Are you tired of asking the same old questions when interviewing prospective employees?
It’s a good idea to switch up the interview questions you ask. By asking an unexpected question or wording a standard question differently, you may receive deeper insight in your employee hopeful. We’ve asked top professionals to tell us their favorite question to ask on interviews, and here’s what they shared.
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35 Interview Questions for Employers
1. What is a quarter of a half?
I ask it because math is a fundamental skill that employees need when it comes to analyzing the success of advertising campaigns.
The best response is when they answer the question confidently and correctly. The worst is when they say I’m not very good at math or take wild guesses at the answer.
-Bob Bentz, President, Advanced Telecom Services
2. What questions do you have for us?
Ask every candidate, and what questions do you have for us? Everyone already asks that, but pay close attention to the response. Great candidates ask questions that not only demonstrate that they’ve thoroughly researched the company’s strategic direction, but also envision themselves in the role, contributing to that direction.
-Lynda Spiegel, Founder, Rising Star Resumes
3. I’m not sure you’re the perfect fit. Why do you think you’d be a great candidate?
Here is my favorite question to ask when interviewing sales candidates:
I’m not sure if you’re the perfect fit for this role. I’m curious to hear why you think you’d be a great candidate.
This is a great question because it’s an objection. I want to see how they handle objections like they would from a potential client or from a co-worker with a contrarian opinion.
It’s also a way for me to see if they’ve done their homework on my company and their depth of understanding for what it would take to be successful in this role.
-Jordan Wan, CFA & Founder/CEO, CloserIQ
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
When Interviewing, regardless of position, I ALWAYS ask the following two questions:
Question 1: *What do you feel is your best work trait?* This question really opens the candidate up to being vulnerable. It will give you some insight into how they view themselves and what their confidence level is. It really helps to set some candidates apart from others. When asking this question, a lot of times it brings up areas that they don’t feel they are strong in as well.
Question 2: *Where do you see yourself in 5 years?* This question will give you some insight into how much thought a candidate has put into where they are going in life or where they want to go and will give you some insight into how much passion and drive they have!
-Neha Gupta, Elite Private Tutors
5. Do you have any questions or concerns about your ability to do the job?
My favorite question to ask as an interviewer comes at the end of the interview. It is usually the last thing I ask. The question is, Do you have any questions or concerns about your ability to do the job? This often works better than the open ended, “Do you have any questions for me?” because it focuses in on the responsibilities associated with the job. If they say yes, it gives you the chance to help address their concerns and assess their fit for the job.
-Ben White, Getting the Job HQ
6. When I speak to your last [or present] boss, what is he or she going to say about you?
Having consulted on hundreds of hires, my favorite interview question, one I’ve never heard anyone else use is, When I speak to your last [or present] boss, what is he or she going to say about you?
Since people are trying to cover themselves for anything that boss might say, it’s amazing the things they’ll reveal. They’ll very often tell you things that last boss would never have brought up, even if the last boss would be allowed to deal with a reference which often they aren’t.
-Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates
7. What scares you the most in life?
In most employee interviews I ask this question: “What scares you the most in life?” The reactions are fascinating. Up until this point, most humans speak too much; they chatter like chimps, crowding the world with verbal noise even when they have nothing to say.
But this question almost always brings pause.
A thoughtful silence enters the room. Eyes look off into the distance and the most remarkable responses flow out of mouths. It’s often at this point that I start to see what I came for…a little bit of the truth.
I ask this question because being part of a startup is incredibly scary and there is no room, or time, for posers. I want to hire someone who has looked into the dark corner and can name the monster. I want to see depth. I want to see gumption. I want to know that when it gets tough and there’s another heartless lap to go, she will go back out into the dark where it is lonely and scary. One step at a time. Until it is finished.
-Nick Kennedy, CEO, Rise
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8. What blogs and resources do you follow online to keep up with the industry?
The question(s) I ask every candidate is specifically related to my industry (Digital Marketing).
- What blogs and resources do you follow online to keep up with the industry? I like to understand if they are keeping up to date with the leading resources online to know what is happening in our industry and the “hot topics” vs. the fads.
