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Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Reviewed by Brendan Sullivan, Indeed Recruiter
4+ years of experience, 150+ roles filled

When it comes to getting to know someone within a limited timeframe, such as an hour-long job interview, employers face a significant challenge. The investment of time and effort in training new employees makes it imperative to select the right person for the job from the outset. To achieve this, interviewers rely on thoughtfully crafted questions that encourage candidates to showcase their problem-solving skills, experience, personality, emotional intelligence, cultural add, and other relevant information. These questions typically fall into four main categories: Personal, motivational, behavioral, and technical.

To facilitate the interview process, utilizing a virtual interview platform like Indeed Interview can be beneficial. With Indeed Interview, you can easily set up virtual interviews, providing a convenient and effective way to connect with potential candidates. The platform offers features such as advanced scheduling options, automated reminders for both the interviewer and interviewee and the flexibility to conduct the interview over video or phone. This streamlined method ensures a smooth interview experience while enabling efficient communication and assessment of candidates.

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Personal interview questions

Personal interview questions serve several purposes. Firstly, they help you build a rapport with candidates so they feel more comfortable and more likely to be authentic. Personal questions can also help reveal candidates’ emotional intelligence and soft skills, such as interpersonal communication.

Even personal questions shouldn’t cross professional boundaries, though. Never ask candidates questions that could make them uncomfortable or are unrelated to the position you’re hiring for.

Half of employers ask 5-10 questions during an average in-person interview

These are some examples of effective personal interview questions:

What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?

Although these questions are almost cliche by now, they’re still worth asking because they reveal how self-aware, sincere and humble candidates are. The strength part of the question also gives applicants a chance to discuss how their best qualities align with the needs of the role and even demonstrate how they can use their strengths to help the company reach its goals.

Illustration of person in front of laptop and microphone. Text reads: "Discuss these things during an interview: Career and personal accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, conflict resolution skills."

The weakness a candidate identifies can help you deduce:

  • Whether the candidate’s weaknesses could conflict with job requirements or hamper their ability to excel in the role
  • If the candidate is self-aware enough to know their weaknesses without having to think for too long
  • How a candidate is working to improve on their shortcomings

How would your previous coworkers describe you?

Asking candidates to describe themselves through a more objective lens is another approach to learning about their character. It can also give you insight into their interpersonal and collaboration skills.

As a follow-up to candidates’ responses, consider asking for specific examples of peer feedback to get a more accurate picture.

Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume

Job seekers carefully craft their resumes to provide the best summary of their professional experience. But even if you’re adept at assessing resumes, you can’t learn everything about a candidate from what they put on paper. That’s why this question is so effective. It’s purposefully vague and allows the interviewee to decide whether they want to share something job-related or not. They may choose to tell you about their volunteer work, the sabbatical they took to travel the world or another defining experience. 

The way they choose to respond to this question, and the stories they share, can tell you a lot about the type of employee they will be and what they could contribute to your company culture.

Why are you leaving your current employer?

Besides self-description, candidates reveal a lot about themselves by how they describe others. Pay close attention to how a candidate talks about their former job. Are they focusing on the negative, or do they lean more on the positive side by addressing their hopes for the future?

Also, the interviewee’s ability to show respect for their previous employer and workplace demonstrates their civility and professionalism, essential attributes in any role.

What career accomplishment makes you most proud?

While it’s important to hire someone who can do the job well, you also want an employee who takes pride in their work. Asking the candidate to share a career highlight helps you better understand the type of work that makes them feel fulfilled and determine whether it’s aligned with what the role entails. 

Motivational interview questions

Motivational questions help you assess how invested the candidate is likely to be in the position. These can help you weed out candidates who might be looking for a quick opportunity but who plan to move on after a short time. Motivational questions can also help you assess the candidate’s level of commitment and ambition, which may connect to the characteristics needed for the position. Below are some great interview questions to ask that highlight candidates’ motivation.

