Interviews are the worst.
Much like first dates, everyone is on their best behavior. No one is showing their faults. That makes it hard for anyone to figure out what the other person is really like on a daily basis.
Job interviews are the same way. The candidate is usually nervous, which doesn’t help. You can Google any list of interview questions to ask candidates, but you might get the same answers that they also Googled. Asking canned questions and getting overly-prepared answers isn’t a great way to find new people. It’s not even an effective way to tell you who will continue to be motivated to do a good job or even show up for a second interview.
Or the person seems perfect. You ask a million questions and hire someone who seems to be exactly the best person for the job, only to have them quit shortly after. Or alternatively, have a terrible interview with an amazing person who just does badly in interviews.
Don’t you wish it was easy to figure out who will really be a good hire? That’s why we made this list of all the hard-hitting and direct job interview questions that will actually get you results. These are open-ended questions that are sure to expose any interviewee as they really are.
Rarely does anyone come to this list looking for a full article, so we’ve divided it by categories. This lets you choose what you’d like to know and skip ahead:
60+ Best Interview Questions To Ask Candidates
With so many questions, we’ve divided them into categories, so you can skip ahead to find what you’re looking for faster:
- Regarding The Pandemic
- Find Out Why They Are Leaving Their Last Job
- Figure Out How Interested They Are in This Job
- Work Ethic
- For Cultural Fit
- Resume-Related Job Interview Questions
- When Concluding The Interview
Regarding The Pandemic
You can’t ignore the fact that a worldwide pandemic happened. That doesn’t mean you’ll need to ask all of these questions. Some of these questions only apply if people will be working in-person and on-site, while others are for remote work. Asking these questions will inform you how to proceed if you decide to hire them.
- Have you been vaccinated, and if not, are you comfortable testing daily or wearing a mask? (If required for this position.)*
- How was your experience in quarantine/lockdown? Showing empathy makes all the difference and this person may have more than one job offer.
- How did the pandemic affect your career goals?
- Have you worked a remote job before?
- What ways have you found to adapt?
- How has the pandemic affected you?
- What coping mechanisms helped you?
- What kind of job set-up are you looking for? (In-person, hybrid, fully remote)
- How many days would you like to work from home?
- Are you comfortable not seeing coworkers on a regular basis or having one-to-one contact?
*If you’re not sure if you can ask about a candidate’s vaccination status, please refer to our friends at SHRM. They have in-depth articles such as Employers’ Vaccination Policies Vary and What Do the Supreme Court Rulings on Vaccine Directives Mean for Employers?. You need to know what you can and can’t ask of potential employees in your state before you sit down for an interview.
Find Out Why They Are Leaving Their Last Job
These questions are for figuring out if this person would be a good fit for your team and how they are as an employee:
- Out of all the jobs available right now, why did you apply for this particular position? Or alternatively, “How do you choose what companies and roles to apply to?”
- If you’re offered more than one job, how will you decide which one to accept?
- Why are you leaving your current job? Another variation of this question is “what are you looking for in your next position”
- What isn’t on your resume that you feel is important for me to know?
- Besides compensation, what do you value in a position? This question should show you their priorities beyond the bottom line, and often shows what they were lacking in their last position.
Figure Out How Interested They Are In This Job
Hiring for a position in a low unemployment market can be difficult. If your candidate has multiple job offers, then it’s important to find out if your candidate is invested. No one wants to risk getting a reputation for high turnover.
- Why do you want to work here?
- If hired, how long do you plan to stay in this role?
- What do you know about our company? Work culture? Competition?
- Explain to me what makes a good day at work. (You can see what they focus on.)
- Tell me about a bad day at work. (This may highlight why they’re leaving.)
- How did you hear about this job opening?
- Why should we hire you over another applicant?
- Do you have any concerns or questions about this position?
- What challenges do you see affecting this industry?
- Why did you choose this line of work?
