12 questions to ask candidates during the job interview

There are certain questions you must ask a candidate during the job interview, like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why would you be a good fit for this role?”

If you’re wondering what else to ask to get some good insight into a job candidate, here are 12 questions to ask during the interview with explanations as to what type of information you might hope to glean from asking them.

 What professional achievement are you proudest of to date?

This gives you an idea of what qualifies as important to the candidate, as well as what qualifies as an achievement. It might also give you an idea of the size of their ego, and the type of challenges they’re willing to take on.

Tell me about a time when you solved a problem or overcame a challenge.

Get them to walk you through it a bit. How was the challenge overcome? Was it big? Was it small? What does a “challenge” mean for this candidate? How do their problem solving skills stack up?

 Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve had to make.

Again, get them to walk you through it. Why was the decision difficult and what does this tell you about the candidate’s decision making skills?

What could you give a 30 minute presentation on with no notes?

This may or may not be a professional topic. Ideally, they’d give you something job related and add something else non-job related, to give you some insight into their personality and what drives them.

Who do you most admire and why?

Watch the candidate’s face when they talk about the person they admire. Do they get excited and light up, or otherwise show that this person means something to them? You can tell a lot about a person by who they admire – and how excited they get about it. Ask yourself what the candidate’s choice says to you.

Can you describe your ideal workplace?

This will help you figure out how the person will fit in with your organization, and whether their expectations are realistic.

Tell me about a time you messed up.

Like all of these questions, this one might not elicit an entirely honest answer. But it should give you an idea of the candidate’s level of self awareness and accountability. Beware of someone who can’t think of anything. That would suggest a pretty low level of self awareness. We all mess up.

What motivates you?

You can also learn a lot about a person by asking them what motivates them. Just hope they don’t say “revenge.”

What frustrates you?

This is another good one for measuring self awareness and honesty. Watch them when they’re talking. When you think about something that genuinely frustrates you, don’t you find yourself getting a little frustrated just thinking about it? Seeing whether this does or does not happen might give you some insight into the candidate’s personality.

What about you could use some improvement?

Beware of stock answers similar to what you might get when asking “what’s your greatest weakness?” If they start talking about their perfectionism, they’re probably telling you what they think you want to hear. On the other hand, you don’t want to hear “My drinking problem and uncontrollable rage” either.

Why should I hire you?

This is where the candidate should be wowing you by breaking down all the value they will bring to your organization.

How would you handle it if a superior disagreed with you about the way to proceed on something, and you were certain that their way would cause problems for the company?

This requires the candidate to do a little thinking on their feet. And it’s the sort of thinking that provides useful insight, rather than just asking a challenging question for its own sake. You’re presenting them with a problem to be solved while navigating hierarchy. So it gives you insight into both their problem solving skills and their diplomacy skills.

For what it’s worth, an interviewer asked me this and I said “In one of two ways: I would either do what I want in spite of what the manager wanted, and when it worked out to their advantage, say nothing. Or, if that was impossible, I would let them do it their way and make sure my opposition was known to everyone involved from the outset.”

In retrospect I’m not sure this was the best answer, but I got the job.

What are your favourite job interview questions and what insight do you think the answers to them provide?

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