10 of the Most Revealing Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

Woman of color in an apricot cardigan listening actively to a woman answering a revealing interview question

You can bet your candidates are well-versed in how to answer standard interview questions like, “What’s your greatest strength? Weakness?” or “Why should I hire you?” or even “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Because questions like these are so often used to gauge a candidate’s potential to perform well in a particular role or company, answers are usually very scripted, insincere, and tailored to what you’re looking for in a candidate. And, unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you a whole lot.

If you really want to spark a more authentic — and revealing — discussion, the answer is simple: ask better questions. To maximize the opportunity to get to know your candidates, here are 10 telling interview questions to ask in your next interview:

Table of contents

1. What did you learn about us from our website?

You would be surprised how many candidates do not do their homework before an interview. If the candidate is really interested in working at company ‘x’, they will learn all they can from the company website. It also gives you the opportunity to see how the candidate interprets what they have read and how they can communicate that back to you.

Chantal Bechervaise, Take it Personel-ly

Image of Chantal Bechervaise, Take it Personel-ly

2. If you were recruiting for this position, what are the top five things you’d be looking for?

Then, I’d ask the candidate how he or she would rank themselves against those attributes. From this question, I found out what values or skills the candidate finds most important, and that speaks volumes about how that person approaches problem-solving, as well as whether they’d be a corporate culture fit. Secondly, it’s always telling to see if a person is falsely modest in ranking him or herself low against the criteria or self-confident in ranking high.

Lynda Spiegel, Rising Star Resumes

Image of Lynda Spiegel, Rising Star Resumes

3. Tell me about an unpopular management decision you made and how your team handled it.

Job seekers have a much better chance of selling their skills and talents to an employer when behavioral questions are asked. Behavioral questions enable the candidate to bring the interviewer (figuratively) into their previous work experience to show how they handled a specific workplace event.

Traditional questions prompt canned, outdated, and predictable answers. This isn’t the right way for an employer to find their next superstar! My advice to employers is asking behavioral-based questions in their interviews. My advice for job seekers is when an employer asks a traditional-based question, answer in a behavioral-based manner.

Lauren Milligan, ResuMAYDAY

Image of Lauren Milligan, ResuMAYDAY

4. What is motivating your job search?

Two of the key things that I screen for when interviewing candidates are motivations and past performance. There is a possibility that the candidate being interviewed is looking for a new job because they are not getting along with their team or manager. It is also possible that they are underperforming in their current role and are being pushed out the door. These are important things to take into consideration.

By asking an open-ended question, you are giving the candidate an opportunity to provide insight as to why they are looking for a new job. By opening things up, I have found that you are more likely going to receive a visceral response. In many cases, these visceral responses are very insightful to the candidate’s TRUE motivations.

Doug Ross,  Spring Mill Advisory LLC

Image of Doug Ross,  Spring Mill Advisory LLC

5. Give me two or three examples of things you do to show kindness and consideration to your colleagues.

Employers should focus on questions that reveal behavior and character. They should go above and beyond the skills for meeting the job requirements. That’s how you know your hire will mesh well with your team or company, rather than turning out to be a costly regret.

Questions like this help you assess how prospective hires see themselves in relation to other people and specific circumstances. You can use them to spot the difference between people who are active, engaged problem-solvers and people who are passive and disengaged.

You can also be attentive to more than just the content of the answer, and focus on HOW they tell the story. Factors such as the way they describe themselves and the details they choose as relevant are a great indicator of how they might perform and what will matter to them if you hire them.

Christopher G. Fox,  Kindness Communication

Image of Christopher G. Fox,  Kindness Communication

6. Why do you think manhole covers are round?

I believe that thought-provoking questions that catch applicants slightly off guard from normal interview questions reveal the most about a candidate. This question actually has a correct answer, but it’s not the fact that the candidates answer it correctly or incorrectly that helps me evaluate them.

The reason manhole covers are round is so the cover can’t fall through its circular opening — this isn’t something many people have thought about before. However, even if the candidates have never considered it before, they can reason through to answer it. If they work out a logical answer when put on the spot in an interview, this indicates to me that they have good problem-solving skills and are able to logically determine a solution to a problem quickly.

Susan Wurst, Haley Marketing

Image of Susan Wurst, Haley Marketing

7. Tell me something from your last performance review that was indicted as a weakness or needing improvement and what you did to turn it around.

This question will tell you if a candidate is open to constructive criticism, if they are okay talking about the fact that they aren’t perfect, actions they take to improve, and their overall ability to be open with you as their future manager.

Lori Kleiman, HR Topics

Image of Lori Kleiman, HR Topics

8. Why did you leave your previous job?

When interviewing at Copy My Resume, we always ask applicants to explain why they left their previous jobs. If they were fired, this gives us direct insight into potential liabilities with the applicant. If they chose to leave, we can find out what their primary motivators are, such as career advancement, compensation, work-life balance, etc., and then play to that as a company.

For example, if someone left their previous job because of the horrible work hours, then we can use our flexible working time as a way to secure hiring them, should we wish to welcome them on board. Knowing what motivates and drives professionals is critical when trying to attract quality workers.

Erik B., TMB

Image of Erik B., TMB

9. What is the most significant thing you’ve done since breakfast?

The Creative Group recently surveyed more than 400 advertising and marketing executives to share the toughest or trickiest interview question they ask to weed out poor candidates. Many of the queries could trip up even the savviest applicants.

Take this question, for instance. Hiring managers may ask unusual questions to get a sense of a candidate’s interpersonal skills and the ‘intangibles’ that make a strong hire — like creativity, ambition, and the ability to think on one’s feet.

Diane Domeyer, Chief

Image of Diane Domeyer, Chief

10. Explain a time when you demonstrated _________?

At Halogen our recruiting process is very much focused on cultural fit. While a candidate may have the right degree and experience, which is important of course, it’s important to ensure this individual’s competencies align with our core values. This means looking beyond technical competencies when assessing candidates for their role. We look at behavioral competencies, as well.

For example, exceptional customer service is a core value in our organization, so we want to hire people who demonstrate that competency. We may ask questions during the interview process that ask the candidate to explain what exceptional customer service means to them, when they have provided exceptional customer experience or their experience in discovering/meeting client needs.

John Fleischauer, Pivot + Edge

Image of John Fleischauer, Pivot + Edge

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