50 Business Leaders, HR Managers & Academics Share “The Most Insightful Questions to Ask Job Candidate”. Here Are The Best Questions & Answers
I reached out to scholars, business leaders, entrepreneurs and hiring managers to find out what are their favorite and most interesting question they like to ask interviewees. Not only that but they have also provided the reasoning and thought behind the questions. Situational, behavioral and even lines of disruptive questioning are all included. As this article contains a great depth of knowledge, please use the table of contents below to jump to a question that interests you.
Great Interview Questions To Ask Interviewees:
- When is it okay to bend the rules?
- What would you do in a difficult work situation?
- If you’re falling behind and a client or employee needs you to help them with something, how would you respond?
- How would you deal with a difficult co-worker?
- Tell me about a time that you took the lead on a project and had to influence others to work with you?
- Tell me about yourself?
- How would your previous employer rate you from 1-10?
- What kind of sound do you think describes you?
- Can you teach us something in 5 minutes?
- What do you value in your work relationships?
- How would you explain your career to your mom?
- What is your ideal culture to work in?
- What would you change is you could go back?
- What isn’t on your resume that you feel is important for me to know?
- What’s the worst fight you’ve managed between two subordinates?
- How you like to run meetings. Have you changed how you’ve run meetings in recent years?
- Why did you leave your last position?
- What are you passionate about?
- What was the color of the receptionist shirt?
- Please describe how to make a paper plane with just words?
- If you could write your own job description, what would it say?
- Tell me about the time you failed to reach your goal?
- When did you make a bad decision?
- A disruptive line of questioning
- Outside of work, what’s a new skill or habit you’re currently working on to improve yourself?
- What cause are you passionate about and how do you take action on it?
- What is your dream job?
- If you were given a million dollars to start up a company what would you do?
- What fictional character do you feel best represents you and why?
- Tell me about growing up, what was family life like?
- Everyone has a vision, what’s yours?
- In our business, we need to be perceptive and read people. How do you read me?
When is it okay to bend the rules?
For example, when I ask, “When is it okay to bend the rules?” The answer should be never. If someone says they would make an exception for a reason, I would go ahead and say to myself, This is probably not someone I should hire. If they say, “Only if the leader allows this,” that would be the only other reason I would consider that applicant. I like to ask situational questions pertaining to a person’s character because I don’t want people coming into the job thinking it is acceptable to bend the rules or be unethical. I want someone that is loyal and trustworthy to my company. This answer is very important because it can directly reveal if they will be honest.
What would you do in a difficult work situation?
For my second question, “What would you do in a difficult work situation?”; From the answer, I would expect to learn whether or not they will have patience, wisdom, and leadership skills in handling difficult questions.. Some people answer nervously on the spot or might not be able to think of an answer, in which case, I can ask them to give me an example of where this might have happened, so they will be able to answer easier. I can then use that example as substance for making my final decision. Character is so important.
A lot of people can be trained on certain positions at your workplace, so if their degree doesn’t necessarily match what you’re hiring for, that shouldn’t be as big of a deal, depending on how intricate the job is. When hiring, finding someone with good character is like finding gold. Of course, you obviously want to factor in intelligence, as well. However, everything else, as far as job training, usually can fall into place with someone with good character and moral standards.
If you’re falling behind and a client or employee needs you to help them with something, how would you respond?
Lastly, for my third question, “If you’re falling behind and client or employee needs you to help them with something, how would you respond?”; I would expect to learn how the potential new hire will handle working under pressure, but most importantly, their willingness to put others before themselves. I would hope for them to say they will help someone out no matter what kind of pressure they are under.
I would have to say that these are my three favorite questions to ask. Finding out certain characteristics of the potential new hire beforehand is not always something that is done. However, it’s probably one of the most determining factors for me because it gives me some foresight on what kind of worker they will be.
How would you deal with a difficult co-worker?
