10 Great Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Hiring manager sitting at a desk, asking a job candidate great interview questions.

Great interview questions to ask candidates tell you about the person behind the resume, revealing the job candidate’s personality, strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, skills, and abilities. The best interview questions also benefit job seekers, giving them an opportunity to speak to details that don’t fit on a resume.

While a savvy interviewer always includes questions tailored to the position, our list of 10 great interview questions works across a variety of industries and job descriptions and will help you determine the best fit for your organization.

1. From everything you’ve learned about this role, me and our company, tell me how you feel you’d make a contribution.

This interview question sorts people into two categories: contenders and also-rans. Those who have really prepared will appreciate this opportunity to shine and stand out, demonstrating that they’ve done their homework and likely are excited about the role.

Candidates who haven’t prepared will stumble, and it will be obvious. The also-rans who respond with a blank stare and a canned response may not be the right fit, but remember that even strong candidates can get nervous during job interviews.

2. Why should we hire you?

This stands apart from other great interview questions because it asks job candidates to define what sets them apart from the intense competition in the job market. Look for candidates who understand their unique strengths and aren’t simply trying to tell you what they think you want to hear.

Faced with a big stack of resumes telling a similar story, this question helps you determine the best candidate. An interviewee who does a great job explaining how their unique experience, education, industry credentials, and personal interests will power your business will do the same thing for your company once hired.

3. If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?

While no one likes to dwell on past regrets, this can be a good question to ask because it shows you how they adapt and grow professionally. Asking a candidate to explain major decisions they’ve made, highlighting both the positive and negative, reveals their ability to make calculated decisions based on past professional and personal experiences.

It also lets candidates share their vision for the future and their ambitions. This can be particularly insightful for organizations that train and promote from within, since you’ll get a sense of their career trajectory and goals.

4. When I contact your last supervisor and ask which area of your work needs the most improvement, what will I learn?

This is one of those questions that is most likely to garner an honest response from the candidate. No amount of finesse will influence this answer because the candidate knows the truth will come out anyway when the supervisor is brought into the conversation.

Essentially, it’s the same question as “what is your biggest weakness?” phrased in a way that lets them know they need to keep their answer real. It’s also a great way to gauge whether they have a growth mindset and are receptive to critical feedback.

5. Describe the best boss you ever reported to.

This is a great interview question because it tells you about past relationships. Because it highlights the personality and work types the applicant meshes with best, the hiring manager can gain greater insights into the candidate’s communication skills, work style, and potential cultural fit.

Follow up with questions about what made the relationship click—was it personality, performance, or perhaps a cheerleader type of boss? Does the candidate prefer autonomy to handholding, or were they inspired by a mutual drive to achieve organizational goals?

6. Tell me about what motivates you.

You’re not going to know what motivates a candidate just from reading their resume or asking about skills and experience. It’s best to just ask them directly, perhaps by asking them hypothetical questions or inquiries into what motivated them in past roles.

If what drives the interviewee matches the position and your corporate culture, you have a winner.

7. What frustrates you?

This is a good follow-up to your question about motivation. When the candidate talks about past frustrations, they reveal details about their personality, diplomacy skills, and ability to work on teams.

Does the candidate answer by discussing minor irritations—or ways that they successfully resolved serious conflicts over time, budgets, or priorities? The latter are candidates who have positive intelligence.

8. Tell me about the toughest negotiation you’ve ever been in.

Every job involves negotiation, and this question yields insight, not only in their direct negotiation skills, but also how the job seeker navigates difficult situations.

The best negotiators answer this great interview question by laying out both sides of the problem and then explaining how they aligned the issues or followed a process to a mutually-agreeable solution.

9. How did you involve your staff when an important company strategy decision needed to be made?

The candidate’s answer tells you whether a prospective manager is secure enough to involve others in strategic decision-making. Effective managers know how (and when) to delegate, but also have the confidence to make hard decisions themselves.

How the job seeker involves their staff—via written communication, one-on-one, or in a group setting—tells you a lot about their management style.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

With this question, it’s not what the candidate says but how they say it that’s important.

If you see someone’s eyes light up at the thought of the future, then you can tell this is a very ambitious person who knows where they want to go and will do everything in their power to help ensure your organization gets them there.

Use Great Interview Questions to Hire the Best Employees

Interviewing is both an art and a science, and with enough preparation you can reap the rewards in the form of an awesome new hire who’s eager to join your team. But having the right questions only helps if you first have the right applicants. As you look to fill your next position, post your job for free and get your hiring process off on the right track.