What are the most helpful strategic interview questions to ask job candidates?
We asked HR professionals and business leaders for their best advice. Here are 21 strategic interview questions to choose from — and what insights they could reveal.
1. How Have You Shown Excellence at Work?
Examples of such behavior could be taking the initiative to launch projects that improved efficiency or implementing new processes that increased customer satisfaction. This question takes the candidate’s answer beyond superficial responses and delves into an assessment of past accomplishments, allowing for a more accurate evaluation of skills and abilities. As a result, you gain better insight into how well-suited a candidate is for the role and organization.
Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack
2. How Does Your Experience Apply to This Job?
This allows applicants to explain what they feel makes them a good fit for the position. They may have experience in former roles that are atypical for their title. Also, as every company does things slightly differently, you may not expect their skill set just by looking at their resume. It also shows interviewers what the candidate sees as the principal duties of the existing job. While it’s a very classic interview question, it has remained one for a reason.
Rachel Roff, Founder & CEO, Urban Skin Rx
3. How Happy Are You with Your Work‑Life Balance?
This is a crucial question to ask in today’s times, and it can provide you with a vital insight into a candidate’s priorities and expectations regarding their work and professional lives. This is a must-have on your list. The answer to this question will tell you if your candidate has got this balance right or if they have been paying attention to it. It will also tell you how their expectations and goals align with the standards you have set and aim to maintain for your employees. If these parameters do not match, the candidate may never find your company suitable. This information also helps you set your own set of workplace goals as an employer or senior leader to meet the growing needs of the workforce.
Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., Founding Director, Aspiring Families
4. What Makes You the Best Candidate for the Position?
This type of question allows the interviewer to gain insight into what makes each candidate special and allows them to determine which individual brings the most value to the organization. It also gives the candidate an opportunity to showcase their qualifications and strengths, allowing for more effective evaluation and decision-making. Additionally, this question can provide clarity on how the candidate’s skills align with the organization’s expectations and job requirements. Asking this type of strategic question shows you are looking for candidates who stand out among their peers and those who not only meet the job requirements, but exceed them.
Amira Irfan, Founder & CEO, A Self Guru
5. Can You Tell Me About a Project You Loved Working On?
Asking this question can allow you to gauge not only which previous projects are at the forefront of the candidate’s mind, but also outline how aligned their preferred projects are with what they’re most likely to be working on in their current role. This is a significant question if you’re trying to dig deeper into understanding the candidate’s team or project preferences to place them within an existing team that is the best fit for them.
Tracey Beveridge, HR Director, Personnel Checks
6. What Are Your Professional Goals for the Next Year?
This is a brilliant question to ask candidates during an interview, as it can provide valuable insight into their motivation and dedication. Asking what the candidate’s goals are over the next year allows you to understand how they plan to improve themselves professionally and personally. This will give you a better understanding of how self-motivated and goal-oriented the candidate is. It will also provide insight into how committed they are to their own professional development and growth in order to become a more valuable asset for your business.
Asker Ahmed, Director & Founder, iProcess
7. What Tools Do You Use in Your Work?
I interviewed a lot of candidates for our marketing department. With so many applicants coming out of college, I like to gauge the marketing industry trends and newest platforms by asking candidates what their favorite marketing tool to use is. This gives me a better understanding of how they like to work and it also helps keep me current with marketing trends and platforms that I may not be aware of or that my team isn’t using yet. If I see the need to implement a new marketing tool based on many candidates speaking about one, then I’m able to do so after completing the interview. It’s a great way to study the industry while potentially picking up new talent for your department.
Seth Newman, Director, Sporting Smiles
8. Can You Describe a Change You Proposed?
Describe a time when you changed something at a company you worked for, large or small. This strategic question can show how willing people are to make bold decisions or ask bold questions, regardless of their position in the business hierarchy. Even something as small as changing the paper stock to a more environmentally friendly one at a previous job can show that a person will try to make things better at an organization and show a passion for wanting the business to thrive. We all have a responsibility to work together to do that in an organization, and if the entire team is aiming for that, there is a greater chance of success.
Alex Mastin, CEO & Founder, Home Grounds
9. Who Has Been One of Your Biggest Inspirations?
This is an excellent interview question for any candidate. Their answer can reveal a great deal about what drives an individual, and if their own core values align with those of the company. It also allows for some personality to shine through in an otherwise business-heavy dialogue too.
Adam Bem, Co-Founder & COO, Victoria VR
10. What if a Competitor Developed a Better Offering?
What would you do if you had a working application, but a competitor came up with a slightly better product? Here, I want to know if the candidate would recommend we switch over to the newest tool right away, or if the candidate would first want to assess if the newer application is just another shiny object. A suitable candidate would first assess the necessity and cost of switching to the newer technology. You’ll want a competitive candidate who encourages positive change in teams, but that change needs to be viable for your organization.
