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15 Powerful Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

October 4, 2023

Interviewing a job candidate can be a difficult task. It's impossible to sit across a table from someone and know everything you need to know in an hour. 

But... the right questions can help. 

Ask Interview Questions That Focus on Values, Character and Behaviors  

The most effective questions reveal the quality of the person. Determining the level of his skills is important, but not as essential as discovering if he will fit into your organization, support his coworkers and add to a positive workplace culture. 

You can teach skills. You can't teach character and personality. 

Powerful Interview Questions to Determine if the Candidate is the Right Fit 

Here are a few unique interview questions that can provide insights into the values and the personality of your job candidate. I've used these for years and found great value in them:

  1. What are you most passionate about in the workplace?
  2. In what ways would your friends say that you could improve?
  3. What’s your workplace pet peeve?
  4. What are three things we should know about working with you? 
  5. Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you. 
  6. What are you best at? 
  7. Which of our company values is most important to you? 
  8. Which of our company values is least important to you? 
  9. What are three words your friends would use to describe you?
  10. What are the greatest accomplishments of your career?
  11. What’s the biggest failure of your career? How’d you handle that failure?
  12. Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you
  13. What kinds of hours do you usually work?
  14. Can you give me an example of how you’ve shown empathy to a team member?
  15. What could your current company do to make things better?

Ask Behavioral Questions in Interviews

When interviewing, ask behavioral questions instead of hypothetical questions. "Tell me about a time…" is better than, “What would you do if…” As business management expert Peter Drucker said, “Only past performance is an accurate predictor of future performance.”

Hold at Least Three Interviews With a Job Candidate

One of the keys is to accept that hiring isn’t a cure for your current troubles.

Adding an employee isn’t a quick fix for the current problem but a long-term solution for growth. Hiring shouldn’t be rushed. Employers that take the time to do their research, spend vast amounts of time with the candidate, ask difficult questions, and make expectations clear are the winners. 

At our organization, we interview new candidates at least three times... often more. One interview is always away from our office, often at a coffee shop or restaurant. The casual setting can reveal a different side of the candidate. 

It's also important to gather a wide variety of perspectives on the potential new employee. We involve numerous team member in interviews then get together to discuss if the person is the fit. 

Always Check a Candidates References Before Hiring

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of references. What other people say about someone is often more accurate and insightful than what she says about herself.

Reach out to her references and ask about her values. What do friends or past coworkers say about the type of person she is and what’s most important to her? Will she exemplify your values? Which of your values will she struggle with the most?