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 creative position will have a different approach to an interview than a hiring manager looking for a candidate to fill a senior-executive financial position. 

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. 

It can be intimidating preparing for an interview, and there are so many things that go into knowing the best questions to ask. 

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 2022, 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. 

You are trying to understand a job candidate’s:

  • personality
  • experience
  • culture fit
  • future performance

And how they measure up to all other job candidates.

Getting all that information in just 30 minutes is not easy. 

Getting all that information in a 30-minute 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. 

How to Choose 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. 

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.  

So, 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?

Candidate resumes are essential to your hiring process. Before you even begin interviewing candidates, you first must narrow down the filed by sorting through resumes. Once you have decided who to interview, you then use their resume decide the best interview questions.

That said, a candidate’s resume is just a starting point. It doesn’t paint the full picture of a candidate.

Asking this question helps you learn more about a candidate’s personality. They can answer this question in so many ways.

Maybe they offer up a past job or internship that isn’t directly related to the role, but they explain how it helped them learn and grow.

Maybe they share a hobby, and you learn a baseline for how they speak and act when they’re passionate about a topic.

Regardless of how they answer, this strategic interview question can help you better understand the candidate.

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. 

Pay careful attention to the candidate’s response. Listen not just to their words, but to their tone of voice. Did they fluster when you asked the question? Did they respond in a defensive manner? 

Or did they discuss the many ways in which a difficult situation helped them grow into the person they are today?  

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. 

This can be a very telling question to ask when interviewing someone. Do they say that they don’t have any weaknesses? Do they lose confidence when answering this prompt?  

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 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?

This question will help you understand if the candidate considers themselves imperfect, yet willing to grow and improve. 

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?

This is another good interview question to ask the interviewee because it causes the candidate to consider a perspective other than their own. Their answer also reveals their level of self-awareness. 

In addition, this question will spark the candidate to address their personality and to share how they interacted with colleagues on their previous teams. 

If they describe themselves as the quiet one who sits back and takes notes during meetings, then they might be ideal for an administrative assistant role or an accounting role. However, if you’re hiring for a leadership position or a role in sales, this candidate might not be for you.

7. How do you respond to tight deadlines?

While many jobs involve deadlines, you especially need to ask this question if you’re hiring for a role that will frequently have important deadlines. 

If you get the feeling that the candidate frequently waits until the last minute to turn in their work, that may be a red flag you want to look out for.  

If they talk about a handful of times they missed deadlines, that would also be concerning. However, that’s not a deal-breaker if they can explain how they learned from those mistakes to meet all subsequent deadlines. 

Ideally, the candidate will not only have a proven track record of hitting deadlines, but they will also explain their process of time management.

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. How did you end up in your current role?

This is a great interview question for employers to ask candidates to understand how they arrived to their current work environment. The career path from Point A to Point B (or Point C or Point D) will illuminate their work ethic, their ambition, and possibly even their adaptability. 

Did they pursue new skills and experience, even outside of work, and then leverage those abilities to earn a promotion? That indicates a strong work ethic.

Was their previous position eliminated, so they pivoted to a new role? That indicates they’re adaptable.

This answer to this question will determine your level of confidence in the candidate’s abilities. Ideally their answer will explain what actions they took which led them to their current job.

You also want to assess their answer for honesty and self-awareness.

10. What is your ideal company culture?

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. Why do you want to work for this company?

All strategic interview questions will help you learn more about a candidate and whether they are a good fit for the role and the company. However, this is one of the very best interview questions to ask candidates. 

This question will show whether the candidate has done their research about the company and why they believe they align with the purpose or mission of the company. 

Most importantly, you will know if the candidate wants just any job, or if they are interested specifically in this job, at your company.

12. Do you have any questions for me?

Finally, you’ll want to end your interview with this question. 

By asking this, you open the floor to anything the interviewee has 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.

Conclusion

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.

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