30 Best Interview Questions to Ask an Interviewee (2021)
The best interview questions to ask an interviewee are ones that are going to provide you with the right insights to make a hiring decision. It's critical to gather as much data about a candidate's competencies in order to make an informed decision.
1. Why did you apply for this position?
This question will help you get a sense of how well the job seeker is prepared for the interview. Do they know what the company stands for? Are they aware of recent news? And the industry as a whole?
Ask this question to gain insights into what they're looking for out of their career. And what their ideal scenario looks like for professional development.
2. How do you make informed decisions?
Gain insight into how well a candidate is suited for leadership or management positions. And how well they could transform into a leader within the company.
Being able to make great decisions is a key part of working on any team. Job seekers should be aware of how to make "tough" decisions while employed.
3. What prior work makes you experienced for this position?
This interview question will provide insight ingot skills and accomplishments that will help any hiring manager make an informed decision.
The answer should contain at least one key accomplishment that is relevant to the candidates job application or the job description.
A great answer should contain:
- One prior job that is relevant to the job description.
- A significant accomplishment at that job.
- Why the relevant career accomplishment is going to help the company.
4. How would your current colleagues describe your work style?
Asking this question helps you to understand how the candidate perceives their current strengths and weaknesses. The candidate should have a keen sense of what they do well. And what they could work on.
Candidate's should respond in a way that poses a type of SWOT analysis on their working style.
5. What motivates you to do great work?
Candidates should understand their work motivation. And passion. They should be able to align those to the company culture and the job description that hiring managers post online.
All candidates should be keenly aware of why they're motivated to work at a particular company in their job search. Generic answers show the applicant is not passionate about the company.
A great answer would look like the following:
I'm motivated by our customer experience. Being able to work closely with retail stores, learn about their needs of our product, and then gathering that information and acting on it is a passion.
Making happy customers makes me highly motivated.
6. What is your greatest strength?
This question can provide the interviewer with an idea of how to place the candidate inside the company.
Does the candidate have a particular skill set that stands out from the other candidates? Or do they have skills that are better suited for certain teams?
It will not only help to place the candidate but to ensure they're on the right team with the proper blend of competencies to do great work.
Great answers should contain some of the following:
- Strengths that fit with the company culture.
- A particular key strength that will make them perform well on the job.
- Skills and competencies that align with the job description.
7. What's your greatest weakness?
A candidate who avoids this question is going to be perceived as dishonest. Everyone has weaknesses. But do they have the ability to recognize them?
By recognizing our weaknesses, we have the ability to resolve them. Or have the ability to improve our character within the workplace over time.
Applicants should answer in a constructive fashion. Showing they recognize what they could work on and how they could do it.
Poor answers look like the following:
I don't have any weaknesses I can think of. I'd like to think I'm a great employee, which is why I'm looking to get hired here.
8. What work accomplishments are you most proud of?
Asking this will give you a better idea of related/relevant accomplishments to the job. It will provide insight into how experienced the candidate is. Regardless of their resume.
A candidate can include all prior jobs in their answer, too. A significant accomplishment, even when it's not relevant, is impactful to a hiring manager.
Here's an example of a great answer:
In my past role, I was able to increase our net sales by more than 4X. It's important to look at this because we used a variety of sales automation tools that are new to the market. And in your job description, it looked like the scale of the sales team was something that you were keenly interested in embarking on.
9. What makes you a great fit for this position?
A variation of the question, "What makes you unique?" This will provide the employer with the most unique attribute that the employee feels they can bring to the company.
They should describe their process for working with a supervisor and other employees. How they deal with difficult decisions. And how they drive overall success.
Here's an example of a poor answer for this question:
I'm experienced. I have more than 12-years working in this exact position. This makes me uniquely qualified to be able to meet the needs of the team, the company, and more.
10. How do you define successful work in the workplace?
Success in the workplace doesn't always mean achieving business metrics.
It could mean improving the work culture. Or making sure the office is in great morale. Or working closely with managers to drive their future vision forward.
Interviewees should describe a few types of "success" metrics they are proud of.
A poor answer looks like the following:
Success is when the team wins. Or when we generate revenue. I don't see any other reason for why we could come to work every day and feel accomplished.
11. Do you like working with a team or as an individual contributor?
This could stir a new conversation. Especially for those that are interviewing for a management position. It could reveal that an interviewee isn't ready for a management position.
Are they passionate about working as a manager? Or are they motivated by their past individual contributor roles?
A great answer should look like this:
No matter what, working with a team is essential. Even if I find out information on my own that's from individual contributions. I want to be able to empower our company and team. Our work should be about scale and velocity.
12. What soft skills could you work on?
A question like this can show someone's ability to improve themselves in the workplace without motivation from a manager.
If the candidate describes a single skill as their answer, ask for an example.
This can give insight into where the new hire should be placed, in terms of team and project needs.
Here's what a poor answer would look like:
I consider myself a candidate who has all the skills required for the job. I could always work on being someone who asks more questions. But even then, I don't think it's an absolute requirement for me.
13. Tell me a critical situation that you resolved.
Being able to resolve stressful situations in the workplace is a key quality that a hiring manager should look for in candidates.
It's important to be able to ask how someone could get through complications or challenges they are faced with.
14. How do you handle conflict in the workplace?
Conflicts happen. It's how they are resolved that makes a professional worthy of leadership, management, or employment.
Ask how conflicts are handled in the workplace to get a sense of their professional history.
