Hiring and onboarding new employees can be expensive and time-consuming. That makes for a daunting interview process. How do you know what to ask? What makes an answer—or a candidate—a good one? Having a ready-made supply of good interview questions to ask candidates can be a big help.
Naturally, you’ll already have an idea of the technical qualifications the candidate will need. Since resumes and cover letters can’t give the full picture, use your interview questions to find out information that can’t be conveyed in text. Is the candidate a good culture fit? Do they have the soft skills to be successful? When you ask the right questions, you can reveal a wealth of information.
Here are our 12 top interview questions to ask interviewees to hire great candidates.
Technical skills and practical goals
Resumes and cover letters can be insightful, but it’s always smart to follow up on the information you’ve been given. Here are some questions about technical skills and the candidate’s practical goals, if hired:
- What are you most proud of in your professional life? This question might sound like a softball, but it’s actually a great way to find out what the interviewee values most. Are they proud of specific achievements? Have they developed certain skills? Did they overcome a personal challenge, such as a fear of public speaking or rejoining the workforce later in life?
- What do you hope to achieve during your first six months here? This question is most effective for leadership and management roles. It offers an opportunity for the candidate to identify a problem or the potential for growth within your company and provide solutions.
- Describe a time when you failed to achieve your goals and had to follow a different approach. What happened? Failure is nothing to be ashamed of—in fact, our approach to failure can often open up new doors. When you ask a candidate about how they deal with failure, you’ll learn whether they’re adaptable and flexible. It also gives insight into whether they take responsibility or take setbacks personally.
- Walk me through a time when you had to adapt to major change within your organization. When small businesses like tech startups try to scale quickly, the work environment tends to be fast paced. This question will help you evaluate whether a candidate will thrive at your company. Look for answers that demonstrate initiative and flexibility.
- Tell me about a project where your contributions made an impact on the outcome. How did you contribute? What was the impact? What issues came up? How were you able to solve them? What did others learn from you? What did you learn from others? This series of questions is a nice opportunity for the interviewee to highlight accomplishments that might not be immediately evident on their resume. It also reveals how they approach problems and collaboration. A candidate who is able to offer praise for others, while acknowledging their own impact, demonstrates a good fit for group work.
- How would you overcome communication challenges on a remote team? Remote work is here to stay. Understanding how to handle common challenges while working from home is a key part of modern employment. This question also invites the interviewee to elaborate on their workplace communication skills.
Soft skills and culture fit
Technical skills and practical goals are crucial, but they’re not everything. A truly successful new hire is one who fits in with your company’s culture. Soft skills are also important. Time management, communication, and goal setting are just a few skills that can help someone thrive in their new role.
Here are some good interview questions to learn what makes your candidate tick:
- Explain something to me in 5 minutes that you are passionate/knowledgeable about. The answer to this question doesn’t have to be job-related. In fact, it’s better if it isn’t—not only will you learn more about the candidate as a person, but a truly savvy interviewee will naturally tie the answer back to the job position. For example, perhaps sorting through a priceless baseball card collection inspired them to learn Excel for cataloging purposes or how to negotiate with potential buyers.
- What is the most recent thing you’ve learned? This question helps you determine whether the candidate has natural curiosity and willingness to learn. The answer doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they learned something. You might learn a fun fact in the process or discover yet another reason that candidate is a great fit for the position.
- What’s one thing you’d like to get better at doing? This is a better version of the classic, “Tell me about one of your flaws.” Everyone has room to grow, both at work and at home. Not only will you learn about potential weak points, but you’ll also get a sense of how they’d like to grow personally and professionally. Don’t forget to follow up—ask how they’d improve or why they want to get better.
- How do you set goals? Outline the process. While collaboration is important, most positions can use a self-starter. This question helps you get a sense of whether the interviewee will be able to hit the ground running. Are they able to set goals without a supervisor’s direction? Can they break down large tasks into smaller steps?
- What were the most successful decisions you’ve made? What were the less ideal decisions? If there’s one thing you could have done differently, what would it have been? Most businesses implement review systems, whether for finances, employee performance, customer feedback, or other issues. These questions will reveal whether your candidate is able to reflect and accept feedback—a crucial soft skill in any industry.
- What isn’t on your resume that you feel is important for me to know? Think of this as a “catch-all” question. Save it for the end of the interview. It’s a great chance for the employee to bring up anything they felt like they didn’t get to talk about earlier in the interview. For example, perhaps they’re fluent in another language or have another skill that would benefit the position. They may choose to talk about why their personality is a good fit for the job or simply explain why they want the job in the first place.
Interviews are nerve-racking for everyone involved. The questions above are designed to help you learn whether a candidate is a good professional and cultural fit. Whether a question has a “right” and “wrong” answer depends on the industry, company, and position.
We encourage you to keep an open mind. Sometimes the greatest professional skills are developed through hobbies, recreation, and social interaction. Asking the 12 questions above will give you a better idea of who the candidate is, what their work ethic and values are like, and whether they have what it takes to do well at your company.
Good interview questions to ask candidates will vary, depending on your own needs and goals. Use these questions as a starting point and adjust as necessary. You’re more likely to find the ideal employee—or, with any luck, more than one.