Coming up with the right interview questions to make the best hiring decision for your business can create a lot of pressure and stress.
You’ll want to walk into the interview room feeling prepared, and walk out with a better understanding of the candidate’s potential at your company.
What interview questions should you ask to get the answers you need, and why?
We reached out to our team of experienced recruiters to help you with this daunting task. Here’s their take on 16 interview questions they believe should always be asked.
1. Tell me about…
I always ask applicable, open-ended questions, with regard to the industry and the role, beginning with “Tell me about…”, such as “Tell me about the top sales awards/accolades that you received for your sales performance” or “Tell me about a time when you had to calm an unhappy customer.”
If candidates can give a specific example for the scenario, this helps ensure that they do truly have the experience needed for the job. (e.g., “I’ve been in the President’s Club five years in a row, and my new sales for last year increased 152% over the prior year.” Or, “Just last week I had a call from a customer with whom we had made billing errors two months in a row.”)
If candidates speak in generalities and cannot give specific examples, they may not have the applicable experience. (e.g., “I’m always great with the customers.” Or, “I have good sales numbers.”)
When a certain level of experience is necessary for a role, hiring managers may want to proceed with caution if candidates aren’t able to speak fluently about their relevant experiences. With enough time and a job description or job ad, anyone can put together a résumé that looks good, but only those with real-world experience will be able to provide details.
Amy Caston, 16 years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @amy_caston
2. Have you worked for our company in the past?
If candidates have worked for the company in the past, hiring managers will need to check rehire eligibility.
Lynn Brothers, 16 years of recruiting experience
3. Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement at work and how you handled it.
You can expand on this further by asking about a disagreement with a superior and/or a colleague.
I like this question because it gives hiring managers insight into how candidates handle conflict at work. Are they naturally confrontational, quiet and secretly stewing or balanced when it comes to conflict? If they cannot give you an example, they may be hiding something.
Leslie Lockhart, 10 years of recruiting and management experience, Twitter: @lockrecruit
4. What was the best job you’ve had and why?
The answer to this question can tell hiring managers a lot about the type of culture that candidates respond well to, as well as how they’re motivated to work.
5. How do you like to be managed?
Asking this question helps hiring managers understand the level of responsibility that candidates are comfortable with, and will ultimately allow them to determine if their management style matches candidate expectations.
6. What did you like most about (a job on their resume)? What did you like least about this job?
Answers to these questions are very telling about candidates’ motivation, personality and potential cultural fit. If the job they least liked has similar qualities as the job they’re being interviewed for, then they’re probably not going to be a good fit and likely won’t stick around for long.
Lila Holst Gaylor, 10+ years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @LilaGaylor
7. Tell me about a time when you had to use your interpersonal skills to build a network of contacts to reach goals?
I’m looking for candidates to describe how they’ve done this in the past and how building a network helped them be successful. I’m also looking for creative or unique ways they’ve thought outside the box in order to get introduced to new contacts or reach their goals.
How they answer this question allows me to understand their communication skills, as well as their ability to build rapport and long-term relationships with others.
Shannon Williams, 8 years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @RecruitShannon
8. What type of projects do you enjoy working on?
This helps gain deeper insight into candidates’ motivation for their work.
Their answers can help gauge where their interests may align within the scope of the open position, in terms of the immediate needs of the role, and how their strengths can prove effective over the long term.
9. What are your minimum salary requirements?
Very few applicants indicate their salary requirements on the front end for fear that they’ll overprice themselves and be ruled out. But, if possible, I try to at least get them to give me a salary range. This way, if they’re way over my budget, I don’t waste my time or theirs.
Tony Lewis, 8+ years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @TonyLewis711
10. What other positions are you currently interviewing for?
Not always, but oftentimes, if a candidate is interviewing with your company, he or she is also interviewing elsewhere. Finding out what other positions candidates are interviewing for provides you some additional insight. Are the roles they’re applying for similar to yours or completely different?
A follow-up question asking what the candidate likes about the other positions he or she is interviewing for can be revealing as well. Candidates’ responses can help you understand more about what they’re truly looking for in a new position and may help you determine if the position you’re hiring for matches their career goals.
Michael Stanley, 5 years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @SourcingStanley
11. What do you want my hiring manager to know about you, specifically?
This question is a variation of “Why should I consider you for this role?” However, it is usually so unexpected that the responses are pretty telling. You quickly see what candidates value in their own experiences and gain a little more insight.
Jill Chapman, 30+ years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @jsilman
12. What would your current employer need to offer in order to keep you?
Your candidates’ responses can tell you a lot about their current work situation and the likelihood that they will accept a new offer. This question even provides insight into the possibility of a counter offer from their current employer.
It also opens the door for candidates to detail their goals and career aspirations. Are they looking for management opportunities? Are they seeking training?
13. Understanding that you’re happy in your current position, what factors would you consider if you were to make a career change at this time?
I always like to ask a broad, open-ended question to gauge my candidates’ motivation for seeking a new position. Each person is motivated by different things – money, work-life balance, new technology, etc.
I find it’s imperative to determine their motivators, so I don’t waste time selling aspects of the job that my applicants don’t care about.
Michael Deeb, 4+ years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @deeb_mike
14. If they’re not currently employed, I ask: Why did you leave your last role?
Finding out why someone left their last role tells a lot about the person’s work performance and expectations. Red flags can already begin to emerge during this conversation, and it may help lead to more probing questions.
For example, if a candidate is looking for growth opportunities but hasn’t sought project work or an increased workload in his or her current role, it may signal an unwillingness to work for a promotion while still expecting it.
Michele Anderson, 2+ years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @Ander_Michele1L
15. What steps or techniques do you take to ensure you meet the commitments of your role?
Candidates’ answers tell a lot about their follow-through on commitments and dedication to their jobs. Look for specifics in their responses.
Dedicated, committed employees will be able to speak to their efforts to ensure they do a good job in their roles. They will speak to prioritizing tasks and managing their time.
16. Upon hire, can you provide proof of your legal right to work in the United States without the current or future need for sponsorship?
When recruiting technical personnel, some companies do not want to incur the costs of sponsoring an applicant. In that vein, I question all applicants to ensure that they will not need visa sponsorship. Subsequently, it’s best to establish the feasibility of hiring prospective candidates earlier rather than later in the screening process.
Kimberly Russell, 5+ years of recruiting experience, Twitter: @KimRTxRecruiter
Every interview and every hire is important.
Asking the right questions can help you better evaluate your candidates and make the best hiring decision for your business.
Looking for more information on building a team of productive and engaged employees? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.