12 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

Nearly 75% of employers admit they’ve hired the wrong person for a job. The best way to avoid this mistake is a strong, consistent interview process. By asking strategic interview questions, you are more likely to hire the right person for the job.

But how do you determine which strategic interview questions to ask candidates? After all, the best interview questions depend on the job opening, the company, the industry, and even the hiring manager.

For example, a hiring manager looking for a candidate to fill an entry-level position in one industry will have a different approach to an interview than a hiring manager looking for a candidate to fill a senior-executive role in another.

No matter the case, hiring managers want to ask the best questions to get the best answers, which will help them determine whether the candidate is qualified for the position they have open.

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It can be intimidating preparing for an interview. Have you looked at the candidate’s resume to prepare a list of questions? Are you curious about any of the experiences detailed on their resume? What do you know about the candidate that you can draw on for good interview questions?

As the interviewer, you have to think about several things, including the reasons behind your questions. Are you trying to understand more about their personality? Are you looking to learn more about their job experiences?

All of these factors will determine the most strategic interview questions to ask candidates for your specific job opening. However, if you need a place to start, this article will help. We’ve put together a list of the best interview questions to ask candidates in 2023, plus an explanation of why each question will help you make the most effective hiring decision.

How to Prepare

Interviews are difficult because you only have a short window of time to get an accurate idea of who someone is and how they measure up to other candidates. You want to know about their:

  • Personality
  • Experience
  • Culture fit
  • Future performance

Getting all that information in 30 minutes or an hour is not easy. Getting all that information in a short window and feeling good about it is even harder.

Remember: a job candidate has already made a decent assumption about the interview questions you will ask. They have already prepared their answers for the most common interview questions.

It might be in your best interest to have a few unique questions to ask when interviewing someone. That way, you get more off-the-cuff answers, rather than the same rehearsed lines they may be using for multiple interviews.

That said, the most strategic interview questions to ask candidates aren’t trick questions. You want them to answer candidly, or even need time to think before they respond. You don’t want them to feel flustered or uncomfortable.

Related: When Do I Bring Someone Back for Another Interview?

How to Pick the Best Interview Questions to Ask

In order to determine what you want or need to ask as an interviewer and employer, you first need to ask yourself some questions.

  • What is the role you are trying to fill? Think about the hard skills and soft skills needed for this job.
  • What would you like to see in the candidate you are about to interview? Consider details not covered by their resume.
  • What type of personality would succeed in this role? Reflect on your company culture. Who can add to it?

Once you know the answer to these questions, you’ll be on your way to selecting the best interview questions specific to your particular job opening. You’ll want to make sure you ask you ask at least a couple of the same general questions to each candidate to help reduce bias in the interview process.

Next, check out the candidate’s resume or any other information they’ve provided you with so far and build some recruitment questions off that. Were they part of anything unique? Do they have a particular set of skills that you’re interested in knowing more about? With these candidate details in mind, you can come up with a few good interview questions specific to that particular candidate.

Finally, you want to ask some general interview questions that will help you assess any candidate, for any role. In order to receive good answers, you’ve got to ask good questions.

12 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Here is a list of some of the best strategic interview questions to ask candidates.

1. What is something about you that isn’t on your resume?

A resume can give you valuable information about a candidate’s experience and education, but it doesn’t provide a full picture of their qualifications. Asking candidates to share something that isn’t on their resume allows them to showcase key details that they weren’t able to include on their initial application. Because this question is open-ended, the candidate can decide on the most relevant, impactful information to share.

For example, a candidate may share context about how a certain project helped them develop their skills. They may also share details about their soft skills and personality traits that would help them succeed. Their answer lets you learn important highlights of their career and shows you how they view their own qualifications.

2. What is a difficult work situation you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

This behavioral question serves several purposes. It’s important to know how a potential employee handles adversity. In many cases, it’s difficult situations that help people grow into professionals.

In the best-case scenario, the job candidate will talk about the soft skills they learned from this situation.

3. What are your strengths?

While this is a classic interview question, it’s still a great one. Understanding someone’s strengths, especially those that they self-identify, is important when considering whether they are the right fit for the company and the role.

Knowing someone’s strengths is just as important as knowing their weaknesses. By understanding the job candidate’s strengths, you can see how those transferable skills align with the job responsibilities.

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4. What are your weaknesses?

This is a good follow-up question to the former. If you are going to ask a job candidate about their strengths, you should also ask them about their weaknesses.

You should be looking for a job candidate to answer this by detailing what they believe to be their weaknesses, while following up each weakness in a way they have improved it, are working on it, have adapted to it, or allowed it to become a strength.

By hearing an answer like that, you will be able to tell whether the candidate is self-aware, adaptable, and able to take constructive criticism.

5. What are your goals for self-improvement over the next year?

Their answer will reveal their ability to set goals as well as their interest in professional development. Do they want to challenge themselves in their career, or are they complacent with their current level? Are they happy with their current industry, or are they looking to move into a different field?

