Asking the right questions at interview is crucial to ensuring both hiring managers and candidates have the best-possible experience

While modern applicant tracking systems (ATS) enable employers to screen and filter candidates using so-called ‘killer’ questions, it’s at the interview stage that HR professionals and hiring managers have the best chance to gain deep insight into candidates’ background, expertise and aptitude. It’s worth remember, too, that the interview is an opportunity for applicants to find out about your organisation, the vacant role, and if it’s the right fit for them. Try using these unique questions to discover if a candidate is right for the role – or, if you’re a job-seeker, if the company and role is right for you.

Questions to ask the applicant during an interview

  1. What is one misconception people have about you?
  2. Who at your previous place of work gave you the most energy and why?
  3. If you could wave a magic wand, what problem in the world would you solve and why?
  4. What were your most and least satisfying jobs, and why?
  5. What is your five-year goal?
  6. What criteria do you use for evaluating success?
  7. Describe a project that you’re especially proud of
  8. How do you spend your spare time?
  9. Which of your skills, technical or otherwise, have helped you most at work?
  10. Describe how you prepared for this interview
  11. What does your typical working week look like?
  12. What have you learned most from your current role?
  13. What kinds of people do you have difficulties working with, and why?
  14. When have you been most satisfied in your career?
  15. What was your greatest contribution to your current job/organisation?
  16. How would your best friend describe you?
  17. How much time do you invest in your personal development?
  18. Who do you see as our top three competitors, or industry threats?
  19. When was the last time you took a risk, and what did you learn from it?
  20. Can you think of a recent problem you’ve tackled in which old solutions wouldn’t work?

Questions to ask the employer during an interview

  1. On average, how many new employees does the organisation hire each year?
  2. Who do you regard as your competitors?
  3. Are any positions or functions at this organisation that are outsourced?
  4. Are there any tasks that this person would be required to do that aren’t included in the job description?
  5. How would you describe your management style?
  6. How would you describe a typical day or week for someone in this role?
  7. Is this a new position? If not, why is there a vacancy?
  8. What are the core objectives for this organisation, and how does this job contribute to those initiatives?
  9. What’s been your best experience working here?
  10. What is the biggest challenge facing this organisation?
  11. What are you looking for in an ideal employee?
  12. What would be the most challenging thing for someone in this role to get used to?
  13. Why did you choose to work for this organisation?
  14. What is your approach to flexible and remote working?
  15. What is the first problem the person you hire for this role must attend to?
  16. What do you consider to be your organisation’s most important assets?
  17. Do you promote employees from within?
  18. How would you describe the culture here?
  19. How would you define ‘success’ for the person in this role?
  20. What is your organisation’s competitive edge?

Question not to ask an employer at the interview

  1. Can I do this job from home?
  2. When can I take time off for vacation?
  3. How many hours will I be expected to work each week?
  4. What does the organisation do?
  5. Will you check my Facebook page?
  6. How often do you give raises?
  7. How many warnings do you get before you’re fired?

This post was first published in March 2013. It was updated in June 2018 for freshness, clarity and accuracy. The headline was changed in November 2018.