Looking at the big picture, behavioral questions look for examples of things you’ve experienced in the past, while situational questions are seeking examples of how you would do something given a specific scenario.
How would you deal with a difficult co-worker? In this situational question, the interviewer is attempting to find out if you have the ability to diffuse and prevent potential drama among team members. A good answer would be – “I would refrain from engaging in harmful activities such as gossip and negativity and remain positive in all dealings with that individual. If the situation became difficult to manage personally, I would seek advice from my supervisor on what to do specifically.”
Tell me about a time that you took the lead on a project and had to influence others to work with you?
In this behavioral question, the hiring manager wants to know how collaborative you are and how you influence people to work with you to accomplish common goals. Give examples of what you’ve done and how you were able to get others to go along with your leadership. If you’ve never been a lead on a project, discuss specific team activities or examples from leaders you’ve followed that you would emulate given the chance to lead a team.
Start an interview with open questions, then move to more specific questions.
Tell me about yourself?
As a former hiring manager at two different ‘Fortune’ ranked companies before entering academia and eventually becoming a tenured management professor, I regularly used open-ended questions of this sort at the beginning of an interview. And since there’s really no right answer, it’s generally a low-stress way to relax applicants and get them talking.
But while there may not be any right answers, there are definitely subjects that wise candidates would avoid during an initial interview. For example, if an applicant is recently divorced and is now the primary caregiver for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s disease or has two pre-school toddlers at home, those would generally be topics to avoid during that first interview. So given that caveat, what is a potential employer really looking for? In a single phrase, hiring managers are searching for organizational fit.
As a general proposition, organizations seek people who can help them grow stronger. Thus, they want folks who will solve problems, not create them.
So as much as possible, I looked for applicants who discussed the relevant transferable skills and related work experience that they could bring to a particular job, a work team, and the overall organization. Further, answering while weaving in the notion of enjoying challenging work and the sense of accomplishment gained for a job well done also earned high marks during my evaluations.
But, on the other hand, I always expected the whole truth: folks who over-embellished important facts were routinely discovered down the line since my organizations (like most, these days) did thorough reference checks and background investigations!
Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR Emeritus Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (retired), Doane University
How would your previous employer rate you from 1-10?
Our favorite line of questioning is the following:
- Will your previous supervisor or boss provide you a reference?
- If yes, what would they say about you and your work performance?
- How would they rate you on a scale of 1-10?
- What, if anything, would they say you could have done to get to a _____ (next highest number)?
This line of questioning has several uses. One, can they even get a reference? If yes, great. If no, why? No usually indicates an issue and definitely something I want to know about before considering hiring someone. I don’t care how many HR policies are in place to prevent me from learning something of substance about this candidate, if they were a rock star, their previous supervisor would want me to know. Bosses like helping their former superstar employees succeed and do well, so there’s really no reason the answer to this question should ever be a no if the candidate is worthy of a second look.
Secondly, probing about what the supervisor would say about their work performance and how they might improve digs into the candidate’s emotional intelligence and ability to take another person’s perspective, which usually translates well on the job in any interpersonal situation. It also challenges them to consider their weaknesses in front of an interviewer whom they’ve typically been trained to only speak of their successes and accomplishments.
This is a tough spot but brings up the chance to learn about the candidate’s values, sense of humility and how realistic or practical they might be.
It’s really one big question and can elicit a lot of information about their experience, their achievements, and about who and how they are as a person all at once.
What kind of sound do you think describes you?
Our favorite personality question by far is “what kind of sound do you think describes you?” The question immediately stumps most applicants at first and it’s one where you can’t throw out a canned or rehearsed answer. It’s open-ended enough for applicants to show their personality (words can count as sounds too! One applicant just said “driven”.) but also a strange enough question where people really need to think about their answer.
Can you teach us something in 5 minutes?
