The Top 15 Questions to Ask Candidates

By Robert Half April 20, 2018 at 8:00am

It's time to fill that vacancy on your team and the pressure is on to find a professional who personifies the key qualities you need. But how can you determine that from just an interview?

What matters are the questions you ask. Here are 15 questions to ask interviewees that will give you insight into a candidate’s skill level and demeanor, so you can feel confident in your decision.

1. What do you know about our company, and why do you want to work here?

You’d think with the easy access to information online today, most candidates would do their homework, but that’s not always the case. Some applicants may not even know what type of business the company engages in. Ask this interview question and you’ll find out quickly who is sincerely interested in working for you — and who isn’t.

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2. What skills and strengths can you bring to this position?

Did the interviewee blindly apply to your opening or did they consider how they match your needs? This question can help you find out. Applicants should be able to think critically about how their abilities will benefit your team.

3. Can you tell me about your current job?

This is a great interview question to evaluate communication skills, while gaining insights into an individual's background that goes beyond the resume.

4. What could your current company do to be more successful?

This inquiry can give you a sense of whether interviewees see the big picture at their organizations. It may also reveal why they really want to leave their current jobs.

5. Can you tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a boss or colleague and how you handled the situation?

This is one of the more valuable questions to ask interviewees because you’ll get a sense of their conflict resolution abilities, personality and potential for future problems. What tone does the person use when talking about the other people involved? Were they able to handle the situation described appropriately? Did they find common ground? Emotional intelligence is keenly needed in almost every job.

6. Do you work best alone or on a team?

What kind of work will the candidate be performing if they’re selected for the position? This question helps determine if they’re suited to the types of assignments they’ll receive. Someone who enjoys solitary work and long stretches of uninterrupted time at their desk may not thrive in a position that requires collaboration or multi-tasking.

7. Why are you leaving your current job?

Do your company and position provide an alternative to the factors (lack of professional development, management problems, etc.) that made them unhappy in their current role? If so, showcase those benefits. But keep an eye out for candidates with unrealistic expectations, and bear in mind that an employee who leaves an organization for petty reasons may not be a good long-term fit for you.

8. What’s your ideal work environment?

Asking interviewees this question can help determine whether or not they’ll flourish at your company. If your office has an open floor plan, for example, a candidate who prefers a private workspace may not be the best fit; the reverse is also true.

9. How would your coworkers describe you?

This is another question that can help predict how an interviewee will work with the other members of your team. Understand the personalities of your current staff members and be on the lookout for a candidate who will complement those. For example, Type A employees may thrive with an assertive new team member, while this may prove challenging for quiet, introverted employees.

10. How would your boss describe you?

This may give you a sense of the candidate’s relationship with previous managers. Reliable? Prompt? Efficient? Keep in mind, though, who you’re asking. The answer will be simply their opinion of what the boss might have said. That’s why it’s still critical to check references. Request a list of contacts and give former employers a call to hear how their impressions align with the candidate’s.

11. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A candidate who has professional drive and career aspirations is valuable. Look for someone who is engaged in their career and has goals, and consider mentioning how your organization can help them achieve those goals. Finding a prospect who is interested in career advancement and sees opportunity with your company increases the chances that they’ll be happy in the long run.

12. Can you describe how you handle tight deadlines?

Does your team or company frequently encounter time constraints? Do you need someone who can work quickly and accurately while under pressure? Ask this question and you’ll at least get their opinion as to how they handle stress and whether they can keep up with the pace of work at your organization. You could also follow up by asking if they’ve ever missed a deadline and, if so, how they handled the situation.

13. In your most recent role, was there a time when you had to overcome a significant challenge?

Use this question to get a sense of an interviewee’s critical thinking and analytical skills. You should also pay attention to how the candidate describes their behavior when faced with a challenge. Did they panic and shut down, or did they come up with an action plan and see it through?

14. What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on in a past position?

Ask this question to determine if the applicant would enjoy the work available at your company. Do the types of tasks they find fulfilling align with the job description for your position? If not, this applicant may not be the right fit. Making sure employees find their work professionally satisfying is one of the most important factors in retention.

15. Do you have any questions for me?

If candidates have been paying attention during the discussion, they shouldn’t find this to be a tough interview question. So there’s no excuse for a blank stare in response.

Before you've found your ideal candidate, make sure you know what salary to offer. Our Salary Guide lets you adjust salaries for your specific city.

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