Maybe this person is interested in hitting a certain target, getting to a new level of leadership, or picking up a new skill. It’s important to know their aspirations to know if they will be a good culture fit. Do their future goals will align with your company’s? If so, this candidate will more likely be interested in staying with your company long-term.

6. How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?

By asking candidates about how their co-workers perceive them, you can learn about both their professional relationships and their self-awareness. This question requires the candidate to assess their interactions with co-workers and identify their most prominent personality traits. Candidates may mention examples of experiences they had with their colleagues to support their answer.

Based on their response, you can quickly get a general sense of their character and how they portray themselves to others. You can compare their response to the traits you’re looking for in a candidate.

RELATED: Don’t Make These Common Interview Mistakes (As A Manager)

7. Tell Me About a Time When You Managed Multiple Priorities. How Did You Determine Their Importance?

This question helps you learn about how candidates prioritize their responsibilities and manage their time. By asking how candidates manage these responsibilities, you learn how they deal with multiple projects at once.

This also helps you learn about how they make hard choices when under pressure, and you can gain valuable insight into their decision-making process. Their answer can illuminate what they consider to be most important at work and demonstrate how they follow through on their choices.

For example, a candidate may share that they pushed a deadline for a flexible project to help expedite one with more rigid requirements. Or they may explain that they brought in additional resources from their team to avoid pushing a deadline.

8. What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on during your career

If you want to know more about the candidate’s work experience, plus what they feel passionate about, this is a strong interview question to ask.

By knowing what they do like to work on, you will gauge how much they will enjoy the job duties. When an employee likes their work, they’re more engaged. More engaged employees are more productive!

Plus, if the particular role has some flexibility or freedom, you can take this time to sell the candidate on the job. Let them know the successful candidate will have the option to set priorities and create projects.

9. What Leadership Style Are You Looking for in an Employer?

Part of finding the right fit for an organization is picking candidates who can thrive within your existing team. Some people are happier working with a laissez-faire manager, while others appreciate more hands-on structure and guidance. You want to find a candidate who will work well with their manager’s leadership style—and the overarching leadership style of the company.

You can supplement this question by asking them to describe their favorite manager or share an example of a leader they admire. This allows them to highlight the leadership traits that they value in the workplace.

10. What is your ideal company?

Does the job candidate value good company culture? What makes a “good” company culture? By asking this question, you will understand what the candidate is looking for, and if your workplace aligns with their wants.

In addition, this question gives you the opportunity to speak to the culture of your company. Share what perks and benefits are offered. Explain what the people are like. Give the candidate a better understanding of what your company is like.

It’s possible that your company culture won’t align with what the candidate wants. In that case, you will both understand why they are not a good fit.

11. How Does This Role Support Your Career Goals?

When hiring a new team member, you typically want to find a candidate who’s interested in staying long-term. You also want to get a sense of their career goals. Some people may simply be looking for the next step in their career, and other may have a general vision of their growth beyond their next role. Both situations are totally okay.

This question helps you determine the potential longevity of each candidate by highlighting how the open role fits in with their career goals. Candidates will have the opportunity to explain how the position will allow them to grow their skill set, gain experience in a specific area, or apply their formal education to a real-world environment. Some candidates may even identify a clear trajectory from the role they’re currently seeking to another leadership position.

All of this helps empower you to choose a candidate who’s truly dedicated to the role and has strong external motivation to succeed.

12. What Role Do You Typically Take on When Working With a Team?

Even the most independent positions often require some level of communication and collaboration. Asking about how a prospective candidate works in a team environment can give you valuable insights into their ability to collaborate with others. It can help you assess the candidate’s self-awareness when working with others and learn more about how they perceive themself in a group dynamic.

This question also gives you an idea about how their personality and work style fit in with the role.

Bonus: Do you have any questions for me?

Finally, you’ll want to end your interview with this question. Open the floor to anything the interviewee wants to ask!

Many times, they will ask about the day-to-day job, about the interviewer, or even about the growth opportunities within the company. They might throw you a curveball, so be prepared! If you can’t answer the question immediately, offer to follow up with the answer. (And make sure you actually do follow up).

Ideally they will have prepared multiple questions to ask, and they will use their remaining time with you to prioritize their most important questions. A strong candidate will want to gather as much information as they can during the interview.

While it’s usually a red flag if the candidate doesn’t have any questions at the end, don’t rule them out entirely. Did they ask a question earlier in the interview as a natural part of conversation? Do they look at their notes and say you already addressed their questions? Consider the entire interview when weighing a non-answer to this final question.

Use Strategic Interview Questions to Land the Best Candidate

Interviews are tough for everyone. Job candidates and hiring managers both need to prepare in advance and then present themselves in the best light. Candidates are often nervous about getting a good job, and hiring managers are often stressed about finding the right person for the job.

Decrease that stress with the right preparation. By using a list of strategic interview questions to ask candidates, you can feel more comfortable that the interview process will prove fruitful.

In summary, you want to decide on two sets of questions. The first set is unique to each candidate, based on their resume. The second set of interview questions should be asked of all candidates for better comparison.

If you need help screening candidates for interviews, Insight Global can help. Fill out a form below and we’ll contact you in as little as 10 minutes!

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