- Take me through your process of how you would manage a project in xxx (in my case an SEO project). I look for structure and an articulated process with technical and practical know how.
- A good response will shine with confidence, flow naturally, show experience from past failures or trial and error and well-articulated.
-Rahul Alim, Inbound Marketing & Design Specialist, Custom Creatives
9. What are some of the challenges being faced by the company which this position might get involved?
The question I encourage people to ask the hiring manager or others is this:
…What are some of the challenges being faced by the company which this position might get involved…
The reason for this question is the candidate can tailor their answer to highlight their strengths for the position and maybe highlight other strengths in tangential or associated areas.
If done correctly it can identify areas where they get to direct the discussion to their strengths and not weaknesses.
-Bob Dixon, Author
10. Would you have a problem cleaning the toilets?
It may sound sadistic or even ridiculous, but as a small business owner I like to point out that sometimes all of us have to do unwelcome chores, such as taking out the garbage or cleaning the toilets. Would you have any problem doing that?
The verbal answer is not important, as I assume most people, will realize they have to say ‘no’.
What is important is their body language. They may be saying no, but their facial and body reaction may well be screaming, ‘Darned right I would have a problem doing that. What the heck does cleaning the toilet have to do with editing books?’
I have never actually asked anyone to clean the toilets, although I have noticed employees actually do it just because they like cleanliness and the cleaning service may have been delayed. Again, not something I would ever ACTUALLY ask someone to do… but if I ever did I would expect them to do what was necessary since otherwise I would have to do it myself.
If the candidate cringes at the very thought of doing something like that, what else will bother them? What else would they consider not my job”?
An attitude is what most small businesses simply can’t afford since so many employees have to wear more than one hat.
-Ron Fry, Author, Founder & President, Career Press
11. What 2 or 3 things would be most important to you in your ideal job, and why?
I like to ask the following: What 2 or 3 things would be most important to you in your ideal job, and why?
I ask this question to understand the candidate better. It can let me know several things: What are their priorities / What are their pet peeves / What are their must-haves to feel like they’re in a good position.
I have a better scope of the candidate once they expound on this question.
-Shilonda Downing, Virtual Work Team
12. If a client emailed you asking for something outside of your territory at the company, how would you handle it?
I like to ask this question for a few reasons:
First, some people get confused and do not understand the question at all – no matter how many times I try to rephrase it. This shows me their comprehension/intelligence level.
Second, their answer gives a ton of insight as to what type of employee/worker they will be.
- If they answer something like: Forward the email to the appropriate team member so they can handle this is not a terrible answer, but shows that they are not willing to go above and beyond to help a customer.
- If they answer something like: Reply to the client so they know I received the email and let them know I will forward their request to the appropriate team member to help them this answer is better because they are taking initiative to reply back.
- If the answer something like: See if I can find out the answer quickly and reply back to the client with the answer and cc the team member noting that for any additional questions their account manager will be happy to assist them then this is the best answer of all because no matter if this is not their account they took it upon themselves to find the answer, reply to the client and notify the team member who handles this.
-Tasha Mayberry, Social Media 22 LLC
13. Tell me about a time when you failed. Why did it happen? What did you do next?
As both a manager and a peer interviewer, my favorite question to ask is, Tell me about a time when you failed. Why did it happen? What did you do next?
I ask it to try to truly get at the person’s experience level, problem solving abilities, and intercommunication skills. It shows their ability to think critically about themselves.
A good answer provides an example, either of a reasonable risk or a situation beyond the person’s control. How the person dealt with the situation reveals a great deal: Do they try to solve things on their own? Do they enlist their teammates’ help? Do they simply give up and pass the situation on to their manager?
A bad answer is I’ve never been in that situation. Anyone who has never failed has never tried anything new and isn’t the type of person I want working for me or with me.
14. If we hire you how will you help grow the company?
My absolute favorite question to ask new possible hires is
If we hire you how will you help grow the company?
This is a fantastic question because it requires them to not only think on their feet but it shows if they have done their due diligence and know what our company is all about!
-Candice Galek, CEO & Founder, Bikini Luxe
15. Why is this position open?
From the side of an applicant (high-level administration), I always ask those interviewing me, Why is this position open? I think it’s a fair question. I like to know what circumstances I will walk into: was someone let go? did my predecessor retire? is it a new position?Always good to know.
