28 Winning Interview Questions to Ask Candidates In 2021

Follow these simple interview questions in its chronological order and you’ll identify the right candidate. Hiring a bad employee can create a very toxic environment. Take a look at our article “Red Flags On A Resume.” Okay, let’s get it right the first time!

Make or Break Interview Questions

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1. So, Tell Me About Yourself.

By asking this question, you can figure out how the candidate’s communication skills are like and how they define themselves.

This question is asked to see if the candidate will stay on topic or go on tangents. Staying on topic would mean the candidate what describe what experience they bring to the team. Candidates often make mistakes going off tangents discussing personal problems that may resonate in the workplace.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have personal problems. By asking this question, you can gauge how professional the candidate is and what it will be like to work with him or her and the future.

2.  What’s Your Working Style?

If you were satisfied with the candidate’s response to the above question, then ask follow-up questions to learn more about the candidate. In many cases, you will have follow up questions that will significantly help you make the final decision.

3. Why Did You Leave Your Last Position?

Interview Questions Why did you leave your last job
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By asking this question, you will have insight to the future of what the candidate will do in your company as well.

Some reasons are completely understandable and out of the candidate’s control. However, majority of answers should be put in comparison with your company. They may leave your company for the same reason they state.

4.  Ask Follow-up Questions.

Always ask follow-up questions to the candidate’s answers. It will reveal more insight so you can make a decision on choosing the candidate.

5. Do You Have Any Concerns With a Background Check?

Here’s where you will see candidates either very confident (because they have nothing to hide) or see signs of hesitation. Honest candidates will let you know if there is something in their background, own up to it, and show their commitment to your company if they’re given an opportunity.

From our experience, the honest candidates that do have blemishes perform tremendously well because a “chance” to them is invaluable. They value this opportunity and they will be 100% committed in the long-term.

However, if your organization has a strict policy against any blemishes on a background, then at this point you can conclude the interview and be honest with the candidate.

A credible background check should include the following:

  • Criminal Background, including nationwide criminal convictions
  • Social security number validation/verification
  • National Terrorist Watchlist and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
  • Credit History, including bankruptcy filings
  • Address history

“Getting to Know” Interview Questions

If the candidate makes it through the make-or-break section, now it’s time to get to know the candidates. These questions are designed to understand who the candidate is and how well they will fit your team.

6. What Interests You The Most About This Position?

Skill sets - Interview questions 2
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Jokes aside, here is the perfect opportunity to understand why the candidate applied for this position. Did they do their homework and research your company? Do they have the skill-set and feel very confident about it?

Bottom line, confidence sells. If they did their research about your company and they’re very confident in the job requirements, they may be a good fit for the position.

7. What Skill-Sets Do You Offer Over Other Candidates?

Interview Questions Skills You Have - Dog
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By having them compare themselves to other candidates, they will display the level of their experience.

8. What Is Your Ideal Job and Environment? What Do You Value in Your Job?

As the candidate starts to describe his or her ideal environment, you can start to see if the puzzle pieces fit for your team.

Interview Question - Why Should We Hire You
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The number one value factor is usually money, but ask what are some other values they have that are important to them in this position. This way, you can see if the candidate’s values align with you and the rest of the team.

9. What Are You Trying To Avoid In Your Next Job?

The answer can be surprisingly revealing to what upsets the candidate in his or her job. Additionally, how well  does he or she manage difficult situations.

A great candidate will respond by listing a few concerns while at the same time providing you examples of how they professionally deal with them.

10. What’s The Ideal Manager Like?

Worlds best boss Michael Scott
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Here, you have a chance to receive feedback on what an ideal manager is to them. At the same time, you can gauge if the expectations are realistic.

There’s a well-known statement that says, “People leave managers, not companies”.  If you believe in that, this is a great opportunity to understand if the candidate will fit well with you if you are their manager.

11. What Are You Most Proud Of?

By understanding this response, you will get an idea of what is important to them.

Additionally, you can use this information to align their skills to a particular project that they would be successful in. The reason they would be successful in a particular project is because of their motivation for success which in turn makes them very proud.

12. Tell Me About Your Working Style?

Following up to the previous question, this will give you a preview of how effective the candidate will be both in their role and how well they will fit into the team.

“Stress Test” Interview Questions

If the candidate has made it this far, you are seriously thinking about potentially hiring them. At this point, it’s okay to test the candidate out with a few stressful questions. These questions give you an insight on how the candidate would handle difficult situations.

13. Tell Me About a Situation Where You Disagreed With Your Boss and How Did You Handle It?

No doubt, you’ve had disagreements with your subordinates, peers, and managers. How did you address those disagreements?

By asking the candidate to provide you examples, you can see if it aligns with your expectations of professionalism when they disagree with you. How do they handle it and convey their disagreement to you in a professional manner?

14. Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake.

Interview questions made a mistake
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Everyone makes mistakes, it’s what they do to resolve it and making sure it doesn’t happen again that defines them.

