The 16 Best Questions to Ask Candidates During an Interview
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 14 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When interviewing candidates for a position, you can customise the questions you ask to learn specific information about that person's suitability for the role. Selecting the right questions for an interview can improve your ability to learn the information you require to make an informed decision and choose the best candidate. If you're responsible for interviewing candidates for your team, reviewing top questions can help you create a useful list of prompts to use during your interviews.
In this article, we share the 16 best questions to ask candidates during a job interview and explain what you can learn from using each one as part of the hiring process.
16 best questions to ask candidates during interviews
Here are some of the best questions to ask candidates to assess their skills and learn about their aptitude for a job:
1. What skills make you a unique candidate for this position?
Asking candidates to discuss their top skills can provide you with an inside perspective on how they view themselves in the workplace. You can review a candidate's resume to learn about some of their skills, but asking them to discuss what skills make them the best candidate for the position can show you what abilities they think are most important for the job. This can give you the opportunity to assess the candidate's self-awareness and their knowledge of the duties involved with the role.
2. Do you prefer being part of a team or working independently?
This is a great question to ask because both responses are valid, but the candidate's justification for their answer determines the quality of their reply. Although some jobs involve more teamwork while others require more independence, a top candidate can typically provide an in-depth justification for their working style. Top candidates may also mention strategies for working alone and as a team regardless of their natural preference.
3. Tell me about a time you experienced a conflict at work and how you resolved it.
Experiencing conflicts is common in the workplace, so asking candidates about their past experiences in solving interpersonal issues can help you select candidates who support positive social dynamics. This question gives candidates the opportunity to describe a specific situation and share how they took the initiative to correct the problem. Look for candidates who show that they have an easygoing personality and work as a team with others after an issue.
4. What was a challenge you overcame in your last position?
When selecting candidates, it's useful to look for individuals who demonstrate growth potential. Asking a candidate to discuss challenges related to their duties can help you understand what kind of strategies they use to develop their skills and make progress in their career. Pay attention to their attitude when discussing challenges in past jobs to determine if they have a positive mindset and appreciate chances to grow or if they find difficult tasks intimidating.
5. How does this position contribute to your career goals?
Understanding how a job fits into each candidate's long-term career plans can give you useful context when hiring for the position. Someone who wants to directly progress in your organisation may be a better match for the role than a candidate who's looking for short-term employment until they can find their dream career. This question allows you to listen to candidates discuss their professional passions and explain how getting this specific job can help them achieve those goals.
6. What skills do you want to learn while working in this role?
While it's important to hire qualified candidates who can contribute to the company, it's also useful to look for candidates who want to learn something from the job. This helps you create a mutually beneficial situation with dedicated team members who have a reason to perform well in their roles. Look for candidates who discuss skills that relate to their position or similar positions in the same department so they can reasonably gain that knowledge at the company.
Related: How to Develop Skill Sets in 9 Steps
7. What about this organisation's mission appeals to you?
Asking this question can help you determine which candidates researched the company before the interview. This is a great way to identify who's excited about the position and passionate about working for your organisation. A candidate who researched the company may mention specific values from the company website or discuss community initiatives that the organisation sponsors. Excellent candidates may even relate the company's mission to the specific role they want to earn.
8. What is the leadership style of your ideal manager?
Learning about a candidate's working style and management preferences can help you determine if they can fit in with the existing team. Every business has its own management culture, so asking a candidate to talk about what they liked about past managers or describe a perfect leader is a good way to understand their expectations for the workplace. When they're describing their ideal manager, consider if you think they're a good match for current leaders in your department.
Related: 10 Types of Leadership Styles
9. How do you learn about industry trends?
Regardless of the field in which you work, it's useful to hire candidates who understand trends in your industry. Asking candidates about how they gather information and keep up with news in your field can help you learn which candidates are truly dedicated to their careers. When candidates are passionate about their profession, they often spend extra time expanding their skills and learning the latest updates. If candidates name specific blogs, news outlets, conferences or meet-ups, they may have additional motivation and knowledge that they can bring to the position.
10. Tell me about one of your proudest accomplishments in your career.
By giving candidates opportunities to highlight their successes, you can learn about their professional values and envision how they can contribute to your team. Even if a candidate lists that same accomplishment on their resume, the interview format allows candidates to add details and explain the steps they took to achieve that outcome. As candidates describe their achievements, you can analyse why they selected each accomplishment, how it relates to the open position and which of their skills you can utilise.
11. If you could change one of the decisions you made in your career, what would it be?
This question engages the imagination and critical thinking skills of your candidates. It encourages candidates to identify cause-and-effect throughout their professional histories and consider different trajectories for their careers. They can review lessons they learned in their career and discuss various ways to apply their current knowledge. Identify quality answers by looking for candidates who make small adjustments that strengthen their current career paths.
12. How do you organise your schedule when you have multiple priorities?
This question targets time management and self-regulation, which are useful skills for any position. It can help you understand a candidate's methods for choosing between two important tasks and deciding how to manage their time. Look for candidates who use real examples from past jobs or provide strategies that they can apply to any situation. You can also use this question to address issues like managing stress and maintaining a manageable work-life balance.
13. If you were the manager, what improvements would you make to your last workplace?
Asking questions that inspire candidates to talk about their past workplace can teach you about their professionalism while also learning about their ideas. Even if a candidate had a negative experience with a past employer, it's important for them to be respectful when discussing previous jobs. Look for candidates who can explain their ideas for improving a previous job without making negative statements about their manager or colleagues. You can also use this question to determine if you can apply any of their ideas to your team.
14. What is your ideal company culture?
When candidates enjoy the company culture at a workplace, they may be more likely to stay at that organisation long-term and build a fulfilling career. Listen to how candidates describe their ideal work environment and determine which of those characteristics align with your workplace. This question can also reveal if candidates are interested in any particular aspects of your team culture.
15. How would you handle missing a deadline?
Talking to candidates about their strategies for dealing with failure is a good way to learn about their attitude, work ethic and accountability. Use this question to find candidates who take responsibility for making mistakes and who try to be proactive about preventing future issues. Ideal responses may include examples of past situations where a candidate missed a deadline but resolved the problem, or a list of ideas for ways to limit the impact of a scheduling problem.
16. What questions do you have about the position?
At the end of the interview, it's useful to provide candidates with an opportunity to ask questions. Typically, well-prepared candidates have a list of questions to ask interviewers so they can learn more information about the role. They may even think of more questions during the interview as you discuss their answers. Pay attention to which candidates ask insightful questions that relate to the details of the role and their long-term future at the company.
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