Eleven Great Interview Questions

Interview Questions That Dig in Deep

There is an art to interviewing employee candidates.

You have a limited amount of time to ask maximally effective questions. The right questions should give you an accurate-enough impression of the candidate and how he/she will perform at your company.

If you are of the Microsoft or Google mindset, then you probably favor puzzles and creative problem solving questions. Those are great and have their place.

Here are ten more great interview questions that seek to gain a better impression of the candidate.

  1. How do you personally define and measure success? This is a two-part question. The first part aims to discover the candidate’s motivations and aspirations. The second part judges the candidate’s ability to realistically determine if and when those goals are reached. Most people have some idea of success, but haven’t defined ways to measure it. If that’s the case for this candidate, being able to come up with an impromptu answer can demonstrate quick-thinking and analytical ability.
  2. What are you doing to improve yourself, physically, mentally, or spiritually? This question assesses the candidate’s desire and past actions toward self-improvement. A candidate who has actively sought self-improvement will be able to answer quickly. A candidate who has not may hesitate and try to make up something on the spot.
  3. In what kind of work environment do you do your best work? This question determines in which work environments the candidate will thrive. Hopefully your company’s environment matches the candidate’s preferences, otherwise there may be a mismatch. A preference doesn’t mean the candidate will necessarily perform poorly, but he/she may not operate at an optimal capacity.
  4. How do you alleviate stress? This question seeks out the candidate’s coping mechanisms for the inevitable stress and frustrations that come with any job. The answer should include realistic & positive activities or outlets.
  5. What tools or habits do you use to keep organized? This question looks at previous behavior as a determinant of future behavior, specifically, in the candidate’s organizational prowess. Everyone says they are organized, so hopefully the candidate can prove it by discussing specific tools and habits.
  6. When I call your previous employer and references, what are they likely to tell me? This question examines the accuracy of the candidate’s self-awareness. It can be surprising how many people choose references that may speak poorly of them, or perceive themselves differently than how others perceive them.
  7. What is an area in which you excel? Assume I know nothing about it and explain it to me. This tests the candidate’s ability to explain a potentially complex topic. For many people, it is difficult to “un-know” something in which they excel. The ability to break a topic down and explain its most essential components tells you a lot about a candidate’s effectiveness as a communicator.
  8. What are you deeply passionate about? It does not have to be work-related. This question seeks to understand the candidate’s core motivations in life. If those motivations run parallel (or close to parallel) to your organization’s goals, there is a good chance this person will put his/her heart & soul into the work. For startups, this is very important.
  9. What was the last product or technology that got you really excited? Why? Somewhat similar to understanding the candidate’s motivations is to have the candidate explain a concrete entity (product or technology) and the reasons for his/her excitement. Where the previous question examines global motivations, this question focuses on a specific motivation. Plus, it gives you another motivation datapoint and tells you how up-to-date the candidate is on current news.
  10. I want to solve problem X. What would you propose? Be creative with the problem statement. It can be something entirely made up, or something your organization or industry is actually facing. The solution(s) the candidate proposes are a test of his/her on-the-spot creativity and thinking, though the real value here is the follow-up questions. Probe into the candidate’s solution. Question it. Ask how it would be designed, built, marketed, measured, etc. Offer constraints that could change his/her solution. This is a good way to see how the candidate solves product problems.
  11. Ask a question that may trigger the candidate to say, “We can’t do that.” You will have to be a bit creative here with the question you select. The goal is to assess the candidate’s creative problem solving skills. A poor answer is how your particular request is not possible. A good answer is, “Here’s what we can do instead.” The candidate should offer viable alternatives and be able to discuss trade-offs.

These questions can work for most roles. Or you can tweak them a bit to fit your particular needs.

Do you have any other great interview questions?