Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

12. What are your day to day responsibilities?

Instructions: By asking this question, the interviewer is verifying the expertise and skills that you’ve mentioned in your resume. They can put it both ways – “day to day responsibilities” or “describe your typical work week.” Through your answer you can show that your experience matches the requirements of the job and you have the skills that the company is looking for. The hiring manager wants to know if the candidate can fit into the company’s schedule, whether it’s following strict office timings or working under flexible hours. 

As you prepare for this question, take into account the position you’ve applied for and how you can relate it with your current experience. List down the similarities between the job description mentioned by the employer and your existing responsibilities. While answering, focus on these similar tasks and emphasize how you demonstrate these skills regularly at your current job. Come up with specific answers, providing real-life examples. 

Example: These sample answers will give you an idea of what kind of information is required by the interviewer regarding your daily responsibilities. 

“My week starts with a sprint meeting, in which I check in on my team, discuss progress of deliverables and determine the completion date. We also meet mid-week to check the progress, discuss issues if any and finalize details regarding delivery. In case of issues, we devise strategies to tackle them and work together as a team to increase efficiency. If need be, there’s a weekly meeting with the heads of other departments to bring them up-to-date about the work and deliverables. Fridays are mostly reserved to send out emails about the tasks and mark the completed assignments. I also prepare a list for the next week.”

“I come in early to get things ready for the doctor so that he doesn’t fall behind in schedule. Before the first patient comes in, I’m ready with the appointments and patients’ files. My duties include guiding the patients if they have any questions and scheduling their appointments. Before going home I confirm the appointments for the next day and check for any changes. My routine is the same most of the week, unless I’m required to attend a training seminar or arrange one for the doctor. On alternate weeks, I lead a staff training session that I volunteered for myself to improve my leadership and social skills.”

13. Describe a difficult situation at the workplace and how you handle it ?

Instructions: Expect behavioral questions from the hiring manager, something along the lines of “Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work” or “how you handled a difficult situation at work?”. From the interviewer’s perspective, they want to know about your interpersonal skills and your conflict management ability. With behavioral questions like this one, the interviewer wants to know how you handle a situation and is looking for examples. Are you a team player or difficult to get along with? If you’re going in for an interview, it’s best to practice answer to this question as you don’t want to be caught off-guard and come out in a non-favorable light. 

One straightforward and recommended way to answer this question is the STAR technique. Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You start off by describing the situation for the conflict that arose and give background information. After that talk about your approach, the key actions you took, and how you tried to resolve the disagreement. End your answer with a positive conclusion and what you took from the entire incident. Make sure to pick a good example and be specific about your actions. 

Example: Check the sample answer for “how you handled a difficult situation at work?” using the STAR technique.

Situation/Task – “I was assigned as the project lead on the creation of a new website that was to bring revenues for the client. The deadline was in just two weeks and our quality assurance guy found a bug in the code. He wanted to push the deadline for another week but I knew that the client was counting on a timely launch.” 

Action – “I didn’t want to push my team or the quality assurance guy but I also knew that the website had to be delivered on time as the client wouldn’t be happy. Instead of pressurizing anyone, we decided to make a list of things that could be delayed and wouldn’t affect the launch, and instead focused our time and expertise in fixing the bug. The launch might not be perfect but it would still happen on time.”

Result – “Everyone in the team understood our priorities and together we directed all our resources where they were needed. Finally, we delivered the website on time and it increased the client’s sales by 20%.”

14. What are your salary expectations?

Instructions: The straightforward question “what are you looking for in terms of salary?” is either directly asked by the hiring manager or a Human Resource representative. As simple as it may seem, the question has to be a win for both you and the company. Employers ask this question to know how much you value yourself and of course, to see if they can actually afford you or not. Here’s an important tip – aim high but don’t pitch yourself out of the company’s salary range. Then again, don’t target your compensation too low as the employer is likely to go lower than your quote. Before going in for the interview, you must have knowledge about the average wage in your field and you can get this information by doing some research. There are multiple ways you can answer this question tactfully – don’t be too aggressive, be flexible, and focus on your target price. Think about your current salary and do give yourself a raise. 

Example: Here are the best ways you can answer the salary expectations question. 

“I’m flexible with my salary range and am open to discuss specific numbers with you once I have all the details about the position. Of course, I hope to be compensated for my ten years’ experience and exceptional sales record.” 