By asking this question, you will understand how they deal with the mistake, resolve the issue, and how they prevent it from happening again.

15. What Were Some Positive and Negative Experiences With Your Previous Employer?

With this question, you want to hear more positives than negatives. A candidate who discusses more negatives will eventually have the same outlook in your company as well.

A professional candidate remains reserved about speaking negatively on previous experiences. They bring out the best in their experiences with previous employers.

16. In Past Performance Reviews, What Are Some Areas Your Manager Felt You Could Improve On?

Interview Questions - Past Performance Reviews

This is a great way to measure the quality of the candidate based on a previous manager. In performance reviews, managers provide genuine constructive criticism on how the employee can improve. When the candidate shares those constructive criticisms with you, you will be aware of some areas of improvements.

Additionally, a great candidate will discuss the resulting improvement plans and how they accomplished those improvements.

17. How Do You Prioritize?

Employees are often bombarded with multiple tasks at once.  By asking this question, you can see how the candidate well rank each task.

Does the candidate handle each task in the order they come in or do they rank the tasks based on importance?

Give the candidate an example of two tasks. Which task what they work on first and why?

18. If a Coworker Is Not Doing Their Fair Share Of The Work, How Do You Address It?

Interview Questions Coworker Is Not Doing Their Fair Share Of The Work
Credit: NBC and Casey S

This tests out the candidate’s ability to handle conflict in the workplace. Would they approach the co-worker in a professional manner and discuss it? Would they go directly to the manager?

The ideal candidate would professionally and genuinely bring it up with a co-worker. Perhaps the co-worker doesn’t fully understand the task. The ideal candidate shows how they professionally mitigate problems. The last resort is to bring it up with the manager.

19. What Would You Do If There Is Office Gossip? Even If It Was A Fact and You Agreed With It?

Interview Questions Office Gossip
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The key here is even if the gossip was factual and the candidate agreed with it. In a professional setting, there should be no place for gossip. That’s the ideal setting but unfortunately there is gossip in many workplaces.

By hiring candidates who have a strong ethical stand against gossip, companies can better their work environment and overall reputation.

20. Tell Me About a Difficult Situation and What You Did to Solve It.

Interview Question - Quick Answer
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Everyone has had a difficult situation, ask the candidate to elaborate on theirs and what was the solution.  How professional is the candidate through the process? Does the candidate handle stress well? How do they solve the problem?

“If Hired” Interview Questions

21. How Do You Feel About SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) And Documentation?

According to Myers-Briggs, there are approximately 16 personality types. Some may find SOPs extremely important while others find them irrelevant to their success.

With this question you can gauge the personality type of the candidate and how well they will perform within your department.

22. What Are Your Career Goals? Short-Term and Long-Term?

Interview Questions Career Goals Short-Term and Long-Term
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Is this a candidate you see growing with your company? Are their career goals aligned with what this position has to offer? Is the candidate committed to your company or looking to job hop?

23.  What Would You Do To Fit In With a New Team?

Fitting In With A New Team

What are the social skills that the candidate  would utilize to fit in with the team? A great candidate would say they would introduce themselves to each member and learn a little about them individually.

24. If Hired, How Long Do You Plan On Staying In This Role?

A bold question but an effective one that gets to the point. The candidate will either show their commitment to the company or reveal they don’t plan on staying long.

“Final” Interview Questions

25. Why Should We Hire You?

This is the sales pitch on how well the candidate articulates why they should be hired. You should expect them to summarize their technical skill sets and emphasize some of their proud moments in their resume.

26. Do You Have Any Disabilities We Should Be Aware Of In Order To Accommodate You?

Make sure you are aware of any disabilities the candidate may have. It’s important to ensure your company has accommodations for any disabilities mentioned by the candidate.

27. Do you Have Any Concerns About This Position That We Should Be Aware Of?

By asking this open-ended question, you allowed the candidate to reveal potential challenges that you did not catch during the other questions.

 A great candidate will answer this question by  showing his concerns on how to be successful in this position.

28. What Are Some Interview Questions You Have For Us?

This is not just courtesy, but also provides you insight on what their objectives are in this position.

A great candidate will ask follow-up questions related to the success of the position, such as:

  • What does a successful candidate look like in this position?
  • What type of candidate are you trying to avoid in this position?
  • If selected, what are the top five things you would want me to work on within the first 30 days?

Some red flag questions would be if the candidate asks about how soon they would expect to be promoted to the next level. Another red flag would be if they asked you to explain the details to the benefits package before they are made an offer.

In general, a great candidate asks follow-up questions showing genuine concern on how they can be successful in this position.

Figuring out the optimal interview questions to save time and frustration can at times be challenging. When you put out a job for candidates to apply, you’ll find hundreds of submissions. How do you sort through all the resumes and find the best candidates?

These are tried and proven essential interview questions any organization can implement to save time. If you need assistance with filtering through hundreds of candidates and finding the ideal candidate, contact us so we can help.