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50 interview questions to hire the best candidate for the job

Find out what you need to know to make an informed decision about hiring with this menu of options

3-minute read

Hiring a new employee is a daunting task for most entrepreneurs. No matter the size of the business, it’s a challenge to find the right person for the role—and your organization.

Lina Carriero, Senior Advisor, Talent Acquisition at BDC, says the interview process is an effective way to get to know potential candidates and determine whether their experience and approach to work is a good match with your business.

Ask questions that give applicants the opportunity to provide the insight you need to make a measured and informed decision.

“When interviewing, you want to think about the needs of the business, the demands of the role and the kind of person who would not only ‘fit’ within the culture but who would also add a fresh perspective to it.”

Here are 50 interview questions to consider—and the insight you can expect to receive from each one. You may choose to adapt some or all of them, depending on the role and your needs.

Insight: How does the candidate see themselves?

Start the interview process with open-ended questions that allow candidates to put their best foot forward and give you a sense of how they perceive themselves in the workplace. Asking for specific examples will ensure they can back up their strengths with action.

1. What qualities make you a good employee?

2. What was your greatest contribution in your previous job(s)?

3. What are your main strengths? Describe how they helped you in a specific work situation.

Insight: What general attributes and work experience do they offer?

These questions offer a window into how a candidate works, the kind of responsibilities they’ve been trusted with and how they’ve been perceived by employers.

4. Describe your work style.

5. What were your most important responsibilities in past jobs?

6. How do you think your previous employers would describe you as an employee? What was the feedback you typically received during evaluations?

Insight: Why is the candidate looking for a new job?

Understanding what motivated the candidate to apply for your job allows you to gauge how serious and available they are for the role.

“It’s helpful to know whether the person is out of work and actively seeking a new role at a number of companies—or are they currently employed and were attracted to your advertised position specifically?” says Carriero.

7. What led you to apply for this position?

8. Why are you leaving your current job?

Insight: How does the candidate work with others on the job?

Depending on the type of role, it may be important to know how a candidate feels about working with others and the kind of experience they have with it. These questions will help you determine whether they would be a good fit for working alone or on a team.

9. Do you prefer to work on a team or alone? Why?

10. Can you give me an example of a time when you collaborated with others in the workplace?

Insight: What is the candidate’s academic experience and how did it shape them as a professional?

For candidates with plenty of on-the-job experience to draw from, these questions may not be necessary. However, if you’re hiring for a junior role or you’ve made the decision to bring on board someone straight out of school and help develop them on the job, these questions may reveal a lot about their motivation, work ethic and professional interests.

Carriero says these questions also serve to validate the resume they’ve submitted, which is an important screening tool.

11. Tell us about your academic background and which institutions you attended.

12. Why did you decide to specialize in this field?

13. How would you describe yourself as a student?

14. During the course of your studies, which were your favourite subjects? Which did you like the least?

Insight: How interested is the candidate in your company?

While it’s not mandatory for a candidate to do extensive research about the company that is interviewing them, when they do, it’s a sign that they are interested and proactive.

Carriero says these questions also help you establish how well the candidate understands the role and what might be expected of them. If they’re off base, it may be because they didn’t read the job description carefully—or the job description didn’t adequately communicate the role and your company.

“You can help them deepen their knowledge of your company and the position and determine whether it is a good fit for you and for them,” she says.

15. What do you know about my company’s mission, products and services?

16. Who are our competitors and what makes us different from them?

17. What makes you want to work here?

18. Why do you think this role is important for our company?

19. What do you think your biggest challenge would be in this position?

20. How would you use your previous experience in this position?

21. What are your salary expectations?

Insight: How does the candidate derive satisfaction from work?

Discovering the type of work that a candidate finds meaning in will help you assess fit. You want someone who will derive satisfaction in the type of work and culture you have to offer.