The ideal answer should include conflict resolution techniques.
15. Why are you leaving your current position?
This will help to provide insight into what the professional is looking for out of their career.
Their answer should provide a level of information about whether or not the current job opening will provide that.
If the professional is seeking to gain particular skills that they won't be exposed to in the new position. It might not be a great idea to hire them.
16. What's something that's no on your resume?
An interview question that will have the candidate thinking on their feet. It shows critical thinking. And the comprehension of what the job requires.
Ask this to gain further knowledge about the candidate's professional history, how they handle difficult questions, and more.
17. How do you handle tight deadlines?
Questions like this can help to understand a person's process for dealing with stress in the workplace. Or how they consider themselves competitive to other employees.
Do they have a unique process for dealing with projects that have fast turnaround times?
18. Describe your ideal work environment.
Their ideal work environment should describe characteristics that the work environment currently holds.
It's an open-ended question that allows you to learn how well they understand the values of the company culture.
19. How would you describe your work style?
The answers should contain characteristics, soft skills, technical skills, and other differentiators. It should be a simple description of what they do well, too.
Good answers would be:
- I'm a highly collaborative person who is striving for innovation.
Bad answers would be:
- I'm a very hard worker.
20. How would you describe your current boss?
Are they a mentor? Do they have a good relationship with their supervisor? Or is the manager the reason why they are looking to talk to a recruiter or hiring manager?
Learn how the employee conducts themselves with regard to prior employers.
Poor answers would look like this:
I'm not a big fan of my current manager. They don't motivate me. It seems like the work is always behind. And it's something that I want to move away from.
21. Where do you see yourself in 5-years?
Does the employee have a plan for themselves? Does the company fit in with its plan? It's okay for an employee to have their own motivations. In fact, it's better.
Make sure that the employee has strong motivations that can both assist the company and assist themselves.
A bad answer would look like this:
I'd love to earn more money in the next 5-years. I have needs at home that are stacking up. And for me, I really need to start earning more money.
22. What're you looking for in a new job?
They should describe qualities that accompany the job duties and job requirements listed in the job ad. It should contain a description that's fitting of both the company and the job title.
Here's a bad answer example:
I'm looking for a place that has great work/life balance. Somewhere that I could take a lot of vacation time and still get the job done well.
23. Are you actively seeking a new position or passively seeking one?
This qualifying question will help to determine whether the candidate has intentions of moving forward. Useful for a hiring manager to know so they can prioritize who is going to receive an offer letter. And who might accept one.
24. What other interviews have you had recently?
This will give you an idea of what types of companies the candidate is truly considering. If they describe companies that are in various industries. Then it might be that the candidate isn't truly passionate about the space.
Here's a poor answer example:
I'm interviewing all over. From Apple to The New York Times. I don't really have any specific criteria for who I'm looking to be employed by. I'm just looking for a great team who can give me what I need.
25. What are your salary expectations?
Ask about salary early on! It's very useful in being able to qualify the candidate.
The candidate should know:
- Average market rate and average salaries for their geography.
- Average salaries for their job title.
- Expectations of what they would like to earn.
- Be ready to reveal what they currently earn.
26. Do you have any questions for me?
A person who is well prepared for the interview will come with at least five questions to ask you.
They should be questions related to the job, the company, and what they'll be working on.
Be prepared to answer them.
Here is what good questions look like:
- What's the first project I will be working on?
- Can you tell me what my first 90-days will look like?
- What advice would you give to someone in their first 90-days of employment?
27. How would you explain your career to a stranger?
A unique interview question that will tell you how well the person can reduce complex answers to simple communication.
Strangers will not be as knowledgeable about the industry as yourself. Or as them. Once they answer the question, ask how and why they would answer in that way?
This will let you learn how the candidate:
- Thinks on their feet.
- Answers tough questions.
- Answers questions they might not have been prepared for.
- Reduces complicated topics to simple talking points.
28. What are your methods for running meetings?
Are they aware of time management? Do they know how to conduct a meeting in a professional way? Are they able to consider the amount of time that they use company resources?
Ask how they could invite other colleagues to a meeting, how they would start the meeting, and how they would make sure they accomplish what they need within the meeting?
29. If you could write your own job description, what would it say?
A unique interview question that will cause the interviewee to consider what's important for the job. It will start a discussion in the interview. Though, one that shouldn't be too long. If the candidate decides to ask you questions before answering, that would be a strong sign of great information gathering skills and communication skills.
The question should provide these insights:
- What matters to the employee?
- How well do they understand the job?
- What recommendations do they have about the job description?
As the candidate describes their answers be sure to follow up and inquire more, asking questions like the following:
- Why does that matter for this job?
- How will this help achieve our goals?
- Are these the right expectations for the job?
30. When did you make a poor decision at work?
Being able to "own up" to making a bad decision is important. It's about making sure you don't lose trust with the team. Collaborative trust is a vital part of making sure great work gets accomplished.
Does the employee know that? Ask this question to qualify whether they do.
A great answer should contain:
- A short story of how they failed their team or colleagues.
- How they would resolve that in the future.
- General awareness of what they did wrong.
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
Job search resources
Related Hiring Resources
- 20+ Smartest Questions to Ask a Recruiter (2021)
- How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (Examples)
- 15+ Important Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Job
- 50+ Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview (2021)
- 25+ Professional Questions to Ask Business Owners
- 30+ Important Questions to Ask an Entrepreneur
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