The Top 5 Questions to Ask a Candidate in a Job Interview

The Top 5 Questions to Ask a Candidate in a Job Interview

You’re planning for an upcoming interview. Maybe you’re new to the employment scene and need to know how to prepare, but the only available resources you can find are from the wrong perspective. That’s right, we’re talking about business owners getting ready to give an interview. 

If you’ve recently started a business or began your first position in a company’s human resources department, mastering the interview process is a skill you’re going to need. After all, you can’t grow as a business without effectively building a reliable team. If you don’t ask the right questions in an interview, you risk hiring someone who may not be the best fit, while missing out on a strong worker that would have benefited your brand.

If you’ve never been on the other side of an interview, check out these five questions that are sure to make this crucial process go smoothly.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This isn’t a question, but it’s a great way to start things off by creating an open dialogue between you and your potential employee. It’s open-ended, so it requires the interviewee to actually give it some thought rather than listing off a rehearsed response to the question we’ve heard for years, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”

You’re not purposefully trying to blindside them, but what they say about themselves matters. If they freeze up and start robotically listing off basic information you’ve already seen on their resume, this may indicate a lack of creativity and trouble with fast problem solving. On the other hand, this prompt could jumpstart a productive conversation between you and your interviewee, allowing you to really learn more about them.

2. What is a conflict you’ve faced at a previous job and how did you handle it?

This particular question has a tendency to catch some people off guard, which can be good and bad. Maybe it was unexpected because your interviewee has never had any kind of conflict at work . . . or wasn’t expecting to be reminded of a past situation they’re not particularly proud of. Whatever the case may be, this is a great question to ask because it’s likely to generate an authentic, candid answer. When hiring someone new, you want to know how well they play with others, regardless of the current size of your business. 

3. What is your leadership style?

This should be a freebee. Any candidate needs to have a good answer to this question so that you, their potential employer, can gauge their likeliness to succeed at your firm. Just like you don’t want to hire someone that seems lazy and unmotivated, you don’t want to end up with an employee who is entitled or overly bossy, either. Asking about a person’s leadership style can give you better insight concerning how well a candidate is going to fit into your work environment, as well as how they may handle future responsibilities. 

4. What is your greatest professional achievement?

This is another great question for better assessing someone’s professional character in the workplace. Even if your candidate is applying for an entry-level position, or is younger and doesn’t have much experience, there is bound to be something they’re proud of accomplishing in life. This should be an exciting question for them to answer because this is an opportunity for candidates to showcase themselves and their achievements. If an interviewee appears disengaged and lacks a strong answer to this question, it could show a lack of ambition – and no employer wants that. 

5. Do you have any questions for us?

A great way to conclude your interview, asking this question can confirm a few different qualities in a job candidate. If you’re wrapping up and they don’t have any questions for you, this could mean they didn’t do their research prior to the interview. You have to know what you’re talking about in order to ask insightful questions. Conversely, your candidate could be fully prepared for this line of inquisition, demonstrating they did their homework in preparation for the interview and are genuinely interested in learning more about your business. 

Whether you as an employer prefer following a more generic interview template, these five questions are great additions to your arsenal. Each point is designed to touch on a different aspect of a candidate’s personality and general work ethic, providing you with more in-depth information that you can then apply to your hiring process.

Editor’s note: Check out Sullivan Tankersley’s companion article, "What You Can’t Ask Candidates in an Interview."