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Consider this scenario: You’ve created a job posting for a new position at your company and are now getting resumes left and right.
You’ve now narrowed it down to a few stellar candidates that you’d like to interview.
However, you’re struggling to come up with hard-hitting questions to ask these potential employees.
Does this sound familiar to you?
We know how challenging this process can be, so we’ve put together a list of the 15 best interview questions that will help you decide whether or not to hire any interviewee.
These questions will provide you with comprehensive information about your recruit, including their accomplishments, shortcomings, professional goals, and interests.
The top 15 interview questions recruiters should ask
- Why did you choose your previous employer?
- What is your biggest professional accomplishment so far?
- Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
- What are your salary expectations?
- How do you handle mistakes?
- What is your dream job role?
- What new skills are you looking to learn?
- Do you like to work in groups or by yourself?
- Why are you leaving your present job?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your location preferences?
- Are you actively exploring any other opportunities?
- How would your current or previous boss describe you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
1. Why did you choose your previous employer?
When you begin an interview with any candidate, it is best to start with a question that is easier for the interviewee to address.
This can help to reduce their nerves and allow them to answer subsequent questions with more ease.
The candidate should be well-acquainted with the reasons why they chose their current (or previous) employer.
For your benefit, asking why they chose their previous job might offer you insight into their decision-making process.
Additionally, it may provide you with a sense of their potential to fit into the culture of your organization.
Top tip: It might be best to begin with questions about the previous employer and then transition to questions about your organization (i.e. the job at hand), as it may add some continuity to the discussion.
2. What is your biggest professional accomplishment so far?
The answer to this question should be obvious from their resume, but your candidate may enjoy discussing their most impressive accomplishment(s) to date.
If they are having trouble coming up with an accomplishment, you may want to have their resume on hand and ask specifically about a project that you deem relevant.
Top tip: You can ask spin-off questions from this prompt, such as, “How do you believe this accomplishment improved x for your previous job/university/research?”
This may indicate how aware your candidate is of an organization’s “big picture” objectives.
3. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
This is a great question for two reasons:
- It allows the candidate to discuss professional (and non-professional) aspects of their background or goals, and
- It gives you a sense of who the candidate is both in and out of the workplace.
A common misconception is that non-work-related topics should be avoided at all costs in interviews.
However, touching on the interests and hobbies of your candidate may make them feel more comfortable.
Also, you may find that you have an interest or two in common.
4. What are your salary expectations?
It is a good idea to get on the same page about salary expectations upfront.
In order to get a grasp of industry standards for the role you’re hiring for, you may want to check Glassdoor or another equivalent.
It can appear taboo to talk about salary, but transparency is the best approach to this subject.
5. How do you handle mistakes?
Mistakes are a part of any job, especially when you first start out.
Considering that 1 in 5 workers have made a ‘critical’ mistake in their job, it is wise to ask how your potential employee handled their own mishap.
Depending on how this question is answered, it can demonstrate self-awareness, adaptability, and emotional intelligence in your candidate.
6. What is your dream job role?
Employees can often be categorized into two distinct role trajectories: managerial and technical.
Managerially-focused employees aspire to lead a team within their organization someday.
On the other hand, technically focused people want to learn the intricacies of the business and potentially develop new ideas and systems.
You may want to consider the type of employee you wish to have (managerial or technical) prior to starting the interview process.
With that said, question #6 should give you an idea of which category the candidate fits in with.
7. What new skills are you looking to learn?
Tacking on to the previous question, the skills that the candidate is looking to learn may offer information about their career goals.
Additionally, you will be able to gauge if the position will allow the candidate to learn those skills effectively.
8. Do you like to work in groups or by yourself?
Teamwork can make or break the experience of employees at your organization.
According to Gomada, almost 40% of employees remain in their jobs because of an excellent team culture.
However, some people prefer remote work or to simply operate alone.
If the role is very team-based, you will want to know if your candidate thrives in that kind of environment.
9. Why are you leaving your present job?
People decide to leave their employers for a plethora of reasons. However, the way a candidate addresses their previous workplace can tell you a lot about who they are professionally.
It is common to assume that asking this question is distasteful, but if the answer is handled professionally, it can be assumed that your candidate is willing to learn from all experiences – good or bad.
10. What are your strengths?
If you’re going to ask this question, it is wise to be specific.
For example, ask, “What are your strengths in [insert specific activity here]” or, “What are your best soft skills?”
You may also want to ask for an example of where their strengths made a project successful.
11. What are your weaknesses?
Similar to the previous prompt, ask a question about their weaknesses that is specific to your job requirements or their previous role.
Candidates who perform an accurate assessment of their weaknesses and how they intend to work on them are ideal in this case.
12. What are your location preferences?
Location preferences are becoming more important as remote work has dominated many industries worldwide.
As of 2023, about 15% of organizations operate in a fully remote capacity. People love the flexibility of remote work and may request a position that accommodates it.
13. Are you actively exploring any other opportunities?
It is wise to assume that your candidates are exploring other opportunities in tandem with yours.
If they are not exploring other opportunities, you may want to consider asking why. They may be more invested in the job than your other candidates.
Top tip: If they are exploring other options, it is best to be accepting of that fact. For the majority of applicants, they just want to be hired as quickly as possible to begin making an income.
14. How would your current or previous boss describe you?
As another example of self-awareness, it is terrific if a candidate answers this question candidly and with nuance.
After the interview, a phone call or email conversation with the interviewee’s previous employer may provide you with a balanced view of the candidate.
15. Where do you see yourself in five years?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but it is beneficial to have a forward-thinking employee demonstrating planning and foresight.
Also, this can offer you insights into if the candidate’s goals are aligned with the organization.
Which questions will you ask potential candidates?
You’ve made it to the end of the 15 best interview questions to ask potential candidates – great job!
To avoid overwhelming your candidates, it’s recommended to choose 4 or 5 questions to ask from this list.
You may want to select different questions for each candidate depending on their background and expertise, but remember to keep each interview consistent and brief.
Lastly, you may want to consider using an applicant tracking system or similar software that efficiently enables you to track candidates and notify them of their progress.
Overall, we hope that you’ll use some of these interview questions for recruiters in your upcoming interviews.