Over the years, I have hired many people. And whether hiring a seasoned professional or entry-level staff, the most important part of the hiring process is the interview. To conduct a good interview, preparation is the key. Rather than improvising interview questions on the fly, I prefer to prepare a set of effective interview questions that I ask each candidate I am interviewing for a particular role.
Most of the time, prior to sitting down and interviewing a job candidate, you will have already screened the candidate for the general skills required for the job. The purpose of the interview is to dig deeper and answer three basic questions: “Do they have the specific skills and/or background I’m looking for?” “How do they handle different situations?” “How well can you get along with them as their manager?” The best way to get answers to those questions is by having specific effective interview questions.
I have compiled the following list of effective interview questions over the years. Obviously, I don’t ask every one of these question, but I try to take one or two from each section. Remember, the point of the interview is to get a feel for the person to determine if they can do the job. Try to imagine what it will be like to work with that person. Making a bad hiring decision is expensive and time consuming. You’re better off hiring slowly and making the right choice than hiring the wrong person too quickly.
Effective Interview Questions
- What made you apply for this position?
- How did you hear about this job opening?
- Briefly, would you summarize your work history & education for me?
- What special aspects of your work experience have prepared you for this job?
- Can you describe for me one or two of your most important accomplishments?
- How much supervision have you typically received in your previous job?
- Describe for me one or two of the biggest disappointments in your work history?
- Why are you leaving your present job? (or, Why did you leave your last job?)
- What is important to you in a company? What things do you look for in an organization?
- Everyone has strengths & weaknesses as workers. What are your strong points for this job?
- What would you say are areas needing improvement?
- How did your supervisor on your most recent job evaluate your job performance? What were some of the good points & bad points of that rating?
- When you have been told, or discovered for yourself, a problem in your job performance, what have you typically done? Can you give me an example?
- Do you prefer working alone or in groups?
- What kind of people do you find it most difficult to work with? Why?
- Starting with your last job, tell me about any of your achievements that were recognized by your superiors.
- Can you give me an example of your ability to manage or supervise others?
- What are some things you would like to avoid in a job? Why?
- In your previous job what kind of pressures did you encounter?
- What would you say is the most important thing you are looking for in a job?
- What are some of the things on your job you feel you have done particularly well or in which you have achieved the greatest success? Why do you feel this way?
- What were some of the things about your last job that you found most difficult to do?
- What are some of the problems you encounter in doing your job? Which one frustrates you the most? What do you usually do about it?
- What are some things you particularly liked about your last job?
- Do you consider your progress on the job representative of your ability? Why?
- How do you feel about the way you and others in the department were managed by your supervisor?
- If I were to ask your present (most recent) employer about your ability as a ____________________, what would he/she say?
- What special aspects of your education or training have prepared you for this job?
- What courses in school have been of most help in doing your job?
- What is your long-term employment or career objective?
- What kind of job do you see yourself holding five years from now?
- What do you feel you need to develop in terms of skill and knowledge in order to be ready for that opportunity?
- Why might you be successful in such a job?
- How does this job fit in with your overall career goals?
- Who or what in your life would you say influenced you most with your career objectives?
- Can you pinpoint any specific things in your past experience that affected your present career objectives?
- What would you most like to accomplish if you had this job?
- What might make you leave this job?
- What kind of things do you feel most confident in doing?
- Can you describe for me a difficult obstacle you have had to overcome? How did you handle it? How do you feel this experience affected your personality or ability?
- How would you describe yourself as a person?
- What do you think are the most important characteristics and abilities a person must possess to become a successful ( )? How do you rate yourself in these areas?
- Do you consider yourself a self-starter? If so, explain why (and give examples).
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievements to date? Why?
- What things give you the greatest satisfaction at work?
- What things frustrate you the most? How do you usually cope with them?
- In your work experience, what have you done that you consider truly creative?
- Can you think of a problem you have encountered when the old solutions didn’t work and when you came up with new solutions?
- Of your creative accomplishments big or small, at work or home, what gave you the most satisfaction?
- What kind of problems have people recently called on you to solve? Tell me what you have devised.
- Do you consider yourself to be thoughtful, analytical or do you usually make up your mind fast? Give an example. (Watch time taken to respond)
- What was your most difficult decision in the last six months? What made it difficult?
- The last time you did not know what decision to make, what did you do?
- How do you go about making an important decision affecting your career?
- What was the last major problem that you were confronted with? What action did you take on it?
RANGE OF INTERESTS
- What organizations do you belong to?
