June 21, 2017

25 Interview Questions to Ask Potential Employees When Hiring


We’ve recently talked a lot about the hiring process, namely about finding a way to avoid hiring bad employees and dealing with employees who aren’t a good team fit. When it comes to building a good team around you, the hiring process (and great job interview questions) is the obvious place to start.

Finding and hiring the right people can be incredibly difficult, especially you do not have a dedicated HR team to take care of those responsibilities for you. Many small business owners and managers might not be in a position in which they can afford hiring HR staff, so they might be leading the hiring process themselves. And while it is a difficult task to try and find the right employees by yourself and then hire, onboard and integrate them into your team effectively, it’s certainly not impossible.

The interview process is one of the key opportunities you are going to get to really evaluate your candidates and see if they would be good employees for your business. Asking the right questions is very important when it comes to seeing what kind of person they are and what they can offer to your company.

Naturally, there are many ways to approach the interview process.

According to Glassdoor, there are many companies that try to take unorthodox approaches to creating questions for their potential candidates in order to keep them on their toes and force them to think a little outside the box. Some of those questions include:

– “What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?”
– “How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?”
– “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?”

Certainly, this approach is not for everyone. You can still ask effective questions to your potential employees without making getting weird on them.

If you’re looking for a good starting point for developing the right questions for your candidate interviews, here are some questions that are generally accepted as being good ones to ask – questions that have have been proven as effective across just about any industry

These are the most efficient job interview questions to ask potential employees:

effective interview questions

How would your last boss and coworkers describe you?

This question can help you to get a good idea about how a candidate thinks other people perceive them. Honesty is one of the most important factors to look for in this case. It is also helpful to focus on the candidate’s body language while answering the question.

If candidates have had poor experiences with superiors and teammates in the past, they might appear nervous when trying to answer this question. It can be a good sign if the potential employee names a few mistakes they made at the previous job and openly discusses some conflicts that may have arisen within his tea.

That means they are realistic and aware of some of their shortcomings both in terms of the job and in terms of team dynamics. It can also mean that they will do their best not to repeat these mistakes in your company. Unless it’s something insurmountably bad, discussing the candidate’s flaws can be a good start of an honest and transparent professional relationship.

How do you deal with stress at work?

A candidate’s answer to this interview question should reveal how they can turn challenges into solutions. The ideal interviewee won’t let everyday obstacles stop them from accomplishing their goals. Staying calm and being able to make a quick decision are among the most desirable reactions to this question.

Bonus points go to candidates who walk you through their stress-reduction tactics, such as taking deep breaths or consulting someone with more experience. Ask for an example of a stressful situation that the candidate has successfully resolved and ask them to explain the problem and the resolution to you in detail.

job interview questions

Can you describe a time you made a mistake?

This is a great job interview question for finding out how self-aware the candidate is and how willing he or she is to learn from errors and missteps. It’s also a question that not many candidates will have a prepared answer for, since most people will focus on talking about what they do well.

When it comes to recalling work-related mistakes, it is all about seeing whether that candidate is ready to take responsibility for his or her actions. If a candidate is aware of where they went wrong, they are also probably self-aware enough to learn from the mistake and make sure that something similar doesn’t ever happen again. This question reveals a lot about the candidate’s communication skills and problem solving capabilities.

If a candidate says they don’t recall making a mistake, you know you are probably dealing with someone who is not very truthful. In the job world, it’s not about avoiding mistakes or pretending they never happened, it’s about taking ownership of the mistakes you made and learning from them.

A great follow-up question in this case is: “What would you do differently if could do it all over again?”

Download free list of 25 Questions to Ask Potential Employees

How would you deal with a project that’s not going to meet its deadline?

This question is perfect for figuring out the candidate’s ability to adjust communication when unforeseen events take place that can compromise the timeline of a project. As a hiring manager, you should pay close attention to the candidate’s explanation of how they adjusted to the changes in order to either make sure that the project was complete in time or to make sure that the project would be able to be successful regardless of the fact that it was completed later than it needed to be.

