Top Interview Questions To Ask Candidates As An Employer

Top Interview Questions To Ask Candidates As An Employer

Whether you’re a seasoned hiring manager or newer recruiter, having an arsenal of exceptional questions to ask a candidate when in an interview can help you decipher between a good candidate and a great candidate. Our specialized recruitment team interviews candidates on a daily basis, therefor we know a thing or two about asking the right questions. Below, we hope this guide helps you ask interview questions that not only help you get to know the candidate but also know whether that candidate is the right fit for your team and culture.  


General guidelines:  

Ask open-ended questions. Rather than asking questions that will get you a “yes” or “no” answer during the interview, be thoughtful about asking questions that will give a candidate the chance to explain a scenario or a past experience as it relates to the current position.  Also, it can be helpful to share information about the position while interviewing. Such as sharing your strategic goals for the role, and asking why the candidates background is a match, or how they would accomplish the goals on your team. 

Ask each candidate the same set of questions. At times you’ll ask specific questions of candidates based on their answers and the nature of their conversation, but as a rule of thumb, giving each candidate the opportunity to answer the same questions will help you evaluate all the candidates. Also, it protects you by running an equitable and consistent interview process. By doing so candidates can not prove you treated one candidate differently than others.  

Think big. Make sure to ask questions that will not only capture if the candidate can perform in the role, but if they align with your company’s mission, values and goals.  

Make your process similar to the work. The best interview process immolate the work the candidates will do. If they will be writing in the role, make sure to incorporate a writing activity in your process. If they will be client facing, ask questions that will show you how the candidate would speak with clients and gives you a look into how that work. Get creative and try to see how they would preform in the job if you hire them!  

Set clear expectations. The number one reason candidates quit a new position or are not successful in the new role is via receiving the wrong impression, being given unclear goals, and/or hiring team members not explaining how they expect the new hire to approach the work. Make sure to cover how responsive you need the person to be, how much work they will need to handle, and what success looks like for the role.  


Strong open-ended interview questions include:

“Tell me about your background and where you gained your work experience?”  

“Walk me through your background.” 

“Why are you seeking a new role at this time and what are you looking for in your next career opportunity?” 

Asking open ended questions to start the interview allow the interviewer to learn about the candidates desired role and career goals without disclosing what the company is seeking to hire. This is instrumental in identifying true fit for the responsibilities and organization.  Make sure to ask follow-up questions and ask why they left prior positions, and or why it ended. Always ask if it was considered a layoff or did the candidate give notice. Understanding if the candidate has a history of success if paramount to identify strong talent.  


Behavioral Questions:  

Behavioral questions are designed to learn how a candidate would respond to a specific workplace situation, as well as how they may strategically solve problems to achieve a successful outcome. These questions are formatted by presenting a situation or inquiring about what action the candidate has taken to respond to something similar in the past, and then what the result was. The logic behind asking behavioral questions is that a candidate’s success in the past is a positive indicator of their success in the future!   


Some great behavioral questions to consider asking are as follows:  

“Tell me about a time when you messed up/made a mistake at work. What did you do, and what did you learn?”   

Everyone, even the biggest perfectionist, makes mistakes. This question will not only show you how a candidate handles that mistake, but also how they learn from it. The way the candidate answers this question will show you if they blame someone else or will take responsibility for their actions. As the candidate shares what they learned from their mistakes it will give you a picture of how they implement their new learnings to grow in their career and role.  


“Tell me about a goal you’ve set for yourself? What do you do to achieve it?”   

Goals are vital for the success of a business and team. As a manager, you already know that. Having a candidate who is goal oriented and also knows how to achieve those goals makes an asset to your team. This behavioral question will help you understand how the candidate thinks and works to achieve their goal.  


“Tell me about how you work under pressure? How do you organize yourself and what approach do you take?”    

In every line of work, there are ebbs and flows that one will find themselves under pressure at some point. Giving the candidate the opportunity to answer this question will give you insight into how they work and if they are caught off guard by the presence of pressure. This is especially critical to ask of candidates that may be entering into a more stressful industry or position.  


Situational Questions:   

 “What would you do if you were assigned to work on a project with a colleague but you couldn’t seem to agree on things?”   

Not everyone will work seamlessly together. That’s okay. But having employees who are able to gracefully work with others is important. Giving the candidate an opportunity to answer how they would work in this type of situation will show how they can work with others and can utilize open communication to achieve a goal.  


“How would you handle an instance of receiving criticism from a supervisor?”   

 How a candidate handles criticism or even potential criticism can be very valuable to know. While often difficult to take, criticism is an important part of work and growth. Will the candidate take it in stride and learn from it? Or will they shut down or fight back?   


“What is an example of a problem you’ve solved at work? How did you go about reaching the solution?” 

In an interview you’ll want to address  the candidate’s problem-solving skills, as there will always be a “problem” or situation at work that will need addressing. Moreover, this is an essential skill for any profession or industry. While it may be helpful for the candidate to share about  solving a problem in your specific industry, this isn’t actually the purpose of this behavioral interview question. You want to learn about a candidate’s general ability to solve problems as well as how they would work in tough situations. 


“Let’s say that you process through the next stages of our interview process and company was to offer you the role, what information would you first want to know and understand prior to accepting a new position? What would be deal breakers that make it so you would not see this position as right for you?” 

