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Interview questions about adaptability

Use these interview questions about adaptability as part of your hiring process to test candidates’ flexibility in fast-paced working environments and see how well they can adapt to change.

Why you should ask candidates questions about their adaptability

Because companies often need to adapt to new requirements, it’s particularly important to have employees who are up to this challenge and can adapt quickly to changes on the market or in the technology.
Staff like this will help a company grow and should therefore be:

  • Robust. They can keep calm, even under pressure.
  • Keen to experiment. They are willing to try out new techniques or technologies to improve their performance.
  • Solution-oriented. When problems arise, they can come up with potential solutions quickly.
  • Open. They welcome new colleagues or working styles.

The following questions are designed to help you assess whether candidates…

  • can handle sudden changes (e.g. if a team member hands in their notice);
  • can easily adapt to new circumstances (e.g. if customers change their requirements);
  • help their colleagues to accept change (e.g. if they are confronted with new company guidelines);
  • readily take on new tasks (e.g. if the requirements of their job increase).

Combine these questions with those on change management and problem-solving.

Sample interview questions about adaptability

  • How do you adapt to change that you can’t control (e.g. if a member of your team decides to hand in their notice)?
  • If one of your colleague takes the attitude of “Well, we’ve always done it this way” toward anything new, how would you persuade them to adopt a different, more effective approach?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face when starting a new job?
  • You’ve already invested a fair bit of time in a customer’s project. What would you do if your manager told you that the project’s requirements had suddenly changed?
  • How do you adjust your schedule if your manager asks you to prepare a report within the hour? How do you make sure that your other work doesn’t get neglected?
  • Please tell me about a time you were confronted with some new tasks. How did you adapt?
  • The new HR manager is introducing formal quarterly performance appraisals for all staff. How would you get yourself and your team prepared if you’d been used to informal meetings?

How to assess candidates’ adaptability

  • The onboarding process requires employees to adapt to a new working environment and new colleagues in their team. Candidates who describe how quickly they’ve adapted in previous onboarding processes are likely to be successful in their new role.
  • Candidates who are considering a major career change should be probed on what is driving them toward this decision and how confident they feel taking on new and unfamiliar responsibilities.
  • Keep your eyes open for candidates who consider all the potential scenarios before making a decision, as these applicants may be better at handling unexpected challenges.
  • For higher-level positions, you should look for candidates who value flexibility, are open to new ideas, and possess sound change management skills.
  • If the role involves participating in many different projects and collaboration between several teams, you should look for applicants who prefer variety in their day-to-day tasks rather than those who favor a set routine.

Warning signs

  • Applicants are not open to new ideas. People who only busy themselves with things they already know about are often hesitant or averse to unconventional solutions, making them slower to adapt to change.
  • Applicants fear the unknown. Look for candidates who don’t shy away from risk or change, particularly if your company operates in a fast-paced environment and your employees have to take on work that sometimes goes beyond the limits of their job description.
  • Applicants are poor team players. Adaptability also relates to a person’s working style and their ability to modify it to suit their team. You should therefore look for candidates who value teamwork and flexibility.
  • Employees are excessively nervous. Candidates who cannot stay calm under stress or when faced with change may not be capable of finding quick and effective solutions to unexpected problems.
  • Applicants have a negative attitude. Candidates who always hold other people responsible and are annoyed when faced with change may find it harder to cope with new challenges.

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