5 Great Interview Questions & What the Answers Can Mean

Nov 18 2015

Interviewing can be just as stressful on the hiring manager as it is on the job seeker. It’s wise to have an interview strategy in mind ahead of time in order to get real answers to questions that matter most to you. Asking questions like, “So tell me about yourself” or “Do you consider yourself a team player” are fine, but to really determine if your candidate is a great fit, you have to “dig deeper.” After establishing whether your candidate has the skills and experience you need, formulate additional situational and behavioral questions to help you gauge your candidate’s enthusiasm, work ethic, communication style, and resilience. Here are 5 great interview questions to ask and examples of what the answers can mean.

1. Why do you want to work for us?
This question immediately lets you know if your candidate wants a job (any job) or if they want YOUR job. If they can’t offer a few specific reasons of why they’re interested, then they aren’t taking the interview very seriously. Beware of vague answers to a question like this. I’ve interviewed people who couldn’t even tell me what our company did, so this is definitely a “weed out” question.

2. What sets you apart from the competition?
You’re interviewing people who probably all have similar backgrounds. What makes one candidate stand out from the next? Asking this question directly is a great way to see if a potential employee can articulate why they are unique and why their particular background makes them best suited for the role. Look for answers that are focused and specific, like: “I don’t think you’ll find a better project manager or communicator and I’m really proud of the experience that I bring to the table.” Watch out for general answers like: “I just think I’m really qualified and would be able to do a great job.”

3. Tell me about a time when you overcame a conflict. How did you handle it?
This question shows how resilient your candidate is and how well they handle stress. Do they handle conflicts appropriately and diplomatically, or do they escalate the issue and cause an even bigger problem? A good answer to this question will address a specific conflict and will give an example of how it was resolved professionally. Beware of people who say they’ve never had to deal with a conflict before—this is a red flag.

4. Describe a time when a problem came up that you weren’t trained to handle. What did you do?
We all want employees who can effectively problem solve. And let’s face it, problems arise daily (sometimes hourly) in most companies. Look for answers that show your candidate is confident and will take the initiative to problem solve on their own. This means you want to find people who naturally exercise good judgment. Regardless of the example they give, look for answers that show they are resourceful, independent, and conscientious.

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The right answer to this question is “I see myself here at your company.” Hiring is expensive and avoiding turnover saves money. Look for candidates who actually see themselves working for you long term. We ask this question a lot for internal hires and sometimes the answers are surprising. People have said, “I see myself traveling and opening my own business” and “Hopefully in five years I’ll be working for a big marketing firm.” With answers like these, consider it a subtle way to find out that your candidate does not want to want to work for you long term.

Making smart hiring decisions takes a lot of thought and excellent judgment, so trust your instincts. If you get a sense that a candidate isn’t the right fit, you’re probably right. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and challenge the responses you get. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy Hiring!


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