February 22, 2023

Job interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience for both the interviewer and the interviewee. As a hiring manager, it is important to ask the right questions to ensure that you make an informed decision and hire the best candidate for the job.

However, not all interview questions are created equal, and some should be avoided altogether. In this blog post, we’ll discuss:

  • Why effective interviews are essential
  • 11 of the top interview questions to ask 
  • Which questions to avoid

Why Effective Job Interviews are Essential

Just because an applicant looks great on paper doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for the position or your organization. Even some highly intelligent, skilled people have personality and attitude flaws that could negatively impact your work environment.

You’ll avoid a wrong hire—and future headaches—by conducting a thorough interview that explores a prospective employee’s abilities and approach. Ideally, an effective interview leads to a great new team member who sticks around and grows with the company.

The top interview questions will provide valuable insights into the candidate’s:

  • Relevant experience: Do they have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in this role? Does their background demonstrate the ability to learn, grow, and advance?
  • Problem-solving skills: Are they a strong critical thinker focused on solutions?
  • Approach & attitude: How do they handle change and unexpected challenges? Workplace conflicts?
  • Interpersonal skills: Does this individual’s personality align with your company culture? 

As you come up with your interview questions, ensure you understand the role you’re hiring for and tailor them to the position and level. For example, an entry-level marketing associate’s interview should look quite different from a manager or executive-level role, which would focus on more leadership and strategic-based areas.

Be patient, and don’t be afraid to use silence during the interview, even if it gets uncomfortable. This can be a powerful technique for drawing more out of a candidate who gives overly-general answers.

11 of the Top Interview Questions to Ask

1. Can you tell me about your previous experience in this field/position?

This is often the starting interview question. You want the candidate to showcase their relevant experience and explain how it relates to the position they are applying for. Listen for:

  • Specifics and examples from their last job
  • Their level of skills and knowledge—how much training will they need?
  • Their excitement and passion for the role

2. Why did you choose this industry/profession?

And that leads to our next point: You can educate and train on skills, but you can never force someone to love their job. If they don’t sound excited about it now, chances are it’s not the right role for them. 

An employee who doesn’t enjoy what they do is probably only doing it to pay the bills. They will be disengaged, unsatisfied, and negative, creating a negative environment for everyone else.

Just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean they like it or should even be doing it. So ask interview questions about their inspiration, how they got here, and what they love about what they do. They’ll be more productive and likely to last if they’re passionate about their job.

3. What drew you to this role and our company?

Similar to the last interview question, you want to know why this role and your company. Again, make sure the candidate is not just doing it for the paycheck. 

Were there specific projects and responsibilities that piqued their interest? How do they feel they can contribute to your team and move the business forward?

What do they love about your company? Is it your products or services or unique business model?

The candidate’s answer will start to paint a picture of whether they’re a good fit for the role and your company culture.

4. What are your long-term career goals?

This question allows you to assess whether the candidate’s career goals align with the position and the company’s goals. If they’re not aligned, you could end up with an unsatisfied employee later. Or, they may quickly leave, and we all know how costly high employee turnover is!

Additionally, the interviewee’s response will show you if they’re a goal-driven planner or if this is just a pit stop on their career path. 

Bonus: If the candidate is the right fit, their answer will give you an idea of how to help them along their journey and increase the chances of retention.

5. How would you explain our business to a prospect?

This interview question is a unique way to determine whether the candidate has done their research and is genuinely interested in the company.

How well do they know your business and what sets it apart? Do they understand what you do and the company mission? 

A candidate with a meaningful, correct response also demonstrates their demeanor and how they would handle clients.

6. What is your ideal work environment?

When selecting job interview questions, several should cover cultural fit. Part of this is determining what kind of a workplace they’re looking for.

Does the potential employee share the company’s values? Do your business practices align with their preferences? 

For example, if a candidate is looking for a highly flexible schedule, but your industry or the particular role requires set hours, you’re probably not suitable for each other. Or an employee who prefers to work solo may do well in a position that requires significant collaboration.

