As a hiring manager, interviews are your chance to get to know a candidate better and determine who’s the right choice for the position in question. Your small talk skills and body language definitely play a role in the process, but it’s the interview questions that will really reveal what you need to know.
By asking good interview questions, you’ll not only get a clearer idea of their skills and experience, but also get a sense for their conversational skills, emotional intelligence, problem-solving skills, and ability to think quickly.
Finding the right candidate is extremely important. A bad hire can cost you anywhere from $17,000 to $240,000 in expenses related to hiring, compensation, and retention. And nearly 74 percent of companies admit they've hired the wrong person.
To avoid the mistake of making the wrong hire, take a look at these best interview questions to ask candidates.
Read more: Required Skills Aren’t Necessarily Required. Here’s What It Means to Be ‘Qualified’ for a Job
Best phone screening interview questions to ask candidates
1. Tell me about yourself.
This question is a simple, yet crucial, part of an initial interview. It can help put the candidate at ease by giving them an easy question to answer, and it can help you steer the direction of the conversation.
2. Why are you leaving your current job?
When hiring, you’ll want to know why a candidate is leaving their job—maybe it’s a low salary, lack of growth opportunities, or a bad boss. No matter the situation, you want to see if a candidate is respectful or if they badmouth their previous employer.
3. What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on in a past position?
Ask this question when you want to understand some of the characteristics of a candidate’s current job and what their skills are. What they’ve worked on in the past can help you determine whether they’re qualified for this new position.
4. Describe your work style in a few sentences.
Some people enjoy working very collaboratively in a team, and other people much prefer working independently. This question will reveal if a candidate is suited for your office’s specific work environment.
5. What made you apply for this position?
Here, you’ll see if the candidate did their research. You want to know what drew their interest to this specific position and why they think they’re the right candidate for the job. You’re potentially going to be investing in this person, so you want them to be excited about the opportunity.
6. What are your salary expectations?
It’s best to ask this question during the initial screening interview so that you can align on expectations going forward. If the interviewee is asking for a salary much higher than what your budget allows for, you’ll want to know that as soon as possible so no one’s time is wasted.
7. What’s the most important skill you’ve learned recently?
Read more: 5 Culture-Building Exercises For Cross-Cultural Teams
8. Do you have any questions for me?
The interview process is a two-way street, so be sure to allow enough time for the interviewee to ask you a few questions. You want the candidate to be specific and thoughtful when asking questions—it’ll show that they’re driven, curious, and prepared.
Best interview questions to ask candidates about culture add
9. Tell me about a time when persistence paid off for you.
Avoid asking ‘culture-fit’ questions, since they can lead to bias and discrimination, and ask questions about the mindset criteria you care about in an employee instead. Gauge whether they’ll be a value-add to your existing culture and listen to how they communicate in their answer.
Read more: ‘Culture Fit:’ The Diversity Issues with This Hiring Practice & How to Build Culture More Inclusively
10. Tell me about an example of when you were responsible for a project that didn’t go as planned. What happened next?
When hiring, tech industry leader Hana Elliott says, “...you want a workforce that’s inspired to learn, grow, and be able and willing to adapt as the company and the business landscape changes. This means hiring for such things as a thirst for knowledge, curiosity, adaptability, and potential.” Here, see how well they’re able to adapt in stressful situations.
11. What is most important to you outside of work?
“In order for companies to remain competitive, they will need to continue to promote flexibility and life-work balance. If they don't, they will have a hard time recruiting and retaining good employees,” says Sue DeCaro, entrepreneurial, life, and parenting coach. Get to know candidates on a deeper, human level with this question. It’ll signal to them that the company cares about their work-life balance, as well. Just be sure this doesn’t become an illegal interview question.
Read more: In 2023, What Does Work-Life Balance Mean?
12. Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.
Resumes are the written outline of a candidate’s professional background, education, training, experience, and skills, but there will always be aspects of someone’s professional identity and successes that won’t be highlighted on their resume. Listen for how they translate their off-resume skill to an on-the-job asset.
13. How do you handle stress or tight deadlines?
This question again helps show how a candidate deals with stressful situations, an inevitable occurrence in the workplace. Their answer can reveal their level of emotional intelligence and whether they have effective and healthy coping mechanisms.
Best interview questions to ask candidates about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
14. What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you, and why do you think it’s important?
This is a simple, yet necessary, question to ask candidates. If your company is committed to addressing DEI in the workplace, you’ll want to know that your employees understand the meaning of each word and are committed to promoting the ideals in the workplace themselves.
