Top 15 Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

A new employee can bring fresh perspective, skills and energy to your team, if you hire the right person. But, how can you make sure that a promising candidate is the right choice—and is as impressive in the actual work environment as he or she appears in a resume?

Although background checks and references can validate employment experience and education, the interview process is essential for determining whether or not that prospective new hire is the right fit for your organization’s culture, the position and your team.

By asking a good mix of questions during the interviewing process, you can gain a clearer picture of the candidate’s personality, philosophies and approach to business, as well as his or her strengths and skills.

Not sure how to begin? We’ve put together this list of our top 15 interview questions and why it’s important to ask them to get you started.

1. If you could accomplish one thing in life, what would you want that to be—and why?

Why ask this question: The way the candidate answers the question can give you a better understanding of their personal values and goals, as well as their ability to handle a deeper, less common question.

What type of answers to expect: Because this isn’t a commonly asked question, you should get a more unrehearsed, spontaneous answer, with some passion behind it. Because it is unexpected, don’t be surprised if your interviewee has to think for a moment, before replying.

2. Who has been your greatest mentor, and how did that person influence you professionally and personally?

Why ask this question: It will help you better understand what traits the candidate values in a leader, what characteristics they value in themselves.

What type of answers to expect: Don’t be surprised if you hear people reference a mother, father or sibling. If that’s the case, ask a follow-up question to find out the traits or characteristics the mentor had that the candidate admired or has tried to mirror.

3. What is the favorite part of your job, and your least favorite?

Why ask this question: This question can clue you in on personality traits and how well suited the candidate is to your job opening. For example, if the position involves a great deal of analysis and reporting, and the candidate defines detailed paperwork as a least-favored task, that candidate is probably not the best hire for that job

What type of answers to expect: These answers should vary based on the person and position. But, be wary of anyone who says they love all aspects of their job or one who provides a very generic answer

4. What motivates you?

Why ask this question: This question helps you understand how well your job candidates know themselves, and whether the job they are applying for and culture can keep them motivated.

What type of answers to expect: Answers can range from money and recognition to solving a complex problem to helping direct reports grow and succeed. Again, the goal is to use the answer to determine whether the candidate can stay motivated at your organization

5. Do you have any work regrets? If so, what are they and, in hindsight, what would you have done differently?

Why ask this question: This question will help you determine the candidate’s level of self-awareness, and ability to grow and learn from experience.

What type of answers to expect: Answers to this will run the gamut, but be wary of anyone who has no regrets or anything that they’d like to go back and change.

6. How do you deal with stress?

Why ask this question: Every job has its stressful moments, and you want employees and managers who can manage that stress effectively.

What type of answers to expect: You’ll likely hear a wide range of answers, from meditation and exercise to hobbies and more “in the moment” tactics, like taking a deep breath.

7. What’s your greatest weakness and what steps have you taken to improve?

Why ask this question: The answer helps you evaluate the candidate’s self-awareness, and willingness to improve. It also helps you assess whether the weakness he or she identifies is an essential part of the position they’re applying for.

What type of answers to expect: Authentic answers will vary from person to person. Rehearsed answers could include “I’m a perfectionist,” “I care too much about my customers,” or “I care too much about helping my employer succeed.”

8. What’s been your greatest career accomplishment to date?

Why ask this question: The answer will provide insight on what that candidate values, as well as the kind of problems they solve and work they do exceptionally well.

What type of answers to expect: Typically, you’ll hear something with tangible value, from acquiring a large customer to saving the company a significant amount of money to winning an award.

9. Who is the best boss you’ve had and why?

Why ask this question: This question enables you to understand how the candidate prefers to be managed, and helps you determine how well they fit with the management style and culture of your company.

What type of answers to expect: Typically, the best boss will be the one that helped them accomplish the most in their position, promoted them or gave them an opportunity to succeed.

10. What are you looking for in a work culture?

Why ask this question: It helps you determine whether this candidate is a cultural fit and will be happy in your organization.

What type of answers to expect: Most candidates will describe an environment and list some specific traits that are important to them.

11. Do you consider yourself a successful person and why?

Why ask this question: Unexpected questions help you determine how the candidate thinks on his or her feet. But, more importantly, do you really want to hire people who consider themselves unsuccessful or lack confidence?

What type of answers to expect: There are only two ways to go on this one. The answer to the “why” part of the question will give you the most insight.

12. Why do you think you’ll be a good fit with our organization?

Why ask this question: The answer will tell you how much research they’ve done about your company and culture, and help you better understand their motivators and career goals.

What type of answers to expect: You’ll hear the range from generic answers to more genuine responses from those who really have done their homework on your organization.

13. What is your work style? Are you best as an individual performer or as part of a team?

Why ask this question: If the interviewee loves working independently, but the position calls for constant team projects, meetings and an open workspace, it might not be a good match.

What type of answers to expect: Typically, the candidate will choose one of the two options. Follow up with a “why” to better understand their work style and preferences.

14. What should I know about you that’s not on your resume?

Why ask this question: The answer gives you a more holistic view of the person you’re interviewing.

What type of answers to expect: Some will talk about volunteer work, a passion for a sport or hobby, an non-work-related accomplishment or a fun fact about their life.

15. What questions would you like to ask me?

Why ask this question: Allowing candidates to ask questions and get clarification enables them to determine if the position is a good fit for their needs. You can also get a lot of insight on any concerns or expectations they have that weren’t discussed during the interview.

What type of answers to expect: Typically, they’ll ask more detail about the position, opportunities for growth, culture, team and remote work options, as well as where the company might be heading in the future.

Bonus questions to end the interview with

As you wrap up the interview, and thank the candidate for the conversation, it’s a good time to make sure that he or she has a good understanding of the job, your company and your culture.

Ask: Is there anything else you’d like me to answer about the position and the company?

The goal is to end the interview with both parties having a clear enough understanding of the other that they know if they want to continue to explore the opportunity further.

Asking the right questions and really listening to the answers makes all of the difference.

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