Even hiring a talented professional can lead to low quality and productivity as well as a toxic atmosphere if they don’t blend with your culture.

7. What qualities are you looking for in a manager?

Not only do you want to ensure the role and company are a right fit for this candidate—you want to ensure YOU are! This will give you an idea of their work style and what kind of support they prefer.

Consider the following as you absorb the interviewee’s answer to determine whether they suit your management style and the role.

  • Do they like autonomy and prefer a hands-off manager?
  • Or does it seem like they’ll need more hands-on direction and training? 
  • Do they want regular check-ins? 
  • What are their ideal communication style and frequency?
  • What motivates them to do their best work, and how could you, as their manager support them? (You might even ask this one as a follow-up question!)

8. Can you share a time when you had to overcome a difficult situation at work?

This question assesses the candidate’s problem-solving skills and ability to handle stressful situations.

For example, their computer or program crashed while working on a big project. What did they do—after a bit of swearing and possibly crying (hey, we’re all human!)? 

Were they able to collect their thoughts and work toward a solution? Did they find the relevant resources and support? Did they contact the client to address the issue immediately and assure them it’s being resolved ASAP? 

Or did they give up and storm out of the office?

You can tailor this question to the role. But generally, you’re looking for an employee who can roll with the punches and solve problems logically, professionally, and efficiently—even if they have a brief panic first.

9. Can you share a time when you encountered a workplace conflict? How did you handle it?

Regardless of what level of position you’re interviewing for, an interviewee’s answer to this question indicates their ability to handle interpersonal relationships in a professional setting. 

How will they engage with their peers? If it’s a management role, how will they respond to conflict among their direct reports?

This could even apply to those in client-facing roles. How does the candidate handle unhappy customers? Can they de-escalate the situation with empathy and improve the client’s experience? 

10. Why did you leave/are you leaving your most recent job?

A candidate’s response to this question will give you insight into their attitude. 

Look out for those who speak poorly of their previous employer, which could indicate a negative, angry, and/or entitled attitude.

Perhaps they are leaving because they want to pursue a more advanced role and new challenges, but there were no applicable opportunities at the organization. This could signify a hardworking, driven employee seeking professional growth.

11. Do you have any questions for me?

Finally, it’s time for the candidate to ask their interview questions! Hopefully, they won’t only ask about the pay, which is often a red flag.

A genuinely interested candidate will ask you more about the company, how things work, and the culture. They might be curious about the role specifics, such as what a typical day looks like or what it could look like in the future. 

These questions are a good sign that the prospect is thoughtful, likes researching, and takes the opportunity seriously. It also shows they’re unafraid to ask questions and learn—vital in every job!

Interview Questions to Skip

There are several wrong interview questions that, if asked, could get you and your company into legal hot water. Asking a candidate about the following areas is discriminatory: 

  • Age (though you can ask if they are over 18)
  • Marital status
  • Children or pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Race or nationality
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disabilities (you can ask if they are able to perform all required job duties)
  • Salary history or arrest records (learn more about salary history and background check bans)

To be safe, focus on interview questions related to the role and business. Even if a seemingly innocent comment or question leads a candidate to share any of this protected information, your company could still be responsible for discrimination. 

Simply put, create an interview plan and stick to it to ensure you don’t accidentally ask discriminatory questions.

Final Thoughts on Job Interview Questions

In conclusion, asking the right interview questions can make all the difference in finding the best fit for both the role and the company. As an interviewer, it is important to focus on questions that assess the candidate’s relevant experience, problem-solving skills, attitude, and ability to handle interpersonal relationships. 

You’ll also need to avoid questions that are discriminatory or invasive. By following these guidelines, you can conduct a successful and eye-opening job interview.

Do you need interview advice? Or are you looking for someone to assist with your interviewing and hiring processes? Learn about BlueLion’s outsourced HR solutions or contact us today at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com to find out how we can help!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.