12 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

Job interviews can be tough on both the job candidate and the interviewer.  

Of course, it depends on the job for which the candidate is applying, the company, the industry and even the hiring manager.  

No matter the case, hiring managers want to know the most strategic interview questions to ask candidates for any respective job opening. 

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 so far 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?  

There are many things to consider in preparation of interviews as well as strategies to get the answers you want (and need) to hear from the job candidate. 

This article will provide employers and job seekers with strategic interview questions to ask job candidates and how they can be used to make the most effective hiring decision. 

How to Prepare

Interviews are difficult because in the grand scheme of hiring and onboarding, you only have a short window of time to get an accurate idea of who someone is. 

Additionally, you are trying to understand their personality, how they will fit with other employees and how they will perform on your team.  

Getting all that information in a 30-minute window is not easy. 

Getting all that information in a 30-minute window and feeling good about it is even harder. 

You must remember that a job candidate has made a decent assumption of what you will ask and has likely prepared answers to each of them.  

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

In order to determine what you want or need to ask as an interviewer and employer, you need to spend time considering what the role is you are trying to fill, what you would like to see in the candidate you are about to interview, and what type of personality you’re seeking. 

So, consider the role for which you are hiring, what qualifies someone for that role and what your company values culturally. 

Once you know the answer to these questions, you’ll be on your way to selecting the best prompts to ask when interviewing someone. 

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 a part of anything unique? Do they have a particular set of skills that you’re interested in knowing more about or the depth of that experience? 

In order to receive good answers, you’ve got to have 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?

Your resume is an essential part of your job search. Not only is it a good exercise for you to detail your work experiences, but it’s also important for the interviewer to get a good first impression of you. 

While it helps you as the interviewer craft questions and get a good sense of who you’ll be interviewing, it still doesn’t paint the full picture.  

A resume will tell you a lot of what you want to hear, but it’s also in your best interest to ask this question so that you can learn a little more candidly about the person you’re interviewing. 

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

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

Be careful to listen to the candidate’s response. Did they fluster when you asked the question? Did they respond in a defensive manner? 

Or did they discuss the many ways in which it helped them grow into the professional they are today?  

In the best-case scenario, the job candidate will talk about the soft skills they learned from this situation, which you should look for in their response. 

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, if not more. 

By understanding the job candidate’s strengths, you can see how those transferable soft skills align with the job responsibilities or even what ways the job may help them grow. 

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 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 and can adapt, take constructive criticism and grow.  

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. 

Through their answer, you should be able to tell if the candidate is good at goal setting and thinking about areas of self-improvement. 

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 and how their future goals will align with your company’s. 

6. How would your coworkers describe you?

This is another good interview question to ask the interviewee because it may cause the candidate to think a little.  

Additionally, this question will spark the candidate to address their personality and how they interacted with those on their previous teams.  

Maybe the candidate will say they were the quiet one of the group and that says a lot for you when thinking about the role for which you’re hiring, especially if that role requires a lot of relationship building or is client-facing. 

Or, conversely, maybe the candidate describes themselves as an extrovert who is bubbly and outgoing and that works perfectly for a relationship-building, client-facing role. 

7. How do you respond to tight deadline times?

If you’re hiring for a role that will have series of deadlines, this is an important question to ask a potential employee. 

If you get the feeling that the candidate is a procrastinator or 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. 

But if they have a proven track record of hitting deadlines, you’ll probably be safe. 

8. What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on in your experience?

If you want to know more about the candidate’s experience, in addition to what they feel passionate about, this is a good interview question to ask the interviewee. 

By knowing what they do like to work on, you will get a gauge of how much they will enjoy the job duties.  

Also, you will gain a better understanding of what they don’t like or prefer to do as well. 

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 got in their current work environment. 

It will be telling to understand how the interviewee got to where they are currently, especially if they are in a leadership position or otherwise.  

This answer to this question will determine your level of confidence in the candidate’s abilities. 

Did they get into their current role by knowing someone? Or was it because they worked from the ground up? Did they get promoted once or more?  

10. What is your ideal company culture?

Does the person you are interviewing place a high value on good company culture? By asking this question, you will hopefully understand what the candidate is looking for and then identify how that aligns with your company. 

At the very least, it gives you as the interviewer an opportunity to speak to the culture of your company, any special perks or benefits and what the people are like so that the candidate will have a better understanding of what your company is like. 

If you find that your company’s culture doesn’t align with what the candidate wants, then it will be an easy way to weed out those who are not fit or simply not going to get the most out of an experience with your company. 

11. Why do you want to work for this company?

While most of the previously mentioned questions are important in discovering what the candidate is like and whether they will fit with the company, this is the 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, it will give you a clear understanding as the interview of whether the candidate just wants any job or specifically is passionate about getting a job at your company. 

12. Do you have any questions for me?

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

With this question, you want to open the floor to anything the interviewee has to ask.  

Many times, they will have the opportunity to ask about the day-to-day job, about the interviewer, and potentially about the growth opportunities within the company. 

But most importantly, it’s usually a red flag if the candidate doesn’t have anything to ask. Either they didn’t prepare enough, didn’t do their research or simply aren’t interested enough to gather all the information they can while they have your undivided attention. 


Interviews are tough on both sides. For the interviewee, they are on the spot, expected to show up and be prepared – and they’re usually nervous to some degree. 

On the other hand, it’s difficult for the interviewer to attempt to gather all the information they need to make an important decision in just a few minutes. 

That is what it is so important to have a good list of strategic interview questions to ask candidates. 

Hopefully this article helps both sides prepare for what is to come in an interview setting. So, when it’s your turn up next, we wish you all the luck! 

To find your next new beginning and set up an interview, check out our thousands of openings on our job board at https://jobs.insightglobal.com 

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