22. Tell me about your proudest work achievement.

23. What previous job gave you the most satisfaction and why?

24. What are the working conditions you like best and least (e.g. working hours, physical environment, work group)?

Insight: How does the candidate manage challenges?

“For any position, you want to assess whether the candidate has strong problem-solving abilities—or are they someone who simply complains about hurdles?” says Carreiro.

Impressive responses will include ones that take responsibility for some part of the challenges and a positive and concerted effort to resolve any issues.

25. What dissatisfactions did you have to deal with in your previous jobs?

26. How did you try to correct these situations?

27. What was the greatest challenge in your previous job(s)?

28. How did you get through that challenge?

29. Tell me about a time you overcame a major obstacle that could have prevented you from completing a project.

30. Give an example of a major decision(s) you’ve made in your current job.

31. Describe a time when you had to think on your feet.

Insight: How does the candidate take feedback and manage conflict, failure and the inevitable stresses of the job?

No job is without some kind of pressure. You want to ensure that the candidate is prepared for problems and has a healthy approach to managing stress and staying on top of their tasks.

32. Can you describe a time when you were criticized for your work and how you dealt with that?

33. What have you learned from any failures on the job?

34. How do you handle stress or tight deadlines?

35. How do you manage your time and stay organized on the job?

Insight: What are the candidate’s long-term career goals?

Hiring is time-consuming and expensive. You want to be sure you’re bringing on someone who has the potential to stay for the long run. Find out what their aspirations are and whether your business can help them fulfill them.

36. What are your long-term career goals?

37. What are you looking for in terms of career development?

38. What skills or knowledge would make you better at your current role?

Insight: Is the candidate curious and committed to learning?

If it’s important to you that you hire someone who is always learning, be sure to ask these questions that will give a feel for their attitude toward growth.

39. What’s the most important skill you’ve learned recently?

40. What would you say you would like to improve upon in yourself when it comes to work?

Insight: What is the candidate’s personality like?

A workplace is more than just a place to get work done. It’s helpful to find out a little about the personality of the person you’re considering hiring and what kind of personal values they have.

41. Can you share something about yourself that isn’t on your resume?

42. What activities or leisure pursuits do you enjoy?

43. What is most important to you outside of work?

Insight: How does the candidate prefer to be led and nurtured as an employee?

Every company has its own management style and it’s critical to ensure that it’s aligned with the needs of prospective employees.

44. Tell us about a manager you liked the most. Why?

45. What do you expect in a manager?

Insight: What is the candidate’s attitude toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)?

“In today’s workplace it is more important than ever to assess a candidate’s understanding and values towards DEI. If they can’t answer these questions, it’s because they’ve never stopped to think about it, which offers its own kind of insight,” says Carreiro.

“However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t a good candidate. If they are open to growth and learning, this is something that can be developed within the workplace.”

46. What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you, and why do you think it’s important?

47. How would you react if you heard a co-worker say something racist, homophobic, ageist, ableist sexist, or equally inappropriate?

48. How do you seek to understand the perspective of a co-worker whose background is different from yours?

Insight: Do their skills match the demands of the position? How would the candidate perform in specific situations?

No interview process is complete without giving the candidate a chance to show you how they would handle job-related challenges. These questions are simply examples of the type of questions you might ask that would reveal their approach to the position you’re filling. You will want to tailor your questions to the role and the workplace.

49. Production is delayed because a machine broke down. A very important order for a major client could be delayed. The employees feel under constant pressure and want to meet with you, and so do the managers, because implementing the ISO model is giving them extra work, which is causing discontent. What would you do?

50. You notice tension among some of your colleagues when they collaborate. It can be difficult to make progress on projects when they’re involved. What do you do?

Interviewing candidates is an inexact science. You may be guided by your gut as much as by the answers that applicants offer. However, asking each candidate the same questions will allow you to make fair comparisons and lead you in the direction that feels right for your company.

Next step

Prepare to interview candidates more effectively with this free tool: Interview template

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