“Before giving you a specific figure I would like to know more about this position and my exact responsibilities. However, before coming here I did some research and jobs similar to this one pay in the range of $A to $B in our region. With my work experience and skills, I would expect something in the same range.”

“Currently my main aim is to find a position that’s a good match with my experience, interests, and skills. I’m confident that the salary you’ll offer me will be competitive in the current market.

15. Why do you consider yourself successful?

Instructions: Through this question the hiring manager wants to assess your previous achievements and determine whether you have the passion to fulfill your future goals. It’s also a way for the interviewer to judge you’re attitude – if you’re modest, humble, or have any ego issues. A similar question, “How do you define success?” gives the interviewee an opportunity to demonstrate personal and professional aspirations. So, when you’re asked this question in your next interview, highlight your professional characteristics or any achievement that you’re particularly proud of. Revolve your answer around the things that you did at work that helped other people and were beneficial for your company. Your response should display confidence and while you sell yourself as a success, make sure that you don’t brag. Back up your assertion with evidence and show how you achieved success in your workplace.  

You can give examples of situations where you set targets and effectively met them, briefly explaining the process and mentioning any obstacles that came your way. Your aim should be to pitch yourself as a passionate, motivated employee who’s willing to take on challenges and achieve results. 

Example: Here’s a sample answer for the question “why do you consider yourself successful” that can use to tailor according to your requirement. 

“I decided on a career that matches my skill-set and that’s what makes me successful. I have always been a people person and I like to go above and beyond to meet my clients’ requirements. Through this trait I was able to achieve sales targets at my previous company and was even named salesperson of the month. As I grow in my career, I look forward to find more success and establish myself as an effective communicator.”

“I consider myself successful because of my willingness to step out of my comfort zone and take up new challenges. I believe that hard work sets you up for success and in my case it has always turned out to be true. Not so long ago I was given an opportunity by my boss to lead a project and it was a new experience for me, managing a team of 15 members. However, through hard work, dedication, and clear communication, I effectively managed the team and we successfully delivered the project on time. I’m not afraid of challenges and am quite confident that it would set me up for success at your company.”

16. Can you tell us about a time when you had to face severe criticism from your boss?

Instructions: Mistakes are common occurrence in a workplace and when the hiring manager asks you “how you handle criticism”, they want to know how you respond to stressful situations. A behavioral question, it gives the interviewer an idea about your attitude and how well you take feedback. Companies operate under a variety of management styles and it’s the responsibility of the interviewer to gauge how you take criticism, both positive and negative, does it make you feel angry, undervalued, or defensive.  

You should be able to emphasize on your ability to take criticism in a composed and collected manner. Narrate an example where you were able to improve your performance after receiving criticism from your supervisor. You can also talk about the changes you made in a work process after getting feedback from the client. There are times when bosses act a bit unfairly and if you’ve been in that situation then it might be insightful for the interviewer to know how you rebuffed the criticism without inciting hostilities. Keep your answer short and focus on the positive details. Important tip – don’t say that you’ve never been criticized as it’ll appear as if you’re not willing to improve or take others opinion into consideration. 

Example: You can take help from these sample answers for the question regarding handling criticism. 

“As a project management officer, I’ve worked closely with my manager and his input has always helped me improve my performance. There was one time when he asked me to revise some important details on a project that I had worked really hard on. I was frustrated at first but after I listened to his ideas, I knew the changes would strengthen the project. I was able to present my own ideas as well and together we delivered a successful project.”

“I have always been ambitious and eager to climb the ranks. My current boss is quite supportive of my grit and aspirations, but he recently had a very honest chat with me. He told me clearly I had what it takes to go further in this field and I’m passionate about my work. He was however concerned that I was going a bit too fast and missing some important learning steps along the way. My motivation level slipped for a day or two but when I thought about it with a clear head, I knew he was right. Following the feedback, I have paced myself much better and I can see that my boss is happy.”

17. What kind of environment do you prefer to work in?

No matter what the size of a company, interviewers want to know about what kind of work environment you prefer. The purpose of this question is to determine how well you fit within the company’s culture. It also gives the hiring manager an idea about your most productive work environment. Do you prefer a formal setup or a casual structure? The interviewer is interested to know about the environment you’re most comfortable in. 

