Interviewing job candidates can be a difficult task. Hiring managers must start the interview process by knowing the position they are interviewing for inside and out, and it makes a huge difference to spend the time to do the same for each candidate’s resume or application. This will help you understand each candidate’s qualifications, experience, and potential for your team.
While preparation helps hiring managers, a structured set of questions will also help make sure you’re interviewing candidates effectively—while also reducing unintended bias that may arise if two interviews are wildly different.
Before we get into these different types of interview questions, let’s talk about how variety in your questions can help you get to know the candidate better.
Why You Should Ask Different Types of Interview Questions
Asking a variety of interview questions can help hiring managers get a more complete picture of the candidate. The interview process is crucial to learning more about what the candidate has done in the past, but it’s also important to understand what the candidate can do!
This person will be working closely with you and your team. Getting the answers to a range of questions can help you make the most informed decision moving forward.
The Most Effective Types of Interview Questions
While there are various types of interview questions, only some interviews need to include questions from all of the categories below.
For example, during the first phone screening, you might ask only technical or motivational questions to get an initial understanding of the candidate to see if a follow up meeting makes sense. Conversational or behavioral interview questions may be reserved for later interview stages. In any case, it’s essential to use your time to gather the information you need through a mix of interview tactics and questions.
Let’s get into six types of interview questions that you might ask. Plus we’ll provide example questions, some more general and some related specifically to fields like IT and others. (We’re the second-biggest IT staffing firm, after all.)
Qualifications/Technical Interview Questions
Interview questions that assess a candidate’s qualifications and abilities are the backbone of good interviews. They can verify most of what’s on a candidate’s resume, and they provide a platform to learn more about the candidate.
The questions will naturally change based on the role, but here are a few examples from this category.
Examples of Credential Verification Questions
- What’s your current or last job title?
- How long were you in that role?
- How long were you part of [insert organization on resume] overall?
- How long have you had [insert license or certification]?
Examples of Experience/Skills Verification Questions
- When did you start working with a Content Management System, whether personally or professionally?
- How have you been involved in the QA process before?
- How would you rate your expertise or experience in [insert skill]?
- Can you explain how you prefer to do project updates with your sprint teams?
Note: These aren’t the only ways to verify skills and experience. Problem-solving, situational, and other types of interview questions might get you the information you need as well.
Behavioral Interview Questions
Behavioral questions are intended to gauge how the candidate has performed in challenging situations in the past. These questions are typically related to work situations, but they may also be about educational experiences if the candidate is a recent graduate.
These questions may range from generic to specific (revolving around a role, skill, or situation).
Examples of Behavioral Questions
- Explain a situation when you ended up carrying the majority of a team project. How was credit given out? How did you react?
- How have you handled working with a coworker with a different working style or personality than you?
- Tell me about a time you had to get essential information from colleagues outside your team. What approach did you use, and what did you do to make sure they responded in time?
- How do you handle multiple layers of stakeholder feedback about your project?
- Is your current role client-facing or have you had much experience interacting with clients and sharing project updates in the past?
Situational Interview Questions
Situational interview questions probe similar traits as behavioral interview questions. Behavioral questions are usually about actual situations in the candidate’s past, though, while situational questions are about hypothetical events.
With these questions, you’ll share a workplace scenario and see how the candidate would respond to that situation. (They can be based on real events that have happened in your workplace, though.)
Examples of Situational Questions
- Imagine you are working on a project for an important client and they ask you to implement something that you know is not going to work or not the right course of action. How would you handle this situation?
- You’re managing a group of team members, but one is struggling. They’re missing deadlines. They’re not paying attention in meetings. They’ve hardly contributed new ideas over the last few weeks. How would you address this with them?
- A manager gave you feedback that you think is just completely at odds with the scope or direction of the project. How would you handle this conversation?
Motivational Interview Questions
Beyond their skills, managers should also dig into why the candidate wants the job. Maybe they’re unhappy with their current role. Maybe they’re looking for more money. And maybe they have wanted this kind of role for years. Perhaps it’s all three!
But as a hiring manager, you should try to discover what the candidate’s motivations for working in this role—at this company—are. And what they may value as part of working with you down the line.
Examples of Motivational Questions
- Why did you start a career in this profession? Or, why do you want to start to work in this field?
- Do you have career goals for the next three to five years? If so, what are they?
- What kind of work environment do you excel in?
Conversational/Personality/Open-Ended Interview Questions
As we’ve mentioned, job interviews should be conversations—not interrogations. Most of your interactions with your team are likely conversations and presentations. So, to that end, interviews that are discussions can help you both get to know each other better! That means you should have some conversational interview questions ready to go to help facilitate the discussion.
Conversational interview questions can be general questions that you ask all candidates, or they can be questions unique to each candidate. Unique questions can circle back to things the candidate mentioned on their resume or during the interview.
Remember, you’re looking to spark conversation. Avoid yes or no questions. Instead, they should be open-ended and give the candidate a chance to uniquely answer. (This rule applies to all types of interview questions, but it’s especially true for conversational ones.)
Examples of Conversational Interview Questions
- Can you tell me more about your work history?
- I saw on your resume you like to stay on top of trends in this industry. What are some of your favorite recent books or podcasts about our industry?
- How do you re-energize when you’re feeling worn out at work?
Note: Be mindful that you aren’t setting up questions that would encourage a candidate to feel required to talk about personal information or share details related to protected characteristics like age, marital status, family status, religion, or a criminal record.
Problem-Solving Interview Questions
Similar to situational interview questions, problem-solving questions present the candidate with a challenge to solve that relate to their job function similar to situational questions. But they are intended to test the candidate’s critical thinking skills, leadership skills, or soft skills. Like any other interview questions, they should always tie back to the position in some way that helps you and the candidate assess the fit.
Examples of Problem-Solving Questions
- Given the challenge of selecting a new tool to invest in, where and how would you begin this task?
- A teammate on a time-sensitive project confesses that he’s made a mistake, and it’s putting your team at risk of missing key deadlines. How would you respond?
- What would you do if your responsibilities suddenly changed and you were asked to learn a new skill from scratch?
- You have been given an important task by your manager, but then their manager gives you another task that they see as just as important. How would go about prioritizing the tasks?
- Two of your direct reports are not enjoying working with each other—it’s affecting team morale and productivity. How would you address this problem?
- When you’ve solved a problem, how do you evaluate its success?
- You disagree with your colleague on how to move forward with a project. Now it’s stuck. How would you resolve the disagreement?
Bonus: Funny Interview Questions
Funny interview questions can be hit or miss. We actually wrote an entire article debating if hiring managers should ask them, and we settled on: it depends!
They can help break the tension with a nervous candidate, or it can present the company as unprofessional.
If you do decide to ask funny interview questions, here are a couple of examples:
Examples of Funny Questions
- What is your superpower?
- How many flowers does an average bee pollinate in one day?
Learn More About Conducting Job Interviews
Many interview questions will fall into one of these six categories:
And some interview questions can be funny.
By understanding the different types of interview questions, you can make a comprehensive plan to learn about each candidate and their potential for your team. Asking different types of questions also helps the candidate learn more about you, the role, and your company.
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