Best Interview Questions for Employers to Ask Applicants

See a List of the Best Interview Questions Employers Ask Job Applicants

Man and woman interviewing a job candidate
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Do you have favorite interview questions that you ask each job applicant at an interview? If so, you’re not alone. Seasoned interviewers develop a short list of the best questions that quickly tell them what they need to know about a candidate’s job skills, job fit, and potential cultural fit.

These questions are the backbone of an effective job interview. If you track your data carefully over time, you will learn which questions worked to help you decide to hire the candidates who became your most successful employees. You will also learn what kinds of answers were given by the applicants who became your most successful employees.

These best interview questions focus on the skills that you want candidates to have and the contributions that you most want the candidate to make—if hired.

They help you assess the prospective employee’s work experience and his or her approach to problem-solving. They help you understand how the candidate interacts with people and the work environment.

These best interview questions have a track record of helping you select people who became successful employees. These are some of the best interview questions to ask a prospective employee and your goal in asking each question.


Watch Now: 4 Essential Interview Questions to Ask Applicants

Best Interview Questions to Ask Your Applicants at a Job Interview

Interview Question: Tell me about your greatest achievement at work.

  • Goal: The applicant’s answer tells a lot about what the individual values and what he or she considers important. It also demonstrates what the applicant considers to be an achievement. Occasionally, consider asking what the prospective employee thinks of when he is asked to name the three key and most significant values that they would bring to your workplace.

Interview Question: Describe the work environment in which you will most effectively be able to contribute.

  • Goal: The candidate’s response tells the interviewer whether their work environment is congruent with the candidate’s needs. The answer helps the interviewer decide whether the prospective employee is a good fit for their culture and work environment. You don't want to hire a loner for a team that thrives on collaboration. You don't want to hire an employee who can't type a coherent paragraph if the majority of your customer support is via email.

Interview Question: What kind of oversight and interaction would your ideal boss provide?

  • Goal: You want to know how self-directed your candidate is. In a company that emphasizes empowerment, for example, a candidate who requires constant direction will not fit. If you know that the boss who is the hiring manager is a micromanager, the self-driven candidate may not succeed. In fact, most of your best candidates will not succeed with a micromanaging boss. (What are you doing about this boss’s management style, by the way? You are doing something—right?)

Interview Question: Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a major obstacle that stood in the way of you accomplishing a goal or commitment. How did you approach the situation?

  • Goal: You will obtain a clear picture of the candidate's past performance. You obtain information about his or her problem-solving style and you also learn about what the candidate considers an obstacle. You may also learn about his or her interaction style with coworkers.

Interview Question: What prompted you to apply for this job? What interested you the most about this position?

  • Goal: You want to know what the prospective employee is most interested in related to your position. The answer will tell you about what motivates the individual and what is important to the applicant. You can then assess whether their needs are congruent with the work environmnt that the position provides.

Interview Question: Why are you leaving your current employer? (If the applicant is employed.)

  • Goal: The applicant's response tells you about his or her values, outlook, goals, and needs from an employer. You can determine what prompted the job search. Is the candidate running towards a more successful future or is she running away from an unsuccessful employment experience? Candidates who tell you about bad bosses may not reveal their own part in the story.

Interview Question: What are the three most important attributes or skills that you believe you would bring to our company if we hired you?

  • Goal: The candidate's answer tells you what he or she considers most important in their skill set. You also learn about how the candidate views your open position and their ability to make contributions in that job.

Interview Question: What are the first three things you would do on the job if you were hired for this position?

  • Goal: You will gain an understanding of what the applicant deems important, their understanding of the requirements of your job, and how the candidate approaches a new situation. You will learn whether the candidate takes the time to understand the work environment and necessary interactions before diving right into the water.

Interview Question: How would your coworkers at your current job describe your interaction with them and your general effectiveness in your work performance? How would your coworkers describe you?

  • Goal: You want to understand how the candidate thinks that his or her coworkers view their interaction. You also want to assess how coworkers like working with the candidate. These questions give you an idea about the candidate's assessment of his effectiveness in his current job and in his relationships with coworkers. Past practice can predict future results.

Interview Question: How would your current boss describe your work and contribution?

  • Goal: You want to understand how the candidate perceives the support and opinion of his current employer. This question tells you about the candidate's interaction with his current boss. It also informs you about how well he accepts criticism and feedback. If the interaction with the applicant's current employer is positive and uplifting, this can shape the job applicant's expectations of their new work environment.

Interview Question: How do you believe that your current skills will contribute to the accomplishment of our company's goals and mission as stated on our website or in company literature?

  • Goal: Prospective employees have long been asked to learn about the company to which they are applying. In this virtual era, learning about the company you are applying to has never been easier. This question tells you if the prospective employee did learn about your company. Further, it tells you if the candidate was thoughtful about his or her potential fit in your company and whether she will be able to contribute. It also helps you to know that there are specific reasons why this applicant applied for your open position.

    Interview Question: How do you go about continuing to develop your professional skills and knowledge?

    • Goal: You want to hire employees who believe in continuous development and improvement. Listen carefully to whether the prospective employee pursues his or her own professional development or whether they depend on their employer to provide the development opportunities. Listen also to identify areas in which the job applicant believes they need improvement and/or an expanded skill set.

    These are examples of the best interview questions to ask as you recruit and interview new employees. You will devise your own list of the best interview questions to ask as you participate in more interviews and experience the success or failure of the people that you hire.

    Sample Job Interview Questions for Employers

    Use these sample job interview questions when you interview potential employees.

    Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.