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Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Employer Tips / February 10, 2022

Filling a job opening is no easy task and it’s hard to know what the best interview questions are. No one wants to accidentally hire a toxic employee. Or an incompetent one. And if you’re filling gaps in the meantime by asking your employees to cover double duty, there’s a bit of a time crunch too. Burnout and resentment can happen fast. Which is why it’s best to outsource your hiring to a staffing agency, like Chief of Staff. But for now, here are the best job interview questions to ask candidates to narrow down top talent.


Why do you want to work here?

In other words, what do they already know about your company? Have they done their research? Do they really want to work at your company because their values align with yours or did they just blindly apply to your job posting because they saw the opening? Find someone who’s passionate about your industry, engaged in their career, and genuinely interested in your company.


What skills and strengths can you bring to this position?

Yes, this interview question is pretty standard, but it also shows a lot about self-awareness and again, how much research they’ve done into your company and the position. Do they fully understand the role they’ve applied for? If not, you need to make them understand as soon as possible, so you can both make a decision about whether or not it makes sense to proceed.


Tell me about your current job and how it prepared you for this role

Truly a revealing interview question if you listen carefully. First, it’s important to hear about their experience and skills and evaluate whether they’re in fact prepared for the job. Second, their language and attitude about their current job and employer are important. Do they speak about their company, boss, and colleagues with respect and gratitude? Or are they snide and bitter? Prompt them a little bit more by asking what they like or don’t like about their current job. Even if they’re coming from a sinking ship or a truly toxic company, how they speak about their current employer says a lot about character and professionalism.


Why are you leaving your current job?

Another very telling interview question. And the answer could make or break their whole application! Obviously you’d be very hesitant to hire someone who describes getting fired or being involved in some sort of feud with coworkers. Again, are they blaming others? Speaking ill of coworkers or clients? Another sign of unprofessionalism. And more than that, you can hear about the candidate’s goals and ambition.


What is your greatest strength?

Also: What is your greatest weakness? Everyone has a few of both. As the candidate describes their strengths and weaknesses, listen to how honest and confident they are about themselves. Are they proud of their strengths? Are they working on improving their weaknesses? Do they seem open to feedback and constructive criticism? Sometimes a good interview question just exposes what a candidate thinks an interviewer wants to hear.


Tell me about an achievement you had

Listen carefully. Are they taking all the credit? Or are they praising some of their colleagues, too? This can tell you a lot about their ability to work cohesively on a team. Which may or may not be important to the role you’re considering them for, but pay attention to how they’re describing their process and how they handle setbacks.


Tell me about a mistake you made

News flash: everyone makes mistakes. So if you meet a candidate that has miraculously never made one, that’s a red flag. They’re either totally unaware, unaccountable, or lying. And similar to the question about achievements, listen to whether they’re taking responsibility or whether they’re blaming others for the mistake. Did they learn a lesson from that mistake? If they don’t mention one, ask. No matter where someone is in their career, there’s always room for learning and growth and it’s important for employees to recognize that. Mistakes, setbacks, and obstacles are opportunities, not catastrophes.


Where do you see yourself in three to five yourselves?

You want to hire candidates with drive and ambition and goals. They’ll work harder, they’re more engaged in their career, and your company will benefit from their interest in achieving their goals. After all, if they’re working hard to advance their career, they’re probably going to advance some of your company’s goals in the process. Make sure you’re encouraging their hard work, empowering them with new challenges and resources and facilitating professional development opportunities for them. The happier they are, the longer they’ll stay with your company.


What’s your work style? 

Employees who don’t fit into your company culture can be problematic for two reasons: either they’ll make everyone else around them unhappy or uncomfortable or they’ll be unhappy themselves. Not to mention that it might make it difficult for them to collaborate, communicate, or be productive. So use this interview question to find out whether the candidate works best on a team or alone. Or how they handle advice. How they best communicate. Or even what time of day they get their best work done. None of these are necessarily deal-breakers, but they might indicate how well they fit in with everyone else.


How would your coworkers describe you? 

If the candidate is lacking some of the hard, technical skills you’re looking for, this interview question might help them showcase some of their soft skills. Another potential indicator of how well this person works on a team and whether they get along with people around them. It also suggests, again, how self-aware the candidate is. Another version of this interview question is: how would your boss describe you? Are they mindful of how other people perceive them? Do they know what a boss or colleague is looking for in terms of support, collaboration, and communication?


How do you handle pressure?

Some of the best interview questions above hint at this question a little bit, too. Every employee will face pressure at some point in their career, whether it’s a deadline, a snarky email from a client, or an unforeseen technological glitch that takes down their whole project. We all have problems and stressors, how does your candidate handle them? Curling up in a ball and crying is not a good answer. Nor is quitting or blaming others. You want to hear responses that suggest resilience, perseverance, and optimism.

The best interview questions to ask a candidate reveal hints about character, preparation, confidence, self-awareness, and more. At Chief of Staff, we have resumes on file. We’re experts at weeding out the best candidates for your company. We understand your industry, which means we can help you structure an offer that most talented candidates can’t refuse. For help outlining the best interview candidates and finding personnel who can power your company, contact one of our recruiters today.