I taught my “Hiring for Agile Teams” workshop at ADP today, and finally have words for something I've seen for a while. When I ask people to describe qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills, they say things like “easy-going” or “intuitive” or something else that describes behavior. Since I love behavior-description questions, you'd think this would be perfect, right? Nope. They're not describing abilities, which is the key.
To change “easy-going” into abilities, I asked what easy-going looked like. The person said, “Relaxed in the interview.” I asked if the person would just interview or do other work. “Do other work.” We went back and forth for a bit. So then I asked “Would this be more accurate: able to keep his or her head in the midst of chaos?” Yes, that was it.
That's different than easy-going. It's something specific to the organization (which is good), and you can ask for examples in behavior-description questions.
So if you see adjectives, think about the deliverables and activities the candidate will have to do. Then see how to describe that in terms of abilities. You'll have a better description and be able to ask better questions.