The Must-Ask Interview Questions Across All Industries
Everyone has walked away from at least one interview in their lives, thinking, “that didn’t go as planned.”
Interviews tend to be formal, which means that the message candidates want to send can get lost with highly structured question-and-answer formats.
Asking questions about skills and qualifications alone doesn’t guarantee a good employee performance. What can you ask to reveal more than what you already found on their resume?
Find out with the Career Path Group.
What do you know about our company and the role?
The candidate needs to have researched your company a fair amount, of course. They don’t need to know your internal processes—how could they?—but understanding exactly what your company does is critical.
Their knowledge of the role should include tasks, what counts as measurable value to your organization, and a general idea of how the role in question interacts with the rest of the team or company.
Most of these details should be in the job description itself, but if not, then make sure the candidate inquires about these things in greater detail during the interview.
Remember to leave room for the candidate to do ask these questions, though.
What do you want to accomplish next?
It’s uncouth to ask people if they’re interested in a job for more money, yet it’s one of the reasons we build our careers. Questions about salary expectations are already covered in the screening process anyway, so don’t ask about financial expectations up-front.
Instead, ask candidates what they want to accomplish to get a sense of how they see their own career paths aligning with your company and the role you’re offering.
People might want to take on the role to get experience in any number of areas:
● Technical skills in the field
● Experience in a different kind of business environment
Any and all of these answers can be correct, but put some forethought into which of them would represent the best alignment with your vision for the candidate.
Do you want whoever takes this role to become a specialist who can train one or two junior employees, or do you want someone who can lead a larger team to accomplish broader strategic goals?
How do you balance life and work when timing is tight?
Don’t put up with pre-baked answers about being married to a job. Everyone needs time to rest and recharge, especially in fields that already demand creativity or long hours (such as legal counsel).
Have the candidate walk you through a past scenario when they were at the end of the rope, but still had to push through for a deadline or project deliverable anyway.
Pay close attention to how that person balances his or her needs with those of the boss and other teammates. Did he or she put off deliverables because it was easy, or did they find a way to defer periods of rest for the good of the team?
How would you like to grow in this role?
Asking people why they’ve left—or want to leave—a job isn’t going to generate the answers or insights that you want.
Aside from moving across state lines, people usually leave their positions for negative reasons beyond their control:
● The workplace could be toxic
● The leader or supervisor might not respect their personal time
● The company could be underpaying the candidate
All of these are valid reasons to move on from a role. Candidates who respect themselves don’t put up with those conditions any longer than is financially necessary, so it shouldn’t surprise interviewers that those reasons could be behind the transition.
Asking about reasons for departure only generates a response about “it being time to move on” because the candidate has “learned everything they can.” Professional candidates won’t talk poorly of a past employer anyway, which leaves them few answers.
Instead, ask them how they’d like to grow in this new role. What new opportunities (perceived or known) attracts them to the role, and how would they make it uniquely “theirs?”
Can you describe your favourite project?
Don’t ask candidates “about a time they resolved a conflict.” You’ll just get a story about how two people became angry because they didn’t see each other’s perspectives, but then lived happily ever after once the candidate empathized with the other person to see their side of the situation.
Instead, ask the candidate about their favourite project and what made it challenging. You’ll see how his or her mind works in terms of planning, executing, and solving project roadblocks—which often involve a human element in the form of permissions, creative contributions, or client management.
How much guidance or oversight is ideal for you?
The role in your posting might be heavily supervised or left to produce results independently, but you won’t know how the candidate will fill the role until you hear it from them.
Ask the candidate plainly and openly about how they work. Even if the candidate’s answer wasn’t what you had in mind for the role, you can continue the discussion to explore how the two of you might create a unique reporting system or workflow.
You can also frame the question as “have you ever worked in an environment without much structure?” This question is important for agencies, IT positions, and in roles involving the law or general counsel.
Don’t pass on a good candidate right away just because they work more or less independently than you expected.
What are the first three things you would do in this role?
Reserve this question for second or third-round interviews. It would be unfair to ask a candidate about deep plans for the role before they’ve had time to learn the details or think about what they’ve learned.
However, serious candidates at middle or high-level positions need to have some kind of idea about how they’ll hit the ground running. It doesn’t need to take a specific set of tasks that boil down to the hour, but it might look like this:
● Familiarize myself with all client portfolios or projects in the first three days
● Learn core processes for the role by day 5
● Create an action plan to solve a specific pain point you’ve discussed for the supervisor’s review
● Analyze the current state of a project or team and identify where new workflows need to be implemented or restructuring needs to happen
Getting specific answers from the candidate shows that he or she is thinking about the role from a point of competence and or enthusiasm. That’s the kind of person you want to hire.
Pose these questions to every candidate you meet, and take detailed notes on their responses. You’ll learn far more about their work ethic and views on teamwork than by asking about conflict resolution directly.