You want to hire the best possible people for your team. And the best time to find out whether a candidate falls under that “best possible people” umbrella?
Interviews are your opportunity to get to know potential candidates and explore whether they’re the right fit for your organization (and vice versa). But the only way you’re going to get the information that you need to make the right hiring decision — for your team, your company, and the candidate — is if you ask the right questions.
Let’s take a look at 21 of the best interview questions to ask during your next interview.
1. Can you tell me about yourself?
“Can you tell me about yourself?” is a broad question — but how a person answers it can give you significant insight into their thought processes, priorities, and what they value. For example, if, when asked this question, an interviewee immediately starts lifting off their academic and professional accomplishments, you’re probably dealing with someone who values achievement and productivity. If the interviewee kicks things off by talking about their hobbies and passions outside of work, chances are, you’re talking to a candidate that values work-life balance. These insights will help you gauge who the candidate is as a person — and whether or not they’re a cultural fit for your organization.
2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hiring a new team member is an investment, both from a time and financial perspective. So, when you bring a new person onto your team, you want to make sure the role and company align with their goals and career path. Asking a candidate where they see themselves in five years will give you insights into where they see their career going — information you can use to evaluate whether the professional future they’re targeting aligns with the position you’re hiring for.
3. Why are you looking for a new opportunity? Why are you leaving your current job/did you leave your last job?
The person you’re interviewing is looking for a new job for a reason — and understanding that reason is a critical part of the interview process, as knowing why a candidate is exploring new opportunities may play a part in your hiring decision. For example, let’s say a candidate tells you they want to leave their current job because there’s no room for growth. If you’re hiring for a position with room to grow within your organization, that candidate could be a great fit — but if it’s a position without a lot of growth potential, chances are, the interviewee wouldn’t be happy in the role.
4. Why do you want to work here?
There are plenty of places to work — so, during the interview process, it’s important to ask candidates why they want to work at your organization. Ideally, the candidates you’re interviewing will be excited about your company, have done their research, and are aligned with your mission and values; if the candidate doesn’t show they really care about your organization and are clearly just applying because it’s an available job (for example, by not having any background information about your organization or not specifically speaking to your company or the opportunity), chances are, they won’t be as committed over the long-term.
5. What are your greatest strengths at work — and what are some of your greatest weaknesses?
Everyone has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. And, depending on the role you’re hiring for, there are certain strengths you’ll want to look for — and certain weaknesses you’ll want to avoid. Asking candidates to talk through their strengths and weaknesses will give you insights into where they shine, where they struggle, and how that aligns with the job. Hearing how candidates talk about their strengths and weaknesses can also give you insights into their levels of self-confidence and self-awareness (for example, if a candidate struggles to speak to their strengths, they may have a confidence issue — while if they can’t pinpoint any weaknesses, they may have blind spots around their performance).
6. If we asked your co-workers and/or boss to describe you, what would they say?
Often, people have a hard time talking themselves up. But if you frame the question from another person’s perspective — like “how would your co-workers or boss describe you?” — they may feel more comfortable talking about their positive qualities, like being a team player or having a strong work ethic.
7. What are you passionate about — both at and outside of work?
You want to hire people who are passionate about what they do — so ask them about what they’re passionate about during the interview process. It’s also important to ask about what candidates are passionate about both in and out of the office; if you want to build well-rounded teams, you want to hire well-rounded employees — and that means people who are equally passionate about their work and their lives.
8. What motivates you?
Different people are motivated by different things — and before you hire someone, it’s important to understand what motivates them and whether that will work within the role and your organization. For example, if you find out a job candidate is motivated by freedom and autonomy — but you’re hiring for a role with daily input from a large team of managers — it’s probably not the right fit.
9. How would you describe your management style?
If you’re hiring for a role that involves managing others, it’s important to understand each candidate’s management style, how they’d approach managing your employees, and how that approach to management fits in with your company culture. For example, if you’re interviewing a candidate that thinks people need to be micromanaged in order to do their best work — and your current team is used to the freedom to do their work however they see fit? Not the right fit.
10. What kind of manager or supervisor do you tend to work best with?
Just like you want to ask questions around a candidate’s management style, you also want to ask questions around what management style they hope to work with. Even senior-level hires will have a supervisor or manager to report to — so it’s important to understand what type of management style they tend to jive best with, compare that to the person (or people) who are going to be managing the new employee, and hire accordingly.
11. What is the most important thing to you in a job/company/work environment?
Asking a candidate what the single most important thing is to them in a job, company, and/or work environment is a must-ask question — because if your job, company, or work environment doesn’t fit the bill, you immediately know it’s not the right fit. For example, an employee saying the most important thing to them is a fully remote environment — but you require your employees to work in-person at the office.
