The best interview questions to ask candidates are those that are direct and job-specific, allowing you to learn more about the candidate’s skills and education, as well as what they bring to the position and your company. Below, we cover the top interview questions to ask candidates to measure culture/company fit, understand the candidate’s idea of personal growth, learn their work ethic, and measure their skills.
We’ve provided a downloadable template of our interview questions to ask candidates when interviewing for your open positions. Additionally, you can download interview questions that are specific to your open positions. You can customize the template to ask the questions most important to your business and write down candidate answers.
Questions to Measure Culture/Company Fit
Any candidate you are considering hiring must be a good fit for your company and its established culture to ensure that they can work well with their peers. Ask the candidate why they want to work for your company and learn more about what motivates them.
1. Why do you want to work for our company in this role? What do you know about the company?
Asking the candidate what they know about your company and why they want to work for you helps you understand if the candidate did their research before the interview. Applicants who are serious about the jobs they apply for typically do some research about the company and find out what the culture is like.
2. Describe a situation where you went above and beyond in your role.
Employees who go above and beyond are usually those who care a great deal about their work. Knowing how the candidate went beyond expectations can show you how they put forth every effort to make their deliverables excellent. You can glean information from this question about how steadfast the candidate may be in fulfilling their responsibilities.
3. How would you describe your leadership style?
Not every candidate will be a leader in your business. However, this question is good for any potential employee to give some insight into their management style. This will help you understand if the candidate has empathy or leads with a direct and decisive style.
4. What motivates you to do your best work?
Every individual is motivated to do their best work through different methods–praise, constructive criticism, feedback, and more. Knowing what method helps the candidate to work at their highest capacity can help you understand if they will fit well with your company culture. Be sure to not only ask what motivates them but have them explain why.
Personal Growth Questions
Understanding a candidate’s strengths and career goals can help you determine if they are right for your open position. Stick to questions that allow the candidate to provide a deeper thought-out answer.
1. What are your career goals in direct relation to this job position?
This is a better question than where you see yourself in five years—it allows the candidate to tell you where they would like their professional development to go with your company. This question can also let you know if the candidate has leadership qualities; however, if they answer they want to own the company, then they may have an overarching goal that doesn’t align with your needs.
2. Name two of your top strengths and describe how you can use those strengths in this job role.
While we normally recommend steering clear of the strengths and weaknesses questions, asking the candidate how their strengths align with the job description can help you learn the soft skills the candidate has that will help them succeed in the job role. This can also point to where the potential employee may need additional training and development in the future.
3. How do you envision growth in your position?
This is similar to the question you will ask during the second and third interviews where you want to know their career goals. However, this takes it a step further to discuss how they envision growth in the position. This will clue you in on their leadership style and ability to see beyond just the job description.
4. What motivates you to continue to grow in your career?
Similar to how the candidate envisions their growth is knowing what motivates them to grow in their career. If they lack the motivation to strive for advancement then their position with your company could become stagnant, leading to decreased effort and production. However, if they have a desire to grow, they can be a real asset to the company and potentially move into a leadership role.
5. What makes you uniquely qualified for this role?
You have probably already read their resumes which outline their education, skills, and qualifications for the role, which is why you decided to interview them. However, the candidate may have unique qualities that will make them an asset to the position. Asking them what unique qualities they possess can help you understand how they feel they will fit into the role and the company.
Work Ethic/Process Approach Questions
These interview questions are designed to get a more in-depth understanding of how the candidate would succeed in their role. Consider holding panel interviews with decision-makers and team members who will work directly with the candidate. You will also want to ask job-specific questions during this stage.
1. How do you prioritize your daily tasks?
While this question does not give you insight into the skills the candidate may have to complete the job, it does let you know how the candidate thinks about their daily tasks. Ask them to elaborate on any area that they don’t provide enough information on. For instance, if the candidate says they perform important tasks first, ask them how they determine which tasks are the most important. This will allow you to see how well the candidate is at critical thinking.
2. Describe a project that you are proud of. How did you overcome any obstacles during this project? What was the outcome?
These questions allow a candidate to showcase their skills and abilities and to tell you about a project that excited them. With this question, the candidate can give you insight into how they work on projects, how they prioritize tasks within the project, and how they like to be rewarded for their efforts.
3. Tell me about a time you’ve had to discuss a project scope change with a client or superior and the outcome of this discussion.
At some point in their careers, most individuals have had to change the direction of a project. Asking the candidate to share how they went about telling the client or their boss about the change will show you how they deal with uncomfortable situations.
