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The best questions to ask a candidate during a job interview


You know that it’s important to get to know candidates during their job interview. Their skills, their habits, their preferences, their goals … it’s a lot to learn in just an hour. So it’s important that your questions reflect the information you’re really trying to get at.

If you keep asking “What’s your greatest weakness?” you’re probably going to keep getting “Oh, I’m such a workaholic!” and learning a whole lot of nothing. So here are some better examples of questions to ask during a job interview.

General questions and introductions.

Starting broad can help break the ice, but there’s a difference between “broad” and “unhelpful.” “What interests you most about this position?” is an example of the former, while “What’s your favorite movie?” falls under the latter. (Unless you work in the film industry.)

The Hiring Manager's Guide to Effective Interviews

The traditional starter question is “Tell me about yourself,” which is generally understood by experienced interviewers to be shorthand for “Tell me a brief summary of your work history and current goals,” but can cause a lot of anxiety for newer professionals, who sometimes wonder whether you want to hear about their family, hobbies, hometown, or pets. There are definitely better options that are less likely to cause confusion.

  • How did you get into the invertebrate veterinary field?
  • What do you like most about being a worm doctor?
  • What areas of worm research are most exciting to you these days?
  • What is the most challenging thing for you about practicing worm medicine?
  • What’s your philosophy of worm care?
  • What work accomplishment are you most proud of?

Questions directly related to their resume and cover letter.

Unlike CVs, resumes are not comprehensive. This means that, not only will there be information about the candidate missing from their resume, it’s actually designed that way on purpose. It’s a personal marketing document, not a history.

This means that most resumes will raise questions for you, and a good interviewer will ask about them rather than making assumptions.

  • What made you decide to switch your focus from jellyfish to worms?
  • What kind of work did you do at your last job on a day-to-day basis?
  • How regularly did you use WormNotes software?
  • Why did you leave Spineless Specialists?
  • What have you been up to since you left your last job?
  • You’ve worked primarily with segmented worms in the past. Are you comfortable with the idea of working with flatworms and roundworms as well?
  • In the past you’ve worked for much smaller businesses. What did you like most about the culture at Spineless Specialists? What was most challenging?

Behavioral questions

Behavioral interviewing questions are becoming increasingly common, and with good reason: there’s no effective way to read the future, but the past is there to investigate. And while behaviors can change dramatically with a new job, habits and preferences typically do not.

Tell me about a time when …

  • You felt appreciated by your manager.
  • You had a personality conflict with someone at work.
  • You had more work than you could reasonably handle alone.
  • You dealt with an emergency situation at work.
  • You encountered an ethical dilemma.
  • You had to learn a new skill on the job.

For each of these, you’ll want to follow up and find out the why, how, what they learned from the experience. This learning can include knowledge and skills, but also self-awareness and a broader understanding of the work in general.

Interested in learning more about how you can give your interviewing skills a boost?

The Hiring Manager's Guide to Effective Interviews is yours for free. Don’t wait to learn the skills that can lead you to an amazing hire.

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