15. How would you react if you heard a coworker say something racist, ageist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise inappropriate?
Microaggressions and discrimination are, unfortunately, very common in the workplace, and you want to ensure that your employees won’t be passive bystanders if they witness an inappropriate incident. Here, you can learn about a candidate’s approach to dealing with conflict.
16. Tell me about a time when you personally advocated for diversity, equity, or inclusion in the workplace.
With this question, you can learn if a candidate’s actions align with their words and beliefs on DEI. If they don’t have a previous experience in this area, ask them to walk you through how they would handle a hypothetical situation.
17. How would you approach a conversation with a colleague who doesn’t understand the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Here, you want to see how a prospective employee would respond to someone with opposing views from them. When answering this question, they should talk through how they have respectful, constructive conversations about challenging topics.
18. How do you approach understanding the perspective of a coworker whose background differs from yours?
Asking this question is a great opportunity to get to know a candidate’s interpersonal skills, whether they’re a team player, if they respect other people’s opinions, and if they fully understand the advantages of diverse perspectives.
19. Have you had previous DEI training? How would you feel about attending DEI training?
If they’ve had previous DEI training, ask them more follow-up questions about what they learned and how they’ve applied that knowledge. If your company offers training, explain in more detail what it entails.
Read more: How to Honestly Answer Diversity Questions During an Interview
Best interview questions to ask candidates about management
20. Tell me about your leadership experience.
This is a common preliminary question to ask a manager candidate. If a candidate is applying for a management position, you’ll need to hear a little more about their background—how many years they’ve had management experience, how many people they’ve managed, any challenges they’ve run into, etc.
21. How would you describe your leadership style?
There are seven common types of leadership, and they all have pros and cons. Whether the candidate is familiar with these types of leadership or not, find out if they’re self-aware of how they lead in a team.
Read more: 7 Types of Leadership: Strengths, Weaknesses & Discovering Your Style
22. What's your plan for building rapport and credibility with your new team?
On top of assigning and delegating work, managers are responsible for clearly communicating expectations, having mental health check-ins, and supporting their direct report’s career development, growth, and goals. You want to know how a manager candidate plans to earn the respect of their team and build cohesion and camaraderie.
23. Can you tell me about a time when a member of your team made a mistake? How did you handle it?
Everyone makes mistakes. Get a glimpse into how the candidate handles challenges in a professional manner and what kind of culture they want to build.
24. How do you ensure that your direct reports feel a sense of inclusion and belonging on a daily basis?
When interviewing for a managerial position, this question gives candidates an opportunity to show how they’ll reflect the values of diversity as a leader.
Read more: How to Develop the Best Interview Questions to Ask Manager Candidates
25. Tell me about a time you had to give some difficult feedback.
No one wants to deliver bad news, but as a manager, giving difficult feedback is part of the role. Here, you can learn how the candidate deals with being put in an uncomfortable position.
26. How would you help prevent employee burnout?
Managers oversee people, which means, in addition to assessing bandwidth and redistributing work as necessary, they should be able to spot signs of burnout and know when to check in on their employees’ mental health. Find out where the interviewee stands in terms of work-life balance and encouraging healthy habits for their team.
Read more: A Word-for-Word Guide to Discussing Mental Health with Direct Reports
Best behavioral interview questions to ask candidates
27. Tell me how you solved a problem you were faced with, using your own initiative or out-of-the-box thinking.
This is the perfect opportunity to get an idea of the candidate’s creativity. Find out if they have the right pitching skills to sell themselves and if they’re innovative and have thought of alternative solutions to a tough problem.
28. Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
There are a lot of different personalities in an office, and not everyone is always going to get along. This is another chance to gauge how someone deals with conflict and discomfort.
29. Can you recall a time when you had a difficult or dissatisfied customer and found a way to turn the situation around?
How someone conducts themself in the moment when a customer or client is upset is extremely important and telling. The candidate’s answer here will highlight their interpersonal skills and professionalism in high-stress situations—both of which are essential for a customer- or client-facing role.
30. Describe a situation where you were tasked with influencing a big company change that involved key stakeholders.
Many jobs require the ability to persuade or influence others. This question can help you assess the interviewee’s motivational abilities, professional credibility, and communication style.
31. Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt?
In a fast-paced industry, it’s beneficial for employers to build teams that can accommodate change and stay flexible when faced with challenges. See what they have to say about handling a work environment that changes quickly and often.
32. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor.
Respectful disagreement in the workplace can be a good thing. Here, see if the candidate knows how to professionally stand up for themselves and whether their disagreement led to growth on either side.