What you don’t want to hear from the potential employee is blame being put on everyone else for the situation. You are looking for people who are willing to admit that there was something that they could have done differently in such a situation. Ownership is once again a big part of this question. You want to see whether the candidate is willing to admit that they aren’t perfect and to learn from mistakes that they have made.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s true, all candidates are sick of this question. They often think that it’s unrealistic to plan anything that far ahead. What they don’t understand is that this question is a perfect measuring stick for determining the potential employee’s self-worth and level of ambition.

By asking them this question during the interview, you are looking to find out if they believe that they can be in a position of authority and greater responsibility. What you don’t want to hear as an answer is something vague such as “successful,” “happy” or “rich.”

If you get an answer like that, ask them to explain in more detail the career development process that would need to take place in order for them to feel successful or happy at their workplace in five year’s time.

Can you tell me more about yourself?

At first glance, this question looks too simple and general. But listening to a person talk about themselves both in terms of professional accomplishments and outside of the workplace can give you great insights into their personalities.

The ideal candidate will tell a concise story that will tell you why they are a good fit for that job. Ideally, they will describe a few accomplishments that you are relevant to the skills needed to perform the job that you are looking to hire them to perform.

When it comes to familial situations, personal life and things of that nature, you shouldn’t be asking for that type of information directly. However, if the candidate chooses to open up about his or her personal life on their own, you can lead the questioning in the direction you want.

So if you end up finding out that the candidate is married with children and has recently purchased a home, then you know that they are probably planning to put their roots down in the area and live nearby.

What is your biggest weakness?

This can be a tricky question. What you really want to do with it, beyond identifying possible red flags, is to test the candidate’s sincerity. Red flag answers include “I have none, I am perfect,” or “I work too hard.”

This is not the type of employee you want in your company, as they are are either being untruthful or generally have a warped opinion of themselves.

What you want to hear is a truthful answer in which they identify something about themselves that they’d like to work on improving. Honesty and taking the initiative towards self-improvement are the qualities you should look for in your candidates, and this interview question is perfect for detecting them.

What is your greatest strength?

Just like with the previous question, this question gives you insights into how self-aware and honest the candidates are being with you.

You need to look for answers that are relevant and specific, such as personality traits that work towards create productive and positive work relationships. Ideal candidates will also choose strengths that are related to the particular position for which they are interviewing.

Bonus points go to the candidates who give you specific examples of how they demonstrated these traits in their previous jobs. Be especially careful of candidates who are giving answers that smell of “this is what the employer probably wants to hear.” These types of answers tend to be fairly generic with not much substance and no concrete examples that back them up.

common interview questions

Do you have any questions for us?

They should. Good candidates ask questions that show you that they have researched the company. Most importantly, you want to see that the candidate is interested in learning about your business and what it is that you do exactly. They should want to know about the work culture you promote and your key company values.

Also, having questions about your business shows how they envision themselves working for you.

If they don’t have any questions, there’s a good chance that they are just looking for a job and don’t really care about the specifics. This should be a red flag and candidates you display this lack of interest probably have no interest in staying with you for a longer period of time.

What can we do better?

This question shows if the potential employee has learned about the company’s background and if they are able to think critically about it and come of up with ideas that could make your business better. This is a fantastic opportunity for the candidate to fascinate you with some fresh ideas and show that they are creatives and problem solvers.

If the candidate shows enthusiasm about this, follow up with more specific questions such as “How would you increase the company’s revenues?” and “How can we improve the customer service?”

The best candidates will feel comfortable while sharing their thoughts and ideas with you and will be eager to provide feedback about where they believe your business needs to improve. In the end, these are the types of candidates that will probably one day be able to move up within your company and take on managerial positions.

Download free list of 25 Questions to Ask Potential Employees