How many golf balls can you fit in a limousine? Who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman? Who’s your favourite Disney Princess? 25 Best Interview Questions (And How To Spot Great Answers in 2022)
Some of today’s hiring managers rely on some pretty unconventional questions to identify talent.
Google’s famous interview questions have inspired a generation of interviewers who try to outsmart and confuse candidates with complex brainteasers.
This style of interviewing is going out of fashion though, and even Google are phasing it out.
It still pays to be a little creative when you’re speaking to applicants though, as you need to dig deep and ask interview questions to determine skill, cultural fit and intelligence.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a collection of 25 top interview questions that will show you whether any candidate is a fit for you.
Some of these might seem boring, but they serve a purpose. They’re the perfect way to ease candidates into the interview and get the background information you need to move up a gear.
1. How did you hear about the role?
While seemingly innocuous, this question serves an important purpose. Your company is probably spending significant budget every year on employer branding, advertising and candidate attraction. It’s important to understand what is working!
You need to know whether the messaging your company is investing in is resonating with the right candidates. Make a note of the answers to see whether specific trends emerge. For example, maybe high quality candidates all come across your brand on Twitter, therefore you should invest more in that medium.
It’s true that you can rely on analytics, providing you have them in place, to tell you where traffic is coming from and that many applications have a ‘how did you hear about us’ section, but sometimes, hearing it directly from the horse’s mouth give you more context.
2. What do you know about the company?
This is simple but effective; it shows you how much research a candidate has done.
In an ideal world, you just want to hire candidates that are genuinely excited about a job at your company, not just a job in general. Don’t dwell to long on answers to this question.
The goal is simply to find out if a candidate has put a little time in on your website and looked through online materials. If she has, move on.
3. Why did you apply?
We all need to pay the bills, but it’s important to check that this is not the sole motivation for a candidate. They’re likely to be a more productive and happy employee if they identify with your company in some way.
It might be the projects you’re working on or the direction you’re heading in. It could be the fact that you’re a 2-person startup and they’re interested in responsibility. Maybe it’s the fact that you’ve just signed some big customers. Hopefully it’s something!
4. What are your key professional strengths?
It’s important to know the things that the candidate does well so you can understand how they might fit into your team. Arrogance is never attractive, but candidates that are confident in their abilities and how they might be able to impact your organisation are exactly the kind of people that you want to hire.
The best answers focus on one or two skills and provide direct examples of occasions where they demonstrated these skills and how it affected the outcome.
5. Why should we hire you?
What’s in it for you? Hiring is ultimately a one-sided game, if a candidate isn’t going to add value you shouldn’t bring them onboard. This might be a slightly intimidating question for candidates so be wary about how you use it – it’s best used towards the end of an interview when you can tell a candidate is comfortable.
If deployed correctly though, it can be a great one to separate the men from the boys. The best answers will cover three key bases. Candidates should articulate that they can not only do the work, but can deliver great results and fit in with the team and culture (and be a better hire than any of the other candidates!)
6. Do you have any questions for us?
The classic way to finish the interview, this question is important for a number of reasons. It gives the candidate a chance to follow up on any talking points from the interview, it lets them dig into issues that you haven’t covered in enough detail (no interviewer can explain everything) and it shows you how much research a candidate has done about your company.
You should expect every candidate to have some questions, if they don’t it’s definitely a red flag.
After you’ve got a few introductory questions out the way it’s important to try and challenge candidates and make them think. Here are a few thought provoking interview questions that force agile thinking.
7. What’s your definition of hard work?
Some companies move at very different paces, projects that might be allocated a week at a large corporate might be expected in a few days time at a fast growing startup.
This question is a great way of telling you whether a candidate can keep pace with your team and fit in with your company’s definition of hard work.
Look out for the “hard worker in disguise”. A candidate who’s currently operating at half capacity at a slow moving company and is keen to, (or at least able to), ramp up.
8. Why are you leaving your current job?
The goal here isn’t to find out if candidates have any major skeletons in their closet when it comes to their last role – reference checking is a more efficient way to find this out. You can tell a lot by how people speak about their previous employer.
It’s a great way to spot “the victim”. For these candidates everything is someone else’s fault. Their previous boss hated them. Their old company was out to get them. They were ignored for promotions. The list goes on…
You should also look out for candidates that are leaving there previous company because there’s “nothing left to learn”.
While there are occasions when this can be a legitimate complaint, it’s usually a red flag. There is pretty much always something to learn.
Whatever your company size, (and no matter how mundane the work), there are opportunities to learn and improve. If you find yourself faced with a candidate that does nothing but complain, ask yourself how happy they’d be at your company and how much they’d have to ‘learn’.
9. In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?
This is one of the best tests of intelligence (far more effective than a college education or test score) and a great way to gauge passion.
The “something” in question doesn’t have to be anything to do with work, in fact often it’s better if it isn’t. The key thing to focus on is the way that the candidate breaks down a complex idea and the way that they articulate it to someone they know doesn’t understand it.
I’ve heard a few really interesting responses to this question, with answers ranging from how to make an oak cabinet to the way that homemade rockets work!
10. Tell me about a time you messed up
This one is pops up in many of the most popular interview playbooks and guides, it’s a great test of humility and self awareness. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is what happens next.
Does the candidate learn a valuable lesson and use it as a motivation for self improvement, or do they point the finger and blame colleagues.
The answer to this question should show whether a person is willing to take ownership of their work or will be quick to shirk responsibility when the going gets tough.
11. If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them how would you choose which ones to answer?
We’ve all been faced with the seemingly unconquerable inbox, but even for high flyers 2,000 unread emails is significant. Despite the subject matter though, this question isn’t about email.
The point of this question is to demonstrate how candidates approach work and how they prioritise tasks. You want to understand their process for attacking a project that, on the face of it, seems difficult to deal with.
How would they divide the task up into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks? How would they prioritise which emails to answer? How would they decide which ones to answer? What is important is their reasoning and thought process, not what they say.
12. Who is the smartest person you know? Why?
This is a great way to see what a candidate values and aspires to. By forcing them to think of someone that they know personally, you avoid a stream of people praising Steve Jobs and telling you how much they aspire to be like him.
Instead, you’ll see answers that praise specific traits that a candidate’s friends, family or former colleagues have exhibited.
There are no perfect answers here, but the best should focus on a specific characteristic, candidate’s might praise a friend’s desire for learning or networking ability.
13. What’s the biggest decision you’ve made over the past year? Why was it such a big deal?
This shouldn’t be seen as a way of delving into a candidate’s personal life, you don’t want to find out why they’ve just broken up with their partner!
Instead, interview questions like this are designed to show you how the candidate approaches the decision making process. Do they make choices impulsively or do they conduct painstaking research. Did they make a plan, or did they talk it through with friends?
The answers to this question will if they’re style of decision-making and their thought process fits the way you do things at your company.