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 on 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 at 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 over businesses and the workforce they employ.
For example, last year’s obstruction of the Suez Canal caused major stock disruptions for retails, 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 of the business model.
11 Interview Questions on Flexibility and Adaptability 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 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 departments’ 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. 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’ve completed a Latter 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.”
4. 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’ve 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”.
5. 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’ve 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”
6. 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 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.”
7. 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.”
8. 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’ve worked 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”.
9. 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.”
10. 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.”
11. 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 more quiet and 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”.
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.