting with other marketing strategies (apart from demand-gen) — something I already started doing in my last role. Also, to get a better sense of the industry, I had a mentorship session with David O’Keef, a Senior B2B marketer with Acme, who also provided some helpful orientation.”
9. A Key Partner Suddenly Withdraws From a Joint Project. How Would You Handle the Situation?
Strategic partnerships are common in many industries. Many of them lead to massive successes, but others can be a point of failure if a partner proves to be unreliable. The interviewer wants to understand how you’ll navigate through such a potential crisis. Explain your steps and the rationale behind them in your reply.
“My strategy for such cases is remediation first, post-mortem analysis second. If the partner’s decision is final, I’d first concentrate on creating a plan for replacing them or covering their contribution via other means (e.g., by re-assigning people from other teams). In both cases, I’d run a quick risk-benefit analysis to better understand and inform others about the implications of each decision. Once we have reached a solution, I’d inform all stakeholders and switch to analyzing the pattern’s decision for withdrawal, so that we could avoid such scenarios in the future”
Common Interview Questions About Flexibility to Practice
Over the past few years, cognitive flexibility has been hailed as a top workplace skill. It indicates your ability to exhibit versatility in radically changing situational demands, as well as restructure your knowledge to help you accomplish the task at hand.
Being flexible also means that you’re eager to learn and develop new competencies; try new roles and suggest new ideas, rather than always stick with the status quo.
To figure out if a candidate possesses these attributes, interviews often pose the following flexibility interview questions.
1. Please Share What Type Of Training Or Upskilling Programs You’ve Completed Last Year?
This is one of the common situational adaptability interview questions you might get in an interview. The goal of this question is to indirectly assess your aspirations for professional development and interest in continuing professional education.
In your answer, just name several programs you took and briefly explain why.
“Last year, I completed a Latte Art training course at Coffee Arts Academy to hone my skills. I’ve also listened to several lectures on coffee cultivation from Coursera since I’m passionate about brews and wanted to get some extra knowledge to advise the customers at the store.”
2. Please, Describe Your Approach To Adopting A New Process Or Software Product.
This question is intended to determine whether or not you are systematic in your approach to learning new things. Some might be also asking this to understand what type of learner are you — visual, audial, hands-on, etc.
Your answer can go like this:
“The hotel recently migrated to a new reservation module and the IT team provided a group training session for staff. I later used the provided slides and self-help guides to learn about the new functionality. Also, I didn’t quite understand the automation module and messaged one of the trainers directly for clarification. They provided me with a short video that I also shared with other front-desk staff”.
3. Are You Comfortable Working In A Fast-Paced Environment? What Do You Do When Your Work Priorities Change Quickly?
Some workplaces require fast reactions and on-the-spot wit. By posing this question, the interviewer wants to ensure that you can handle the slightly hectic work environment and effectively balance multiple priorities.
Your reassuring answer can go like this:
“My first job was as a barista at a busy Starbucks downtown. So I know what it’s like to juggle multiple chores while keeping several elaborate coffee orders in mind. Subsequently, I’ve honed my personal effectiveness skills while working as a social media manager for a new media company, where accuracy and production speed were paramount.”
4. If Your Job Suddenly Becomes Obsolete Tomorrow, What Would You Do?
This interview question may seem a bit unsettling. But remember: the employer isn’t questioning your qualifications. Rather they try to understand what you are doing to keep your skillset up-to-date.
“Well, I’d then give it a try in another industry. There are plenty of online courses, short-term programs, and workshops that help you learn a marketable skill fast. So perhaps, I’d try myself out in UX design.”
5. How Do You Prevent Interia Among Your Subordinates And Peers?
If you are applying for an executive position, a big part of your work will be securing “buy-ins” from people for the initiatives you do. This can be complex as many would be resistant to innovation for one reason or another.
In your answer, show that you are not just a visionary leader, but a good negotiator too, capable of rallying the crowds in the right direction:
“I practice servant leadership philosophy and always ask “how can I help?”. Instead of forcing change upon people, I try to understand their issues and concerns. That pitch a solution that fulfills those. If there are some tensions and disagreements, I try to negotiate with different stakeholders to find a consensually acceptable solution.”
6. How Do You Get Adjusted To Different Working Styles That People Have?
Modern workplaces are wonderfully diverse when it comes to ages, genders, backgrounds, and communicational preferences. Understandably, the interviewer wants to ensure that you have strong interpersonal skills and can adapt your behaviors to effectively collaborate with others.
Give a compelling answer by proving a quick workplace example:
“At my last job, I was part of a cross-cultural team. We had several Chinese partners who were usually quieter and more reluctant to criticize team ideas (even if they were bad). So I always invited them for a private chat (instead of a group discussion) and asked them to do an honest tear-down”.
Situational Interview Questions About Flexibility with Sample Answers
Situational interview questions enable the interviewer to evaluate your possible on-the-job behaviors to better understand your personality and soft skills.
In the context of flexibility, the following interview questions come up often:
7. You’re Proposed a Role Change Due to Re-Structurization. It’s Outside of Your Comfort Zone. Would You Consider It?
As the media headlines don’t fail to remind us, many companies continue to cut jobs and optimize the number of positions.
To best answer this interview question, explain how you would react in one particular situation. For example:
“Let’s assume that ‘outside of my comfort zone’ suggests that I’d be joining a new subdivision in a more junior position since it would require a new skill set. I would be willing to consider such an option if the role comes with accelerated professional training or some form of a mentorship program, which would allow me to get up-skilled within a couple of months.”
8. You Are the Only Person Present. An Urgent Client Request Comes In, But No Standard Operating Procedures Exist for Handling Such a Case. How Would You Respond?
Standard operation procedures (SOPs) are the backbone of every bigger organization. They exist there for a reason too — to make everyone’s work consistent and compliant with the company policies, customer service level agreements, and/or industry regulations.
That said, SOPs cannot cover every possible work scenario. By asking this question, the interviewer prompts you to talk about your conceptual skills. Your reply can go like this:
“First, I’ll analyze the nature of the issue and evaluate different response scenarios, using my past experience with similar requests. If the request doesn’t breach any policies and I know how to fulfill it, I’d do so to keep the client happy — and then inform my supervisor about the event.”
9. Given an Option To Choose, Which Responsibilities Would You Prefer To Avoid in This Role?
This is a somewhat tough interview question, which prompts you to be candid about your personal work style preferences.
Don’t beat around the bush by saying something along the lines of “all should be good”. Instead, comment on one specific process and tell how you’d consider improving it.
“As far as I understood from the job description, you currently handle most of the freelancer payment processing manually and without any specific schedule. While I don’t mind routing payments manually, I think it would be more efficient to create pre-programmed payment runs on fixed dates. This would avoid payment delays or mishaps, plus would make the account reconciliation process easier for the Finance team.”
Now you have a better idea of what types of flexibility and adaptability interview questions you may get asked during the interview. Your next step is to prepare and practice several quick talking points to illustrate how you respond to changes at work and act on the spot.