4. What motivates you to be successful in your role?
This question will show you what specifically you can do to keep this candidate motivated. Don’t just let them answer with a canned list of motivators, such as money or reward. Ask them to elaborate on why those things motivate them. By elaborating on their answers, the candidate may give you insights into how they find innovative solutions to problems, how they work with others, and how they feel their contributions make an impact on the company’s bottom line.
5. Do you prefer to work independently or within a team? How does this look? Describe your style of working with a team or on a group project.
Some employees prefer to work individually, while others prefer to work in a team environment. There is no right or wrong answer—but this can help you understand how the candidate can best get projects completed. Even if the candidate prefers to work individually, they will inevitably work on a team project at some point, so it is a good idea to ask them how they would handle that situation.
These questions will help you learn more about the candidate, what motivated them to apply for the open position, and if they have the skills and experience required to fill the role. If you feel they may be a good fit, you can move them to the next stage in the interview process.
1. Tell me about your skills in insert crucial skill for the role.
Along with knowing the skills the candidate has that support the position they are applying for, you may also want to know how long they’ve been in practice with those skills. You may ask, How many years of experience do you have, and how would you rate yourself on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being an expert?
2. Tell me why your educational background and skills make you the perfect candidate for this position.
Give the candidate another opportunity to explain the skills and educational background they have for the position they are applying for. This can reiterate anything they’ve said before and give you a clearer picture of what they will be capable of accomplishing in the role.
Steer clear of asking why should I hire you because this question will not provide the details you need.
3. Can you walk me through your resume and explain your employment background and how it relates to this position?
When a candidate goes through their resume and explains their past employment history, they will likely not just read from the resume but go into further detail about their experience. This will help you understand how they are qualified for the position and allow them to explain what certain titles or responsibilities mean.
4. What was it about the job description that caught your eye?
This question will allow the candidate to explain the skills and experience they may possess for the job you are trying to fill. It will also let you know if the candidate has done their research and has knowledge of the job description of the position.
More often than not, candidates apply to so many jobs that they may not even know what they are applying for. You are more likely to find a dedicated employee in a candidate who has done their research and is aware of the position they are applying for.
5. How do you organize a project to ensure you incorporate all needed information and ensure a timely delivery?
This question piggybacks on the previous question of having the candidate walk you through a project they are proud of. This goes a bit deeper to allow the candidate to explain how their skills are used to solve critical problems and ensure the project is completed on time. This can also allow you to see how the candidate works with others on a team.
Job-specific Interview Questions
As stated, the best interview questions are specific to the industry or position the candidate is applying for. This will help you gauge whether the candidate can complete the tasks of the position. We’ve broken down these job-specific interview questions into categories according to common roles you might hire for.
Candidate Expectation Questions
Once your candidate has gone through a series of interviews, and you are close to making a hiring decision, it is a good idea to ask direct questions about the candidate’s expectations.
1. What are your salary requirements or expectations?
Knowing if the candidate’s salary requirements align with what you are willing to pay is crucial. It is also important information to know upfront. It would be a waste of both your time and the candidate’s time to go through several rounds of interviews just to find out that you are not on the same page when it comes to salary.
2. What is your ideal work schedule?
This question will tell you if the candidate is looking for a traditional 9-5 position, wants to work remotely, or is after a flexible schedule. Knowing their ideal work schedule will help you understand if the candidate will be happy working with your company during your peak business hours, or whether you need to consider a different schedule for the right employee.
Your company may only offer one schedule—and if so, that is OK. You can eliminate this question during your interview. Or, you can still ask, in case your business hours change in the future.
3. When will you be available to start?
Unless you have a specific day you want the candidate to begin work, always allow them the opportunity to tell you when they are available to begin. Some candidates may be ready to start immediately, some may need to provide a two-week notice, and others, especially those in top executive positions, may need to give a month to two-month notice to their current employer.
4. Do you have any questions for us?
Always allow candidates to ask questions after interviews. This not only shows you care about what they have to say, but it will also give you some insight into what type of environment and culture the candidates are interested in.
Once the interview is completed be sure to let the candidate know what the next steps are and follow through. A good candidate experience moves beyond just interviewing with a company, it means notifying the candidate of future interviews or composing a job rejection letter.
If you need help hiring your next top employee, consider ZipRecruiter, an applicant tracking system (ATS), that can help you throughout the entire hiring process, from recruiting to interviewing to hiring. It offers scheduling tools so you can easily set up interviews with candidates and will allow you to include screening questions during the application process.
Asking strategic interview questions of your candidates can make the interviewing and hiring process easier. It’s also a good idea to keep a scorecard for each candidate so you can better track responses to your questions. Additionally, applicant tracking systems like ZipRecruiter can help you keep track of your candidates during the interview process.