-Michelle Mike Ochonicky, Statewide Nonprofit Executive Director
16. What is your superpower?
My favorite interview question to ask is, What is your superpower?
It’s a non-technical question that let’s me have some insight into very technical (engineers) people.
A great answer will show creativity, relevance to the business and position, and personality and self-awareness. For instance, consistent and clear communication with clients is a phenomenal super power for someone in engineering. Occasionally we even find people more fitted to other positions than that for which they’re interviewing, due to the passion in their superpower!
A poor answer is overly literal, overly technical, or opposing the needs for the position. I once had someone say flying, with no hint of humor and no further comment. While I prodded for more information, we work in an exceptionally fast-paced environment, and need quick thinkers who can handle the challenges of emerging technologies with a little humor!
17. If you were offered this job would you accept it?
As a long-time search consultant for nonprofit organizations, I always suggest that during the first interview my clients ask, If you were offered this job would you accept it?
While that may seem like an odd question to ask off the bat, the response of the person being interviewed will reveal volumes about whether or not they are enthusiastic about the position. This is especially true if the candidate is from out-of-state.
18. Name one person, alive or dead, that you would want to meet and why?
Why do you ask it? Get insight into the applicant’s thought process, what’s important to them and generate interesting conversation.
What do you consider a good or bad response? There are no good or bad responses, just interesting ones that give an interesting insight into the applicant’s way of thinking.
-Chris Taylor, Remax Home Experts
19. Are You a Dog or Cat Person?
My favorite question as a recruiter is: Are You a Dog or Cat Person?
Owning a dog is by nature a social experience. You walk them, take them to dog parks, take them to groomers and pet shopping sites all the while bonding with other dog owners along the way. Dogs are more work than cats, which says a lot. Is a dog person more accommodating, willing to work harder at relationships, and do they live a more complicated, committed, and accountable life than a cat person?
Is cat person willing to commit to long term relationships since cats live longer than dogs? Noteworthy is that having a cat doesn’t saddle you with many social benefits in the real world. You are free to be a recluse if you desire.
- Dog people are more extraverted. Yes, studies confirm that dog people were more extraverted, outgoing, lively, and less neurotic than the cat ones which is a great quality when recruiting sales professionals.
- Studies out there indicate that Cat people score higher in intelligence and are more intellectually curious and found that the motives for having a pet were different for cat and dog and that 38% of dog lovers were looking for companionship, while 45.6% of cat lovers wanted affection.
So is there a right or wrong answer. It all depends on who is asking the question.Whether you prefer cats or dogs tells me about your personality. If you don’t like animals at all, that tells me something too. I wouldn’t hire you to work in my company but doesn’t mean you might not be right for my client.
-Tricia Lucas, Lucas Select, Inc.
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20. Are there any tasks or jobs you feel are beneath you?
One of my favorite interview questions is, Are there any tasks or jobs you feel are beneath you? I ask this question because it gives me an idea of the candidate’s confidence and awareness of his or her skills.
It’s important that an employee know his or her own value and capabilities without being arrogant or unwilling to do some grunt work. The perfect answer indicates a willingness to participate as part of the team, but also highlights what the employee needs to feel happy and appreciated.
-Simon Slade, CEO, SaleHoo
21. Other than your family, tell me something you are passionate about?
If someone is not passionate about anything, then they will not be passionate about working for my company.
-Gene Caballero, Co-Founder, Your Green Pal
22. If you could be any animal in the world, what type of animal would you be?
I always ask 2 types of questions:
- I always ask something unrelated to gauge their ability to think on their feet. This is a pattern interruption that takes them off the path of rehearsed interview answers. My go to questions is “If you could be any animal in the world, what type of animal would you be?”Their answer is less about the specific type and more about them being agile. It adds levity to the interviewing process and gives them permission to be more genuinely themselves during the rest of the process.