What are your long-term career goals?

If you want to know how ambitious, goal-oriented and hardworking a candidate is, ask this question. Answers to this question can reveal whether the interviewee’s career goals align with your company’s values, mission and goals. 

Another advantage to asking this question is you may learn how long the candidate plans to stay at your company. For example, if their long-term career goals can’t be accomplished by working at your company, that candidate may not be the best fit.

How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?

One of the best interview questions to ask candidates is what their goals are for professional development. A candidate may be focused on improving a weakness, building upon a strength or picking up a new skill that can help them in their career. Above all, this question can give insight into a candidate’s willingness to invest in their own growth.

What made you want to apply for this position?

This question delves into specifics about the job role. Asking it is your opportunity to determine such information about candidates as:

  • How carefully they read the job description
  • How well they researched the company
  • What they’re looking for in an employer
  • The skills they see as relevant for the position they’re interested in

Pay close attention to the parallels applicants draw between your company and their career aspirations. That can reveal whether they’ll be a good fit.

Behavioral interview questions

The candidate has a great personality and seems capable of doing the job. But what people say about themselves isn’t a guarantee that they can accomplish the required tasks. This is why behavior questions are among the best interview questions to ask. Asking how candidates have behaved in past circumstances or would behave in future situations can help you evaluate whether the candidate is suited for the job. Such questions also show how quickly they think on their feet. Below are some examples of behavioral questions.

Tell me about a past difficult work situation. How did you overcome it?

Everyone has experienced challenging circumstances at work, and often it’s in these moments that professionals grow the most. This question allows the candidate to tell you about how they perform under pressure and discuss their problem-solving skills and ability to manage stress.

Tell me about a time you had a particularly heavy workload. How did you handle it?

Asking this helps you determine a candidate’s organizational and time-management skills and how they deal with stressful situations, such as an increase in workload. 

Look for specific ways the candidate prioritizes a long list of tasks, adapts to new challenges and works with others to get the job done.

Describe a time when you had to work with someone whose personality or work style was very different from yours. 

Working well with others of different backgrounds, communication styles and personalities is important in nearly every job. This question gives the candidate a chance to show off their teamwork, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, including how they compromise, communicate and collaborate to achieve a goal or task. It can also give you deeper insight into their personality and work style.

See more: Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Technical interview questions

Among the most important categories of interview questions are those that assess candidates’ qualifications for the position. Even a great personality, laudable ambition and sharp critical-thinking skills can’t make up for the lack of technical agility required for the job.

Questions tailored to your company and the position you’re hiring for can provide insight into who would be the best hire. Of course, technical questions vary depending on the position, but these are a few examples of technical questions for specific jobs:

  • How do you prioritize your sales leads? (Sales Representative)
  • Can you walk me through the process of preparing a data set for analysis? (Data Analyst)
  • How do you determine project deadlines and manage scheduling conflicts? (Project Manager)

FAQs about the best interview questions to ask

Is it appropriate for me to ask a candidate what their current salary is?

No. That would be unfair to interviewees who may not be currently making a salary comparable to other candidates. You can, however, ask about salary expectations. If the position you’re hiring for is new or you haven’t hired for that job in a while, it would also be a good idea to research compensation for comparable jobs in your area.

What other questions should be avoided?

Avoid any questions that discuss the following topics:

  • Questions related to race, color, religion, sex (sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy status), national origin, age, disability, genetic or medical history. Questions about any of those could be considered discriminatory based on federal law.
  • Any disability-related question: Focus on the required job duties and whether the candidate can perform them with or without reasonable accommodations. Never ask disability-related questions, as that would violate federal law.

Asking effective questions during a job interview can help you choose the candidate who has the personal and technical qualifications required for the position you’re trying to fill.

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Brendan Sullivan is an Indeed recruiter based in Austin, TX with 4+ years of experience. You can usually find him enjoying one of the several amazing coffee shops in Austin or organizing his record collection.

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