When you’re asked this question, it’s best to give a balanced answer as at this point you’re unlikely to know about the company’s culture and environment. You can give a positive impression by saying that you’re flexible and can easily adapt to different settings. It’s important that you’re honest though, as at the end of the day if you’re hired you don’t want your productivity to suffer just because you were dishonest regarding environment preference. For example, if you’re applying for an accountant position then you can give a neutral answer like you’re flexible in terms of work environment but prefer working in a quiet place where there’s no distraction. When answering this question, don’t just tell them where you’d prefer your desk to be, but also talk about what you need to be productive so that you can do your job the best possible way. 

Example: Here are some sample answers for “what type of work environment do you prefer?”

“I feel I thrive in a collaborative setting, where team members can take each other’s input and brainstorm ideas. I find your office environment similar to what I prefer as this way I can check in with my colleagues and save time on chain of command. But there are times when I would rather sit in a quiet room to process my thoughts and get things done quickly. So, you can say I’m a bit flexible regarding work environment.”

“I have previously worked in a fast-paced environment and found the experience quite nice. I’m open to change as I think new things and different workplace settings can add to the overall learning process. One can develop new skills and even evolve as a person.” 

18. Why is there a gap in your work history?

Instructions: A good interviewer will notice the gap in your resume and will definitely ask you about it. Be ready and be honest. If you’ve been out of work between positions, the hiring manager is likely to probe about it, looking for indications whether you left jobs due to personal conflicts or poor performance. Interviewers are curious about your motivations for leaving a job and look for red flags like a candidate being a risky hire. 

Many people take time off between jobs to pursue higher education, enroll in a training program, take care of family member, or to work at freelance projects. Prepare your answer beforehand so that you’re not caught off-guard. Some of the common reasons for having gaps in your work history are parenthood commitments, family care, unemployment and education. Whichever is your reason, answer confidently, honestly, and don’t be defensive. Be bold but polite in your response and don’t take a timid stance on the matter. If you’re returning to job after a long gap then make sure to keep up with your field and brush up on technology. The interviewer will ask you about your technological competencies and see how knowledgeable you are about your industry.   

Example: Your approach to answer this question will depend on many factors like what you did during the gap, where you were in your career when you left the job, and how competent you are after returning to the industry. You can take help from these sample answers to better tackle the question. 

“During these three years, I took time off to take care of my son and now that he’s started pre-school I’m able to return to work. While I was on break, I developed my professional networks and even took online classes to remain up-to-date about the market trends.” 

“My department hired a new marketing manager and he brought his own team with him. The company was forced to make some budget cuts and since I was among the recently hired employees, I was laid off. I’m proud of my contributions to the company in this short time and am confident that my manager will provide positive recommendation if required.

19. Please give some examples of teamwork that you have experienced?

Instructions: The ability to work with others is the most critical skill required in workplaces, so expect this question to be asked by your hiring manager. Behavioral questions about teamwork can be both, specific or general. If you’re being interviewed for an entry level position then you’ll probably be asked about a team project you worked on. The interviewer can also rephrase it as, “Tell me about a team experience that you found rewarding” or “Tell me why you consider yourself a team player.” 

Candidates for management level positions or C-level roles can expect more specific and direct questions like “Share an example of when you fulfilled a leadership role” or “Describe a time when you were required to manage a challenging team dynamic.”

All teamwork related questions are designed to test your interpersonal skills, how well you interact with people with different temperaments, and your ability to collaborate to achieve company’s goals. Before you prepare your answer to this question, make sure you research the company – its goals and objectives, and the requirements from the position you’ve applied for. As you come up with a response, ask yourself these questions: how well do you get along with people? Are you able to motivate or inspire team members? Can you deal with difficult people or conflicting personalities? Once you’ve reviewed this list, develop your answer drawing from your own experience. 

Example: Here are some sample answers to teamwork related questions. 

“In my role as a quality assurance manager for my previous company, I had to ensure that all guidelines were met and product specifications were being followed. This involved communicating with the manager, CEO of the company, and collaborating with a team of 15 members. I made sure to be in contact with everyone involved in the project and in case of issues, communicated them timely to the concerned people”. 

“I work as a sous-chef at a reputable restaurant and while my main responsibility is supervising the activity in kitchen, from time to time I’m required to pitch in at different levels. Especially during busy days or if the head chef is absent. Six months back we hired a lot of new people and there were some who didn’t get along with each other. For a kitchen to run smoothly there needs to be harmony among the workers. So to diffuse the ongoing tension, I came up with creative activities like team-based incentives and competitions. This encouraged everyone to work together and eventually respect one and other.”