A more technical interview question we ask is “teach us something in 5 minutes”. It allows the applicant to demonstrate how quickly they can think on their feet while also giving us some insight into their knowledge base and what’s “at the forefront” so to speak. We find it’s a much better gauge of professional and personal interest – lots of applicants have taught us some really cool things such as origami or a quick rundown of Gaussian distribution.
Michael Sheen, Hiring Manager: inteliKINECT
What do you value in your work relationships?
No one comes into an interview saying they’re a terrible team player. This question gets people thinking and talking. I’m looking to see what relationships they choose to talk about as well – managers, peers, clients, etc. The answer draws out true insight into how they play well with others.
How would you explain your career to your mom (or someone that is totally unrelated to this industry)?
There are two things I’m looking for in this answer:
- The ability to take something complex and make it simple. This is a good measure of their ability to communicate clearly with others.
- An understanding of what they view as the core of their work and whether it aligns with the core of the role I’m recruiting for.
What is your ideal culture to work in?
I frequently ask interviewees what their ideal culture to work in is. What I expect to learn from this answer is to see if the potential employee would be an ideal fit within the company.
What would you change is you could go back?
I also like to ask candidates about a particular action they took in the past that he or she would change if they could go back. The reason I ask this question is because I am interested in finding out a person’s experiences. While a resume will often boast the candidate’s achievements, I prefer to discover the potential employee’s grit in overcoming diversity and challenges.
Steven Azizi Business Owner – Miracle Mile Law Group
What isn’t on your resume that you feel is important for me to know?
My favorite question for interviewees: What isn’t on your resumé that you feel is important for me to know?
The goal here is to find any synergies that might be overlooked if a candidate has tailored their resume to the position. For a smaller company, this can be incredibly helpful because you might need generalists to help the company grow at first. I asked this during our most recent round of hiring and it provided extraordinarily helpful information on two occasions.
One candidate pointed out that they had a passion for video editing, and had been practicing on their own for the past several months. While this wasn’t directly related to the position, the management team had recently expressed interest in expanding our video marketing capabilities and that skill could be very valuable to the team. Another candidate prefaced their response with I know this is going to sound cliché, but… and described that they were a hard worker. They were right – it did sound cliché at first, but after considering the tone of our interview up to that point (and the fact that they were the only candidate that made that claim) it left a lasting positive impression.
What’s the worst fight you’ve managed between two subordinates? How did you have them resolve their conflict?
A great candidate will actively work to manage through conflict on their teams. If they’re able to find a way to mitigate negative feelings or behaviors, they do, and if they can’t, they assist team members in coping to the best of their ability. The right candidate isn’t afraid to enlist the help of their boss in monitoring and improving team dynamics and can provide thoughtful input to help resolve the situation.
Describe how you like to run meetings. Have you changed how you’ve run meetings in recent years?
A great candidate will have a basket of tools and tricks that they have developed over time to help accomplish the work at hand. No one tool is right for every purpose or need, so the candidate should show that they are open to experiment over time and seek to learn from others what works best to achieve desired outcomes.
Why did you leave your last position?
One question I’ve really enjoyed asking over the years is less skills/experience focused and more critical thinking related.
One mean question I liked asking was “Why did you leave your last position?”. I like to ask that as the last question. Then I ask if they can provide me a list of references.
What I expect to learn is whether they were being truthful with their original answers. Usually, I can tell this just by reading facial signals and body language.
A lot of people have a tough time being truthful about how they left their last job. Personally, whether they were fired or quit isn’t that important, what is important is that they are truthful while applying with me.
If they lied about how they left their last job it will usually be detectable when you ask for references. If the applicant happens to lie and also has a good poker face, the truth usually comes out when references are provided late or incomplete, which would indicate an attempt to hide something.
Rudeth Shaughnessy, Retired HR Professional & Volunteer Director at Copy My Resume
Read the full article here: GreatWorkLife.com, “Top 32 Best Interview Questions To Ask Interviewees,” By Barry D. Moore