- Tell me specifically what you do in the civic activities in which you participate. (Leading questions in selected areas. i.e. sports, economics, current events, finance.)
- How do you keep up with what’s going on in your company / your industry/ your profession?
- What is your professional goal?
- Can you give me examples of experience on the job that you felt were satisfying?
- Do you have a long and short-term plan for your department? Is it realistic?
- Did you achieve it last year?
- Describe how you determine what constitutes top priorities in the performance of your job.
- What are your standards of success in your job?
- In your position, how would you define doing a good job? On what basis was your definition determined?
- When judging the performance of your subordinate, what factors or characteristics are most important to you?
- In your present job, what approach do you take to get your people together to establish a common approach to a problem?
- What approach do you take in getting your people to accept your ideas or department goals?
- What specifically do you do to set an example for your employees?
- How frequently do you meet with your immediate subordinates as a group?
- What sort of leader do your people feel you are? Are you satisfied?
- How do you get people who do not want to work together to establish a common approach to a problem?
- If you do not have much time & they hold seriously differing views, what would be your approach?
- How would you describe your basic leadership style? Give specific examples of how you practice this?
- Do you feel you work more effectively on a one to one basis or in a group situation?
- Have you ever led a task force or committee or any group who doesn’t report to you, but from whom you have to get work? How did you do it? What were the satisfactions & disappointments? How would you handle the job differently?
ORAL PRESENTATION SKILLS
- Have you ever done any public or group speaking? Recently? Why? How did it go?
- Have you made any individual presentations recently? How did you prepare?
WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS
- Would you rather write a report or give a verbal report? Why?
- What kind of writing have you done? For a group? For an individual?
- What is the extent of your participation in major reports that have to be written?
- What was the most important idea or suggestion you received recently from your employees? What happened as a result?
- What do you think about the continuous changes in company operating policies & procedures?
- How effective has your company been in adapting its policies to fit a changing environment?
- What was the most significant change made in your company in the last six months which directly affected you, & how successfully do you think you implemented this change?
- Do you feel pressure in your job? Tell me about it.
- What has been the highest pressure situation you have been under in recent years? How did you cope with it?
STABILITY & MATURITY
- Describe your most significant success & failure in the last two years.
- What do you like to do best?
- What do you like to do least?
- What in your last review did your supervisor suggest needed improvement?
- What have you done about it?
INTEREST IN SELF DEVELOPMENT
- What has been the most important person or event in your own self-development?
- How much of your education did you earn?
- What kind of books & other publications do you read?
- Have you taken a management development course?
- How are you helping your subordinates develop themselves?
Have you had experience interviewing candidates for hire? Do you have any suggestions or additional effective interview questions for others just developing this skill?
Thx for this more than complete list.
When interviewing, I usually use a classic one: what are your 3 strong points and your 3 attention points. It is a “golden oldie” and teaches me if they prepared or not. I then use their answers to ask for specify examples of these skills/points.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
I do the same. I like to get candidates talking about what they have done and how they accomplished it. In today’s corporate world, you are usually operating in a matrix environment on teams with many different levels.
You need to be able to sell yourself and your ideas.View Comment
Dr. J @ MedSchoolFinancial says
It also important to keep in mind, a lot of interviews now ask behavioral type questions to learn more about how one reacts to various situations. Preparation is also a necessary part of the process.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
We did the same in my last company.
And not only that, we also conducted group interviews putting 5 or 6 candidates all together in a room and having them answer questions in front of each other.
In that environment, you can pretty quickly assess when people are being truthful. It’s hard to hide.View Comment
thanks for the nice, interesting list.
kind regards,View Comment
Financial Slacker says
After I wrote this, I realized that not only could you use the list to prepare as an interviewer, but also as an interviewee.
Thinking through how you would answer these questions would be pretty good preparation for an interview.View Comment
Julie @ Millennial Boss says
You’ve put together a great list of questions! I’ve personally hired 15 people and have been on the hiring committee for about 20 positions in the last few years. I typically ask “Can you give me an example of when you took initiative to do something that needed to be done but you were not asked to do it?” I also ask recent graduates a brain teaser. I’m not expecting the right answer, I just want to see that they think the problems through logically, stay collected under pressure, and can provide a polished response since that was important for the role. Anyone who “gives up” right away without trying doesn’t make the cut.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
That’s a great idea wih the brain teaser. It replicates what they may experience in the job. You are always getting asked to solve problems where you may not have any idea how to proceed.
Staying calm and maintaning your composure says much about a candidate.View Comment