The new year is fast approaching, which means peak hiring season will be on its heels. That’s because for many organizations, the beginning of 2022 marks the start of both a new fiscal and calendar year, too, which drives organizations to survey workforce needs and fill open roles with available budgets.
One way to prepare for this time — and for a potentially high volume of job seekers with more leverage these days — is to ensure you have a rock-solid interview process. This can help you confidently navigate the field to find the best talent for your needs.
Conducting a successful candidate interview isn’t just about posing industry- or role-specific questions, though. The right interview questions get to the heart of who the candidate really is and what they bring to the table — even if some of their most notable qualities might sit apart from the job’s requirements.
As the new year kicks off, here’s an overview of different types of interview questions you can explore, along with a list of the top questions that can work for any industry or role.
Different Types of Interview Questions
Interview questions can be approached in a few different ways to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of each candidate’s strengths and skills, decision-making capabilities, and underlying character. Here’s a look at each type, with examples:
Behavioral: The purpose is to reveal the candidate’s behavior in past job experiences to indicate how they’re likely to behave in the new position. Example: What was a past job situation in which you dealt with a difficult individual, and how did you handle it?
Situational: Closely related to behavioral questions, the purpose is to reveal how a candidate would react today in a realistic job situation. Example: A client is upset for not getting an immediate callback about her service issue and says the problem is now much worse. How would you handle this?
Probing: The purpose is to narrow down and/or seek more detail or clarification in the candidate’s answers, but in an open-ended way that doesn’t lead them into a particular answer they think you want to hear. Examples: Who was involved in the situation? Why did the situation occur? How did you specifically respond? What do you think the benefits of your actions were? What other actions could you have taken?
Using these question types as a general guide, let’s dive into some of the best interview questions to ask, regardless of industry or role.
Top Interview Questions
There are a multitude of interview questions you can find online from doing a simple search. And depending on your hiring strategy, some may be more applicable or appropriate than others. Here’s a list of some of the top interview questions that span the common to the unique — and remember that it’s always OK to take these examples and customize them to your particular needs:
Common Interview Questions
The following questions are fairly standard for most employers to cover in a job interview:
Why are you interested in this position?
A good job candidate will know something about your particular company, the role being filled, and the types of skills required for it — and be able to articulate why they’re a good fit in each respect. This question helps show upfront which candidates were conscientious enough to do their homework and that they didn’t just arbitrarily apply for the job.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Job candidates need to be able to reflect honestly on what they’re great at and what they’re not so great at. This question also gives them an opportunity to explain what they’re doing to address any weaknesses, or how they avoid letting their particular weakness get in the way of performing well on the job. How candidates answer this question can reveal their willingness to improve and to overcome any perceived shortcomings.
Why are you leaving your current position?
Asking this question helps you better understand what the candidate is looking for — whether it’s a particular role, advancement opportunities, to branch out into a new industry, or something else. But keep in mind that many candidates are leaving a previous role because of something they perceive as negative or deficient. You can glean a lot about a candidate’s work expectations from this question, and if they may be prone to excessive complaining or an overall poor attitude that you want to avoid.
Tough Interview Questions
The following questions may be more difficult for candidates to answer but can give you additional important insight to help you evaluate:
Give an example of a difficult work situation you experienced and how you handled it.
The point of this question is to reveal the candidate’s character and what their personal and professional values are. Did they handle the experience with tact and transparency? Did they feel timid or confident? Did they seek help from a manager or other team members, or did they deal with it on their own? What was the ultimate outcome? The goal isn’t necessarily to land on a right or wrong answer, but to flesh out how the candidate handled themselves in a challenging situation and if their choices align with your company’s values.
How do you typically handle work stress?
Every job comes with some level of stress. This question uncovers how the candidate is likely to respond when a stressful moment or period of time arises — whether it’s in a constructive way that allows them to maintain a good attitude, or in a way that could lead to conflict, excessive negativity, or any other behaviors that may not be a good fit for your culture.
How would you like to develop professionally in the next year?
This question has a dual purpose:
1) Many job candidates are looking for opportunities to grow within a business and advance their career through training and development. If you’re in a position to provide employee development, asking this question shows candidates your organization is open to helping them achieve their career goals, which can differentiate your company from your competitors; and 2) Job candidates that are clear-eyed about their own professional goals and have the hunger for development in any capacity are likely going to be motivated, open to feedback, eager to learn new skills, and willing to tackle new responsibilities. In a business landscape in which adaptability is more important than ever, this question will help you determine who’s ready for and capable of it.
Unique Interview Questions
The following questions can add a little extra interest or lightheartedness to the interview process (just make sure not to ask anything inappropriate or that will make anyone uncomfortable):
Good icebreaker questions for the start of the interview:
What superhero do you most identify with and why?
What language would you like to learn and why?
If you were stuck on an island, what three items would you want to have with you?
Questions that can reveal cool bits of information along the way:
Do you like work because it’s work, or because it’s a chance to socialize?
Describe a time at work when you surprised yourself.
What was the best company-sponsored event you ever participated in and why?
Big-picture questions to ask at the close of the interview:
If you suddenly became the company’s CEO tomorrow, what would you want to accomplish in the first year?
If you could, what new innovation would you like to create in our industry?
If you had an unlimited budget, what world problem would you like to solve?
With a great list of interview questions in hand, you can further prepare with some tips and best practices, which we’ll look at next.
Additional Interview Tips & Best Practices
When you’re conducting an interview, remember that the candidate is also interviewing you and evaluating what it might be like to work for your organization. Here are some tips to help the interview go smoothly and successfully:
Create a quiet, accessible interview atmosphere. A dedicated, comfortable interview space relays a positive image of your organization and helps candidates relax.
Explain the interview process upfront. Let candidates know exactly what to expect and who they will be interviewing with (if others are present besides you).
Be a good listener. Make eye contact with the candidate when they’re speaking and avoid distracted activities like tapping your pen or looking around the room.
Take comprehensive notes. Summarize the content from each candidate’s interview to help you evaluate, and highlight anything during the interview you may want to clarify or expand on later.
Be aware of interview order effects. Candidates interviewed first and last in the order tend to be recalled more easily and evaluated more favorably. Make sure you evaluate each candidate fairly and thoroughly regardless of where they are in the order.
Thank the candidate and explain next steps. When the interview is over, be sure to extend gratitude to the candidate for their time and clearly explain any next steps.
Preparation Goes a Long Way
Making good hiring decisions isn’t an easy process, especially in a volatile and increasingly competitive labor market. But you can set yourself up for successful talent acquisition by starting off on the right foot. Preparing for and creating a structured, relevant interview that works for all job candidates helps ensure you’re getting the most out of the process — and that the candidates are too.
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