The Top 15 Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

By Robert Half on September 4, 2020 at 1:45pm

It's time to fill that vacancy on your team and the pressure is on to find a job candidate who has all the skills and professional experience you need. But can you determine that from just an interview? It’s possible — if you pose smart queries. Here are 15 of the best questions to ask an interviewee.

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.

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 unique team.

3. Can you tell me about your current job?

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

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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 best questions to ask an interviewee because you’ll get a sense of their conflict resolution abilities. 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 may not thrive in a position that requires collaboration or multi-tasking.

7. Why are you leaving your current job?

Does your job opportunity 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.

8. How would your coworkers describe you?

This top question to ask an interviewee can help shed light on the candidate's soft skills and how they might work with the other members of your team. Understand the strengths of your current staff members and be on the lookout for a candidate who will complement those.

9. 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.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A job candidate who has professional drive and lofty career aspirations is valuable. Look for someone who is engaged in their career and has clear goals, and consider mentioning how your organization can help them achieve those objectives. 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.

11. Can you describe how you handle tight deadlines?

Does your team frequently face challenging time constraints? Do you need someone who can work quickly and accurately while under pressure? Ask this interview question of a potential employee 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.

12. 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 struggle or did they come up with an action plan and see it through?

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

Ask this interview question to determine if the applicant would likely enjoy the work available at your company. Do the types of tasks they find fulfilling align with the job description for your position? Making sure employees find their work professionally satisfying is one of the most important factors in retention.

14. What’s one fact that’s not on your LinkedIn profile?

Here’s an open-ended question to ask an interviewee that can help you uncover some interesting insights. Similar to asking, “What do you think I need to know that we haven’t discussed?” it could spark some conversation about a hobby outside of their 9-to-5 life or even a compelling story that reveals more of their strengths and motivations. This question can help you understand not just what a job candidate has done, but why.

15. Do you have any questions for me?

This question typically wraps up the interview. Most candidates who are interested in the job will be prepared with a few relevant questions for a hiring manager. However, if the discussion was long and detailed, the candidate may have already asked their questions. In a case like this, it’s okay if a candidate doesn’t have a list of questions at the end of the interview.

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