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Top Interview Questions to Ask a Job Candidate

September 20, 2023

Conducting interviews is critical to finding the right candidate for a role.

When company initiatives are on the line, it’s even more important to ask the right questions to determine the right fit. There are many questions hiring managers can ask to assess a candidate's potential. But, there’s only so much time to cover ground during an interview.

Here are the top interview questions to ask a job candidate and why:

1. What do you know about our company, and why do you want to work here?

In this digital age, it has never been easier to access information. People now can find anything almost online with a simple click of a screen or mouse. A sharp candidate would conduct their research about a company before an interview.

Unfortunately, some simply show up to “wing” an interview. Ask this prompt to discover how much a  candidate knows about your company. In turn, you’ll learn how serious a job seeker is about working for you and whether a person shows qualities like having initiative and being prepared.

2. What strengths can you bring to this role?

Finding the right candidate with the right skill sets is paramount when filling a role. No organization wants to employ someone that doesn’t offer the competencies needed to complete role objectives and tasks. Company initiatives don’t move across the goal line when the wrong candidate is selected.

Ask this question to uncover who actually read the job description and if they fill your requirements. Quality candidates should understand how they can perform a job uniquely and what strengths they can add to your company.

3. Describe when you had a disagreement with a boss or peer and how you handled the situation?

There’s nothing more enlightening than asking a behavioral question to determine how a candidate would respond to an event or incident. Inquiring about how a candidate would respond to disagreement with someone gives insight into their approach to conflict resolution.

Today, emotional intelligence is a priceless skill that goes a long way for any employer. As a candidate responds to this question, consider and reflect strongly on how they handled the situation. Did they find a compromise? Did they avoid the conflict? Were they assertive, passive or aggressive?

4. Why are you leaving your current job?

Getting a sense of why a candidate is exploring job opportunities outside their current role is a good indicator of determining their motivations and what they’re looking for in an opportunity. Understanding these dynamics provides hiring managers to identify whether they can effectively satisfy a candidate’s desires.

A candidate may assert they want to leave an organization because they want to move up the corporate ladder. They might even explain other things like the need for challenging work or certain perks. A hiring manager can use this information to help see if their company can provide what the candidate wants and whether they have an opportunity to showcase their benefits.

5. How would your boss describe you?

It’s easy for a candidate to express positive qualities about themselves. After all, they’re positioning themselves to get a job. But, asking how their boss would currently describe them is a good question to get a glimpse into the dynamics around a candidate’s previous relationship with a manager.

Were they reliable? Solution-oriented? Dedicated? Strongly consider their response to this question. This is also an excellent question to validate when speaking to a former manager during reference checks. You’ll have the opportunity to see if a candidate’s impression of themselves matches with other people that know them professionally.

6. How do you handle feedback?

Criticism can be difficult for many. But, feedback is an important learning tool that helps professionals grow. Understanding a candidate’s view of criticism is an opportunity to gauge how they process input from others. It can also help indicate if they're open-minded to other viewpoints.

Top candidates will be open to feedback and reflection. These are the traits that showcase whether a person can handle and effectively interpret input from others. Look out for individuals who view feedback negatively or as a personal attack.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Lastly, a candidate with ambitions will express goals for themselves. Having professional aspirations is an invaluable trait for any employer. Candidates who have clear career goals set expectations for themselves and showcase personal drive.

When evaluating responses to this question, look for a job seeker whose ambitions can take life at your company. This might also be a good time to position your company as a good fit for a candidate’s professional objectives. Identifying someone who can actualize their goals at your company will always be a good indicator of long-term job satisfaction.

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