14 Interview Questions

14 inquiries hiring managers have shared as being most beneficial. They range from basic to very straight forward–and even include a couple of curve balls. Consider these questions, the basis for asking them, the answers you’d provide, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What circumstances bring you here today?

This very open-ended question will surprise many candidates in getting things started. But it gives context for the candidate’s situation, such as whether or not they have any problems with their current employer, what motivates them and their goals. If they do not respond quickly, just sit quietly and wait for the response. “My parents said to get a job or get out” should throw up a very big red flag.

How would your best friend describe you?

This response typically indicates how the candidate wants you to feel they are perceived by friends. Take notes and then ask, “May I call your best friend and see how they describe you?” You may or may not be interested in doing so, but the response and body language that follows can indicate if you received a truthful response. Asking this question near the interview’s beginning helps get truthful responses for the remainder of your time with the candidate.

What would you say are your two greatest weaknesses and how do you work at overcoming them?

Most interviews contain the “What are your greatest strength and your greatest weakness” question. But this question focuses more on the candidate’s ability to identify the need for personal improvement. Ideal responses include honest recognition of issues and a plan they are already implementing to overcome them. Some candidates may even be able to turn their weaknesses into a positive, indicating strong alternative thinking and sales skills. Watch out for candidates who say they have no weaknesses.

How do you alleviate stress?

Every job has stress. If someone says they handle it fine without doing anything, it may signal that they’re either lying or don’t know how to control it. Look for positive activities or hobbies. If the response is “punching stuff” or “weekend benders,” it’s not a very good sign.

How do you typically deal with conflict?

As with stress, conflicts are something we deal with frequently. And uniquely. They can range from disagreeing with a supervisor to lunch preferences and cubicle decorations. Most employers look for someone who can manage these issues without getting frustrated. Ask for real-life examples or offer a hypothetical scenario and ask how they would handle it. “Punching stuff” or “weekend benders” are bad answers for this as well. As is this.

What are three goals you’ve achieved this past year?

Another twist in the usual “what are your short- and long-term goals” question, the response to this usually reveals if the candidate has personal or professional goals and their achievements. Lack of a quick response may indicate they don’t plan ahead. A negative answer shouldn’t be considered a bad thing if they qualify it with the fact that they are still working on achieving something. Responses which indicate drive, planning and good work/life balance for both short- and long-term initiatives are the best.

What was a major obstacle you overcame in the past year?

Problem solving is a key requirement of any candidate. This question reveals several things: What kind of thinker are they? Can they do projects on their own or does a manager need to hold their hand? It also confirms how determined they can be toward a project.

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others around you?

This gives the interviewer an idea of who is an above-average performer. It also demonstrates leadership potential and the willingness to be a team player.

Tell me about two memorable projects, one success and one failure. To what do you attribute the different outcomes?

The answer will reveal the candidate’s ability to learn from mistakes and achievements.

Where do you see yourself in five months?

Another twist on an interview fave. Typically, people ask the “five years” variety to gauge drive and long-term goals. But with today’s uncertainty, the answer could realistically be “living in Hooverville.” Brave ones could respond with “your position” or the exceptionally brazen “supervising you.” But the five-month angle reveals short-term goals and level of confidence for not only getting, but succeeding in, the new position.

What are the first five things you would do if you got this position?

Reserve this one for the mid- and senior-level candidates. The most competent ones will already have several things in mind, revealing how they go about problem solving and navigating interaction with co-workers.

What could your current employer do differently to be more successful?

This reveals the situation they are leaving behind, and whether they are a bitter, insubordinate or constructive criticizer. Press for details, such as if they ever communicated or initiated actions to improve upon the situations. This will reveal if they are a catalyst, a malcontent or just full of complacency.

What risks did you take in your last position?

Generally, risk takers are more successful than more passive individuals. While you don’t want someone who always throws caution to the wind, this question gives insight into the wisdom (or lack thereof) of risky decisions they made and the results that followed.

How did you prepare for this interview?

The answer is relevant to whether you prefer those who wing it or people who gather as much information as possible. Most will assume someone who willingly offers they are winging it are either incredibly bold or downright clueless. But if they answered well on all your previous questions, it’s a good sign they can improvise on the job.

What kinds of responses have you received to questions such as these? How would you respond to them? What are some questions you always ask your candidates?

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