Read more: The Problem with Groupthink in the Workplace? Everything
33. Describe a time when you had to think on your feet.
Plans don’t always go exactly as expected, and great job applicants are able to shift and adapt as needed. This question is designed to see how interviewees react under pressure and if they have analytical problem-solving skills.
34. Give me an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it?
It’s important for employees to feel like they have a sense of autonomy over their work and have the ability to work on passion projects. Find out if they’ve had the opportunity to pursue what they’re interested in and how they went about the process.
Best creative interview questions to ask candidates
35. If we hired you as CEO of this company tomorrow, what’s the first change you’d make?
Here, you want the candidate to be respectful but honest. You’ll find out how much they’ve researched about the company and if they have valid ideas for improvement.
36. If you could work from any location on Earth, where would you choose?
Obviously, a candidate’s answer here shouldn’t weigh too heavily on their ability to do the job at hand, but it’s a fun question that can give you a deeper glimpse into their personality, interests, and creativity.
37. What would be your strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
This is a fun, enlightening question. “To me, [this] question is not meant literally…But think of ‘zombies’ as problems. Problems wander around all businesses. And as business grows, they seem to multiply,” says John Gorup, senior marketing campaign manager at Atrium. “The best answer, as far as I can tell, is about teamwork. In a zombie apocalypse, nobody can survive alone…The same goes in the business world. We each need to play our role, and know how to work together.”
38. What nonprofessional skill would you most like to learn?
It’s beneficial for candidates to have hobbies and interests outside of work, so inquire about what they’d ideally like to work on for themselves that’s non-work-related.
39. If I told you that the decision was down to you and one other candidate, what would you say to persuade me to hire you?
Candidates need to show you they’re clear on what the position requires and detail what sets them apart from other candidates. If a candidate can’t back themselves or explain why they want the job, that should be a red flag.
40. Imagine that you receive $50,000 and have one month to implement a major organizational change. What project would you choose?
This will help you gauge whether the candidate enjoys taking initiative and whether they already can envision themselves working the job and improving the company. They should talk about their goals and their approach to a plan.
Best career development interview questions to ask candidates
41. What are you looking for in terms of career development?
It’s important the interviewee has goals that they can clearly articulate. Even if they’re not seeking a management or leadership position, they should be able to outline the skills that they want to improve and milestones they want to reach in their career.
42. What are your short-term goals and objectives for the next year?
Aiming to land a promotion or raise is great, but those are longer term goals that take time to execute. Make sure the candidate can talk about shorter term goals they have and are open to learning, growing, and making mistakes.
43. How do you determine or evaluate success?
Answers here can help you determine what kind of employee a candidate will be in terms of their work ethic and what they prioritize. For example, some might define success as meeting team goals and collaborating effectively with teammates, and others might define success as increasing company revenue.
44. What skills or knowledge would make you better at your current role?
Most hiring managers look for candidates who are confident, yet humble, about their abilities. See if they’re self-aware of any weaknesses or areas with room for improvement and if they are willing to grow and learn.
45. Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.
Whatever the candidate chooses as their greatest achievement will show you what they consider important, and how they achieved it will tell you how they prefer to get things done. Their answer will also give you insight into their hard and soft skills.
Best remote work-related interview questions to ask candidates
46. What types of remote team tools and software have you used?
Remote teams often use communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams or project management tools like Asana and Trello. If your company uses any of these types of software, it can be helpful to know what the applicant is familiar with or if they’ll require training.
47. What’s your approach to maintaining effective communication and collaboration with a distributed team?
Working remotely presents unique challenges to collaboration—you can’t just schedule an impromptu meeting when people are working in different time zones or stop by your coworker’s desk to ask a question. Distributed team members have to be more intentional about their interactions, and you want to know the candidate has really thought through a remote work dynamic.
48. How do you manage your time and stay organized?
You have a lot of independence in how you manage your time when working remotely. With so much autonomy and flexibility, it’s imperative employees are able to stay organized and balance different tasks and responsibilities in order to meet deadlines.
49. What’s the key to making sure a project is successful when working remotely?
A lot goes into successfully completing any project, but it’s important to know how prospective hires would approach a project when in-person collaboration isn’t an option. Clear communication is key when you’re collaborating online and can’t immediately decipher someone’s tone over email.
50. How do you switch off from work?
Remote work often blurs the line between work and personal life. Ask the interviewees how they plan to manage their days, take breaks, take care of their mental health, and stop working at the end of the day.