Strong candidates will want to truly understand the role, your expectations for what success looks like, what the work will entail, and will seek to understand the overall culture of your organization. Candidate that do not ask questions or do not feel the need to fully understand the role are generally are less likely to be top performers. All candidates know that at the end of the interview they will be asked if they have questions. They should be seeking to know more information about what you are looking for in the hire. If they are asking questions that point in this direction they are showing you they are intuitive and care about the company/organization’s needed and not just their own. They should require more information prior to accepting any employment offer!    


Career Development questions:  

“What are you career goals? How does this position fit in with your long-term vision?” 

 Another question relating to the candidate’s goals- but this one is important as it will give you an idea of how ambitious the candidate is. The candidate may mention that they eventually want to be a manager or a CEO, they should also be able to provide you with steps on how they plan to slowly gain more responsibility in the company. Why? You’ll want someone who knows that obtaining a higher position takes hard work and dedication.   

A great interview bonus is that this question lets you know whether or not your company will be able to offer the candidate the things they want in the long-term.  


“How would this position need to stay the same or change to be a long-term match for you. Also, how long would you envision working in this role if selected?” 

Understanding the true career goals of the candidate will help you understand how long they may be happy in the role. It will also give you insight into how much additional responsibilities your management may need to challenge them with if you hired them. This question and topic is one the most important to truly dig deeper into to understand the “why” as to if they would be motivated in the role. The right person will see the role as exactly what they would like to be doing and or at least as part of the career goal objectives.  


“Every staff member has areas they need to grow or be mentored on. Considering the position description and responsibilities of the role what areas or work tasks would you need the most support or mentorship to execute? Which responsibilities are you the least excited about? Which are you the most?”  

Asking how prepared they are to execute the work and also where they would need support will help you understand how strong of a candidate they are. Also, this question and its follow-up questions as see above allow you to further dive into the potential fit of the role for the candidate. If there are tasks in the role or company structures that would likely frustrate the candidate, the position may not be a long-term match for them.  


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Interview Questions:  

“What are your most important values?” 

“Tell me about a time when you advocated for diversity, equity or inclusion in the Workplace? If you have not done so in the past, why would, or wouldn’t you do so in the future?”  

“How important is diversity to you, and what value does it bring? 

Questions that uncover the candidate’s mindset, biases, attitudes, philosophies and interest in working in an equitable, accepting, diverse, and positive environment are absolutely essential. Asking the above questions can help you better identify if the candidates you interview are a full match for your organization, mission and values. Also, but interviewing on this topic further demonstrates your company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  


Salary and availability interview questions:  

“What annual to compensation salary are you seeking in your next position?”  

“What elements of an employment offer are most important to you and why?”  

“What are you hoping a new opportunity will bring in an employment offer in terms of benefits, compensation, commissions, perks? What is more important to you?” 

It is best practice to never ask the current salary of candidates. Moreover in an increasing number of US states is illegal to ask prior salary information prior to job offer acceptance. This practice helps to safeguard against inequitable hiring practices. It is advisable to include this practice in your process. To do otherwise will ultimately make your organization look unprofessional as it is industry standard now to never ask.   Additionally, understanding the exact components are seeking in a job offer and employer helps your hiring team make the best values hire possible. At the same time, it allows you to bond and sell any perks and/or company offerings that are unique. It also gives the opportunity to connect with the candidate on any shared team values they may be seeking.  


Closing interview questions.  

“Thank you so very much for your time today. It was such a pleasure to learn more about your experience and career interests. What questions can I answer for you at this time?”
Always leave the candidate with a positive and upbeat impression of your organization. Keeping a poker face and not showing interest in the candidate will not help you recruit them. It should be your goal to make all candidates want to work for you, but also understand these is a process to follow. Be positive, smile, listen to them, and try to make a real connection with the candidate. In the end, interviewing is about trust. The more the candidate trusts you, the more truths they will share which will allow you to make the best educated decision. Also, asking strong interview questions and being professional will leave the best first impression for the candidates you are speak with. Try to never reschedule last minute and never decline a candidate during/on a first interview. Rejections should always be shared with gratitude and provided after time to reflect has been taken. Always wait at least 24 hours, preferably 72 hours if possible. This is known as the best practice for interviewing and candidate rejections.  



Please know that the above list is not a complete roadmap for your company. We hope this list of interview questions to ask candidates will help you lead a comprehensive professional interview process and empower you to hire for your top performer and ultimately gain better results in your hiring process. Keep in mind that it should be your goal to attract all applicants to want to work for you.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure you are running a hiring process that is professional and shows your team and business in the most positive light possible. Asking a comprehensive yet streamlined list of strong interview questions will help you impress candidates but also empower you to make the best hire. Along with asking great interview questions, we encourage you to always check references and have a few other people from your team available to chat with the candidate- this is good for both you and the talent to gain insight on the potential partnership/employment match. Lastly, never allow the process to be too lengthy or have more than three internal steps. Strong candidates are in demand and how long your process takes matters. If it appears to candidates your process is overly lengthy, not streamlined, and not as strong as other employers, in the end they will not choose to work for you. In the end candidates are interviewing you as the employer, just as much as you are interviewing them.  Always make strong positive impressions and be positive.  

For more invaluable recruitment and staffing resources, we invite you to view our other blog posts. Ready to partner with us? We’d love to share more about our team and process. Connect with us here.