12. How would you describe your conflict management style?
While you want to keep conflict in the workplace to a minimum, there will inevitably be times when conflict arises — and it’s important to understand how potential candidates would handle that conflict. Asking about a job candidate’s conflict management style can give you insights into how they would handle disagreements and personal conflicts at work — and whether you feel comfortable with their approach.
13. Can you tell me about a time when you set — and achieved — a big goal?
You want to hire ambitious people — and asking interviewees about their experience with setting and hitting goals can give you helpful information about their level of ambition. The bigger the goals they’ve been able to achieve, the more ambitious they probably are — and the more likely it is they’ll bring that same level of ambition to the job.
14. Can you tell me about a time when you failed to reach a goal? Why were you unsuccessful — and how did you handle the setback?
Hitting goals is a key part of ambition — but so is not hitting goals. If a candidate hasn’t failed to hit at least a few goals, chances are, they’re not setting their sights high enough. Asking about their experience with failing to reach a goal will not only give you insights into their level of ambition (and how lofty of goals they’re willing to set), it will also help you understand how they deal with failure and setbacks — which is important to understand before you bring someone onto your team.
15. Can you give me a few specific examples of problems you’ve faced on the job — and how you navigated those problems?
It doesn’t matter what role you’re hiring for — problem solving is a key skill for virtually every job. Asking candidates to describe, in detail, problems they’ve faced on the job — and how they solved them — can give you helpful insights into the way they approach and solve problems.
16. Can you solve X problem?
Understanding how candidates approach problems is important — but you also want to feel confident that they can solve the problems they’re likely to face while on the job. During the interview, make sure to walk candidates through a typical problem they may encounter on the job and ask them how they would solve it.
17. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Another thing that can tell you a lot about a person? What they consider to be their proudest accomplishment. Asking candidates what they’re the most proud of will give you insights into their strengths and what they value — even if what they’re proudest of is a personal accomplishment, not a professional one. For example, if a candidate tells you that their proudest accomplishment is completing a marathon, you know that they’re not afraid of hard work and are able to stay dedicated and committed to long-term goals.
18. Do you prefer working on a team or working alone — and why?
When it comes to employees, there’s no “right” way to work; depending on your organizational structure and the role you’re looking to fill, you may want to hire someone who works best autonomously or someone who prefers collaborative work. And in order to find the right person for the role, it’s important to understand each candidate’s work style — and whether they prefer to work alone or consider themselves more of a team player.
19. Why should we hire you for this position?
Typically, you’re interviewing multiple people for a position. So, it’s important to understand what makes each candidate stand out. Asking candidates why you should hire them over other candidates will help you understand the unique benefits they can bring to the role — which can be helpful when it’s time to narrow down your candidate pool and make a decision on who to hire.
20. How did you find out about this opportunity?
Understanding how candidates learned about your job opening and made it into your interview pipeline — and what made them apply — can give you helpful insights about your sourcing, interviewing, and hiring process. For example, you might find out that the majority of your candidates are coming through a particular hiring manager or recruiter’s LinkedIn efforts or that the detailed job description is what drove most candidates to apply for the position. That way, next time, you can replicate those efforts.
21. Do you have any follow-up questions for me before we end?
At the end of an interview, it’s important to ask the candidate if they have any questions for you. Making space for post-interview questions is a win-win; not only does it give the candidate the opportunity to gather information, but it can also help you gauge their level of interest in the role.
Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Interview Questions
Now that you know some of the best interview questions to ask job candidates, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you make the most out of the interview process:
- Know what you want to get out of your interview. While most job interview questions don’t have a right answer or a wrong answer, per se, if you want to get the most out of your interview, you need to know what you’re hoping to get out of it. For example, are you screening your interviewee for the qualities you look for in team members (like self-awareness and communication skills)? Are you looking to evaluate a candidate’s decision-making and problem-solving abilities? Or do you just want to get a feel for whether they’re the right fit for your company’s culture and work environment? Knowing what you want to get from the interview process will help you draft more deliberate questions — questions that give you the information that you need to make the right hiring decision.
- Use open-ended questions. Not all interview questions are created equal; asking a “yes or no” or multiple choice question isn’t going to give you much insight into the person you’re interviewing — and whether they’re the best candidate for the job. Asking an open-ended question will give you more insight into things like the candidate’s thought process, experience, and personality — all things you need to know during the hiring process.
- Use interview questions as one part of the hiring equation. It’s important to ask the right questions during a job interview. But it’s also important to understand that answers to interview questions aren’t always a completely accurate reflection of the candidate — so you’ll want to use their answers as an element of your hiring process, not the sole basis for your hiring decision. For example, some candidates get extremely nervous during the interview process — and if you only look at their interview performance and answers (and ignore their stellar background and glowing recommendations), you might miss out on a great candidate.