- I always ask them what other would say about them. The question is usually something to the effect of “If i were to ask your previous manager what the 2 things you do best are and what are the 2 things you need to work on most, what would they say?” This is two fold, It forces the candidate to step outside their own perception of themselves and take a look objectively. Secondly, we have found that people are 60% less likely to lie to us if we ask them in this manner. They somehow think we might go ask their previous manger these questions and therefore speak more truthfully.
-Joshua M. Evans, Enthusiastic You!
23. You have two minutes. Tell me a story.
My favourite question is “You have two minutes. Tell me a ____ story. (Can be a funny story, a scary story, a real life story, a business success story, etc)”
Then I shut up and listen.
Why am I asking? — What I’m looking for is really to hear what the person says without a pre-prepared script. I want to get info the person’s head for a short tour. That’s what I’m looking for :
- Can a person come up with one?
- How comfortable is the person improvising?
- What story was chosen?
- How does he/she structure her thoughts?
- Can he/she link sentences and ideas, so they make sense to the audience.
The good answer is a just a confident delivery, structured and cohesive story line and hopefully the person is smiling and enjoying him/herself.
-Ashley Galina Dudarenok, Managing Director, Alarice International Limited
24. Tell me something that you don’t like about yourself.
My favorite interview question is tell me something that you don’t like about yourself. I don’t care about the answer. I just want to observe the candidate’s reaction. If the candidate is honest and trustworthy, they will get a little nervous and divulge some private information.
Someone who gets nervous at this question is more likely to be responsible at their job, and someone that divulges what they don’t like about themselves is more likely to be trustworthy. In summary, this question helps me find someone that I am more likely to trust with important positions at our firm. A bad response is someone that takes it too personally and gets defensive and says there is nothing that they find unattractive about themselves.
-Jesse Harrison Zeus Legal Funding LLC
25. What are 3 questions you have?
I like asking this compared to “do you have any questions for me” which is open ended and normally ends in no.
If they still reply no, I say I can wait until they do and I’ll remain silent. We can learn a lot about someone by the questions they ask and by forcing at-least 3 to be asked, a lot can be learned. I’ve found that after hiring around 200+ employees a year in my previous business, that the better employees always had great questions that showed they cared and their potential commitment.
-Mike Kawula, CEO, Social Quant
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26. If you owned the company, what would you change?
One of my favourite questions when hiring a new employee is ‘If you owned the company, what would you change?’. This is particularly awesome as you get to watch the interviewee think of a logical answer without offending the company itself. Of course when the question is asked, I’m looking for a genuine answer, it this question which will sometimes decided who is hired and who isn’t.
The employee should understand this is business and it is cut throat, if they see a flaw in something they should speak up
-Jamal Asskoumi Owner, CastleSmart.com
27. What was it about this job description that caught your eye?
Early in an interview I like to to ask, *“What was it about this job description that caught your eye?”* (Suitable for most jobs and levels of experience) You quickly learn whether candidates are focused on this particular job at this organization or if they are desperately trying to find any work.
A good response connects a personal passion to the job’s primary responsibilities. An answer that demonstrates admiration for the organization’s mission or reflects some prior research makes a good impression, too. A generic or vague response may indicate a lack of initiative, creativity or passion.
*“Tell me about a favorite boss you’ve had in the past.”* As a manager this question helps me understand what kind of backing candidates need in order to shine. It also sheds light on their level of independence and their favorite work environments. A bad response, and this happens all too frequently, is a sigh followed by complaints about a previous boss. A better response is a personal success story tied to the support of a supervisor.
28. Have you ever ran an entrepreneurial business, even something as simple as selling collectible cards in high school?
Since we are in the real estate business, this question helps me see the way the person thinks. Have they ever ventured beyond to try and start a business or thought creatively to make extra money. It helps give an idea if they might be able to craft products which help in sales or how to close deals more effectively.
Good or Bad Response:
There is no real wrong answer to this question, but I’ve always preferred, and have seen better results in this industry from people who have stepped outside the box and have tried entrepreneurial ventures as real estate really is like starting your own company from scratch.
-Ivan Ciraj, Erin Mills Life
29. Why are you looking to leave?
Why ask this question?
I ask this question because I want to see if the candidate is negative about the existing employer or state that they are being let go. As a recruiter, I need to know this up front before moving forward with anything else.
What is considered a good or bad response?
