A major challenge for advancing our understanding of the functional role of soil microbial communities is to link changes in their structure and function under climate change. To address this challenge requires new understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the capacity of soil microbial communities to resist and recover from climate extremes. Here, we synthesize emerging understanding of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence the resistance and resilience of soil microbial communities to climate extremes, with a focus on drought, and identify drivers that might trigger abrupt changes to alternative states. We highlight research challenges and propose a path for advancing our understanding of the resistance and resilience of soil microbial communities to climate extremes, and of their vulnerability to transitions to alternative states, including the use of trait-based approaches. We identify a need for new approaches to quantify resistance and resilience of soil microbial communities, and to identify thresholds for transitions to alternative states. We show how high-resolution time series coupled with gradient designs will enable detecting response patterns to interacting drivers. Finally, to account for extrinsic factors, we suggest that future studies should use environmental gradients to track soil microbial community responses to climate extremes in space and time.