Questions to Ask a Candidate During an Interview

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The interview is a critical part of the hiring process that gives you an opportunity to better understand your candidate’s past work history, approach to problem-solving and potential for teamwork. Interview questions should be broad enough that the candidate is able to provide specific responses rather than yes or no answers, yet focused enough that you can develop follow-up questions in line with the information you're receiving during the process.

Work History

Chances are you have the applicant’s resume or job application in front of you, so you have an idea of their most recent positions and titles. Rather than ask about where they’ve worked before, ask the candidate to explain specific responsibilities held in previous positions. Ask her to elaborate on leadership roles, teamwork initiatives, objective setting and goal meeting and what she considered her greatest achievements and contributions to her previous employers. Find out why she left or is leaving her last position to ensure no similar issues will arise in your business. For example, if she’s leaving her current job because there was no room for advancement, yet is interviewing for a top management position in your organization, she may quickly encounter the same professional roadblocks if you hire her.


Rather than ask an interview candidate how she problem solves, ask her to give you specific examples of obstacles that have come up in previous positions and how she approached them. This will give you a better understanding of her problem-solving capabilities. Pose sample scenarios from your own industry and ask her how she would tackle them if given the job. This will help test her critical thinking skills and give you an idea about her knowledge of your company or industry.

Teamwork Initiatives

Ask the candidate about her experience with workgroups and team projects. Find out what she found most challenging and rewarding in her past. Ask her to describe the role she typically plays, either as leader or follower. Inquire about how she handles disagreements with colleagues and compromises when it comes to group initiatives. This will give you greater insight into her ability to work well with others and be a contributing member of the team. If she says she prefers to work by herself, ask her to elaborate. It may be that she is an independent hard worker who is self-driven and self-motivating -- or that she doesn't get along well with her colleagues.

Professional Goals

Have the candidate elaborate on her short and long-term professional goals and objectives. This will help you evaluate if she's a good fit for the position she's interviewing for. It will also give you insight into how ambitious she is and if she's complacent or willing to grow with the company and take it to new heights. Ask about previous positions and whether she moved up through the ranks in other organizations and what her expectations are for the role she’s seeking.

Core Competencies

Invite the candidate to walk you through a typical day in her current or last position to assess her core competency skills. Ask her how she manages her time and prioritize work tasks. Give her a rundown of specific duties she would have in the position she’s seeking and ask her to explain how she would prioritize her day and time. This will help you understand if she's able to handle the workload, how well she can think on her feet and whether she has an understanding of how to meet the goals and responsibilities of her potential new position from the start.