A good response would be positive and not include anything negative about their previous employer. Some examples of this are wanting to leave to grow their careers or they are looking for a compensation increase with career growth.*
*A bad response would be talking about any problems they have with the way the company is being led, problems they have with the current boss, and complaining about not making any money at their current company.
-Kathleen Steffey, CEO, Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search
30. Tell me about something you’ve done that you’re incredibly proud of and still wonder how it was that you achieved it.
I ask it of all candidates for attorney or admin positions.
I ask it because it gives them an opportunity to share something that is very meaningful to them, so it’s a great point of connection and further, it gives me an idea of what they view as a major accomplishment.
A bad response would be something that left me feeling uninspired. Perhaps, that they don’t have an answer or they tell me about something that any reasonably objective person would believe isn’t much of an achievement. A good response is something that touches my heart, it resonates and I feel impressed.
-Michael S. Gottlieb, Principal, Momentum Lawyers Group
31. Please describe a time where you had a disagreement and what steps you took to remedy the situation.
I am a small business owner of an overnight summer camp in Vermont. I interview all of our staff throughout the year, usually applicants are between the ages of 18-23. One of my favorite questions to ask is: Please describe a time where you had a disagreement with a colleague/ classmate/ coach/ teacher and what steps you took to remedy the situation.
I think this is a great questions for a couple of reasons. It allows the applicant to draw upon a real life conflict and share with me what she/he did, as oppose to what she/he would theoretically do if I were to create camp conflict for them to solve on the spot. Also because working at a summer camp is all about working with people and children, the answer to this question gives me insight to the applicant’s problem solving skills, perseverance, kindness, and communication style.
I consider a good response to be thoughtful, collaborative and have some sort of conclusion. A bad response would be to just state the conflict and not have any solution, or to give up after one tried solution failed.
-Marley Hanson, Director, Camp Farwell
32. Which TV character are you most like?
After all of the necessary job questions, I like to ask which TV character the candidate is like, especially since we’re a TV/movie tour company, and I want to know more about their personality. There isn’t any really bad response, unless they name a very unlikeable TV character.
-Georgette Blau, On Location Tours
33. Tell me about this job.
Tell me about this job, why you think you would be good at it and, if it is the right job for you, what your career here looks like in 3-5 years?
With this question, I’m trying to get at a few things: how well the candidate understands the specific job they’re interviewing for, how well the candidate understands the career path and the company, the candidate’s own goals, and whether he or she has thought longer term about a career at our company.
-Bill Driscoll, District President, Accountemps
34. Tell me about the hardest day you ever had.
I’m hoping to learn about how a candidate persevered through a tough situation. Did they quit or pull it off? There’s a hiring adage along the lines of ‘hire for character – train for skill,’ and this question definitely probes into that notion of what is this person really made of.
-James Goodnow, Attorney, Lamber Goodnow Injury Law Team
35. May you please share with me a story that highlights what makes this organization unique?
I learn a couple of things from this. Is this an organization that communicates well and has developed their story. And then of course, the story itself is usually very insightful.
I learned of this suggestion ages ago, so it is not my invention, but it is so powerful, especially for those working in communications, where story-telling is key.
-Julia Angelen Joy, PR Consultant, Z Group PR & Development Director, Wyakin Warrior Foundation
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Bonus! Tell me about yourself.
Like many managers I like a tell me about yourself question for all positions. This question is a good ice breaker. It also presents an opportunity to see whether the candidates have prepared or at least thought about the interview and the job. Finally, it allows the candidates to briefly position themselves as the perfect candidates for the job and focus the interview flow. Thus, a successful answer is often focused, brief, and consistent with the candidates’ overall pitch.
It is worth practicing this answer for any interview because it is almost certain that a candidate will be asked a tell me about yourself question or a version of it at least once during an interview. This question is certainly not an invitation to over-share personal or irrelevant information that does not highlight the candidates’ qualifications.
-Olga V. Mack, Startup Lawyer, Head of Legal, ClearSlide
It’s Your Turn
We’d like to thank everyone who shared their favorite question to ask on an interview. Now, it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite interview question for employers to ask in interviews? Let us know in the comments below.