Jon Torres, CEO, Jon Torres
11. How Will AI Alter This Role in the Future?
I love this question because it tells me multiple things about the applicant. For starters, I get some insight into their familiarity with current AI tech, and that’s a skill I expect them to already possess. But I also discover a few other things, like what day-to-day tasks they consider rote or redundant, and likely to be eliminated in the next few years. It’s about growth — how do they see this position changing in the next few years as technology updates, and where will it leave them?
Linn Atiyeh, CEO, Bemana
12. Have You Looked at Our Website?
My standard question that I will ask all employees is if they went to our website to look at the business. If they say no, I’m most likely not going to hire them, as they aren’t that interested in the position. The potential employee should have done some research on the company they want to work for. If I were going to an interview at a company, I would check out the business’ website and read any news articles or press releases about that company before going to the interview. This can then be brought up as a conversation piece — that I read about this new project or product the company is coming out with.
Tawanda Johnson, HR & DEI Consultant, Sporting Smiles
13. How Would Your Coworkers Describe You?
This can be a good way to gauge how well a candidate can assess themselves from a perspective other than their own. Furthermore, this could lead to a different answer than asking about their strengths and weaknesses, since you will get a better understanding of the candidate’s personality. Communication and comradery are two pivotal aspects of a thriving workplace, so a candidate that is easy to work with and plays well with others is more likely to succeed and contribute to the company’s culture.
Dakota McDaniels, Chief Product Officer, Pluto
14. Have You Solved a Problem with Unorthodox Thinking?
By asking this question and asking for an example, the candidates will provide a specific example of a time when they had to think creatively to solve a problem or complete a project. This will give you a better understanding of their problem-solving skills and ability to think outside of the box. Furthermore, it also helps you understand how they approach problem-solving and whether they can find solutions that differ from the usual ones.
Alan Carr, Director, Webpop Design
15. What Keeps You Passionate About Life?
This question helps reveal the potential hire’s enthusiasm for their work and life goals, allowing employers to understand why they have chosen their particular career. Instead of the typical questions that assess skills or experience, this deeper inquiry has the power to gauge an individual’s level of commitment and dedication. It can provide insight into whether a candidate will bring creative, driven energy to the job if hired.
Grace He, People & Culture Director, TeamBuilding
16. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?
For me, the answer often serves as a candidate’s make-or-break moment. It reveals if they are looking for any job or genuinely want this job in your company. You need to know whether the person is not only a professional, but also a culture fit. The answer will show if the applicant has done research on the company. Have they gone the extra mile to look beyond its homepage? Are they familiar with the mission and values? And, most importantly, do they identify with them?
Agata Szczepanek, Community Manager, LiveCareer
17. What Innovation Can Change Our Brand Today?
A question that is relevant in every setting, but more so in tech-oriented companies, this one reveals whether a candidate has their finger on the pulse of the industry. Passionate and committed candidates will always know about the latest industry news and may even have begun preparations to adopt this innovation or at least learn more about it. In sharing this information, your candidate can cement their place on the final list, because we all know how interviewers love discovering candidates who are on a constant lookout for what’s new in their role and industry. Such a candidate not only proves to be an asset, but also offers you insights into industry news-making headlines.
Brendan McGreevy, Head of Strategy, Affinda
18. Tell Me Something About You That Isn’t on Your Resume?
This question is intentionally vague because it gives the candidate the opportunity to decide what they want to share. Maybe they’ll tell you about a hobby or about some volunteer work. Maybe they’ll have an experience they’ve left off their resume for whatever reason. The way they choose to answer will tell you a lot about them as a person and what kind of fit they will be for your company.
Carrie Shaltz Haslup, Founder & CEO, Tabeeze
19. What Is Your Ideal Culture for a Workplace?
Every company has its own unique environment and culture. Similarly, employees have unique requirements for the values and culture of the employer they work for. This question is effective because it gives you an excellent opportunity to assess whether the candidate would be a good fit for your company’s culture.
Nick Allen, Founder & CEO, SportsLingo
20. If [Previous Situation] Happened Today, What Would Your Do Differently?
Interview questions follow a standard process. You ask the candidate for a historic example of their competence, and then they summarize the context, action, and result (the CAR acronym). However, this approach is susceptible to exaggeration, embellishment, and outright lying about the situation to paint themselves in a positive light. By asking what they would do today, after years of knowledge acquisition and personal development, they should show even greater competence. However, if they cannot identify a better way of addressing the original scenario, this suggests that either they have undergone little professional development, or they made up the initial situation and fabricated the best conclusion they could think of. Either way, this question either forces candidates to engage in higher-level critical thinking or highlights their complacency — a win-win.
Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership
21. What Do You Need to Be Successful?
This is a significant question to ask because it gives you an insight into the candidate’s understanding of the job and the skills and qualities they possess that make them a good fit for the role. The answer to this strategic interview question also provides you with information about the candidate’s self-awareness and their ability to assess their own skills and abilities in relation to the job. Additionally, it can give you a sign of how the candidate views their own strengths and weaknesses and how they plan to apply those to this job.
Michael Lazar, Executive, ReadyCloud
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