Anyone can say that they’re a hard worker, but only a genuinely hard worker can answer these questions without setting off any alarm bells. This list of interview questions to ask candidates and their answers should give you some idea of what kind of employee you’d be hiring.
- What interests you in this position?
- If you get the job, what would you hope to accomplish?
- Would you rather get the job done quickly or correctly?
- What’s your coping mechanism to deal with stressful situations? (Those who don’t have an answer usually haven’t encountered much stress and are either new to the workforce or aren’t good in stressful situations.)
- Why are you leaving your current job?/ Why were you let go from your last position?
- How did you end up in your role at your past job? This is a good question to ask if they were promoted.
- If you have multiple projects, how do you prioritize your time?
- Can you tell me about a time when you weren’t pleased with your own work and why? or What professional mistake did you learn the most from?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- Can you tell me about a time when you weren’t able to reach a goal? (Looking for an answer about attitude. Great answers would include how they’re reaching the goal anyway or a resolution to reach it in the future. Poor answers include blaming someone else, blaming circumstances, or anything implying “it’s not my fault”.)
- What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
For Cultural Fit
If people were only hired for skills, then a resume would be enough. Since your team has to interact and work with each other, making sure they fit in culturally is important.
- How would your coworkers describe you? Or, how does your boss describe you?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What management style motivates you to do your best?
- When working on a team, what role do you naturally fall into?
- What kind of work environment makes you the most productive and happy?
- Can you tell me about a time that your team or boss disagreed with an idea that you introduced and how you dealt with it?
- How do you like to be given feedback? Would you prefer formal reviews or informal meetings?
- Can you tell us about a time where you had to work with a difficult coworker?
- Do you work better on a team or independently?
- What does work-life balance look like to you?
- Tell me about a time you were the hero in your workplace.
- What are you looking to avoid in your next job?
- How would your ideal manager interact with you?
- What are your pet peeves about any past coworkers?
- Do you ever take your work home with you?
Resume Related Job Interview Questions
If the resume in front of you doesn’t feel like it’s the whole picture, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
- Please tell me about this gap on your resume.
- Are you willing to travel for this role?
- What will you miss about your previous job?
- Are you willing to work nights or weekends?
- What’s the best/worst job you’ve ever had?
- Can you explain why you’ve had so many jobs?
- Are you overqualified for this role?
- What would you describe as your top three technical skills?
- What are the top three transferable skills you bring to this job from your last one?
- When would be the best time to call your references?
Situational Interview Questions
- If you have two projects that both have pressing deadlines, how do you prioritize?
- If a coworker is not doing their fair share of the work on a project, how do you address it? Ideal candidates would talk to the other person professionally and communicate the situation. The last resort would be contacting the manager.
- If hired, what would you do to fit in with the new team?
When Concluding The Interview
These questions lead naturally to you letting them know the next step in the process.
- Do you have any questions for me?
- Did you have anything to tell me that we haven’t covered in this interview?
- When would be a good time to contact you in the future?
Ask Every Candidate the Same Questions
Avoid being accused of discriminating by asking everyone the same questions. It’s the only way to ensure a fair system. If you wildly change which questions you ask, you won’t be able to get an impartial view. Here are the best interview questions to ask a candidate to see if they’re a good fit for the workplace. This list is meant to be skimmed so that you can quickly find what you’re looking for.
Resumes show the experience and skills you need, but only an interview will show if someone is a good fit. That can mean the culture of the work environment, the position itself, and the right work ethic for the position. Candidates often practice answering the most common job interview questions, which can result in practiced answers that don’t always tell you much about the person. The key to getting the most information from them is to ask open-ended questions that can’t have canned answers.
This hard-hitting list of interview questions to ask candidates should help you get a better grasp of whether this is the person you want to hire. If you’re not getting the results you want, we can help. Find out more at NESC Staffing. We earned an A+ grade from the Better Business Bureau, were awarded by Forbes as America’s Best Recruiting and Temporary Staffing, and have successfully been putting people to work across the country since 1984. You can find out more here at nesc.com.