20. What interests you about this job?

Instructions: The interviewer wants to know about the right reasons you’ve applied for this job and to determine if you’re a good fit for the position. Don’t come up with an ambiguous reply as the hiring manager wants to know the specifics like what motivates you, your goals and qualification, and personality traits. Avoid generic answers as they’ll give the interviewer an impression that you didn’t research the role and the responsibilities it entails. Align the key requirements and skills needed with your experience to convince the interviewer that you’re the person they need for the job. 

As you prepare your answer, make a list of your experiences and skills that match the job description. Come up with specific examples of how you implemented your knowledge and abilities to the other jobs and how you hope to use them in this new role. 

After you’ve confidently shown your enthusiasm for the role, take it a step further and talk about how you’re excited to be a part of a company that practices strong ethics and solid vision. Also highlight what you hope to contribute to the company, indicating that you’re not only concerned about what the job offers you but also what you’ll bring to them. Important tip – avoid acting unsure or disinterested as the interviewer is likely to pick up on that. 

Example: Customize these sample answers to match your experience and the job you’re applying for.

“When I learned about this position opening I knew I’d be a good fit as most of the job requirements align with my experience and skill-set. The job description clearly mentioned forming strong relationships with the main stakeholders and this is something that I have vast experience in. I’m a people person and this makes the job very exciting for me. Communication and collaboration comes naturally to me, and they are among the key specifications for the position. I have read a lot about your company’s culture and I feel I’m well suited not just for the role but also the environment you offer.”

21. What would you contribute to our team culture?

Instructions: The question “how you could contribute to or add value to a company?” is not an uncommon one, so it’s best to prepare an answer in advance. If you’ve already done your research on the company and are familiar with their goals, and objectives then this isn’t a tough question to answer. The hiring manager is giving you an opportunity to prove how you can be the best fit for the position and an asset to the company. 

You can start off by highlighting your strengths and what makes you exceptional. Instead of talking about multiple unique attributes, pick one or two strong ones that you can easily relate with the job you’re applying for. You can apply the STAR response method here – describing the Situation you were in, talk about the Task that you had to complete, the Action you took to get the work done, and Result that you effectively achieved. 

Show your value clearly through significant examples, pulling directly from your academic training or professional experiences. If the position requires, mention data or numbers that can show your contribution to the previous company and how you plan to add value to this new role if you’re hired. Connect your reply with the employer’s goals and make sure that the interviewer knows you have the necessary skills required for the job. Important tip – don’t let your ego get in the way as you don’t want to appear to be bragging. Be confident, be flexible and be precise. 

Example: You can take help from some of these sample answers and impress the interviewer with your reply. 

“I always look at the positive side of things and this upbeat attitude of mine makes me an energetic worker. Instead of sticking to the routine, I like to step out of my comfort zone and take initiatives. This personality of mine allows me to get on top of the things, manage tasks properly, and timely. My positive attitude also helps in keeping my team motivated. I hope to bring the same energy to this job, if hired and produce results through efficiency and innovation.”

“I hope to bring my sound knowledge and expertise to your company. As a sales manager, I have a lot of experience and am lucky enough to get the right exposure by dealing in international markets. In my previous role as well, I helped the company improve its international sales by 20%. I’m positive that I’ll be able to align my skills with your company’s current goals. My background in sales and planning ability will help facilitate your company’s growth.”

22. Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Instructions: Going in for an interview, expect the hiring manager to ask you “Where do you see yourself in five years from now?” It’s tough to articulate where you’d be in your career the next year, let alone five years from now. But it’s a commonly asked question and the interviewers will be expecting you to answer it confidently. The purpose for this question is to give the hiring manager a sense of how your goals match those with the company’s. It also gives them an indicator if you’re likely to be with their company for a long haul or will probably leave within a year or even less. 

It’s always tricky to answer questions about future as you need to be straightforward and at the same time ensure that your goals are relevant to the job, and industry. The employers care about your future plans because they want to hire someone who is dedicated, proactive, and works hard to achieve goals. 

There are different ways to answer this question, one being giving a fairly general reply. While it’s always good to be specific in a job interview but here an exception can be made, especially if you’re unclear about your career path. Outline some realistic expectations for your career like moving up the ranks or achieving set targets.  

Example: You can take cue from these sample answers to come up with your own specific reply. 

“Five years from now, I hope to be an expert in my field of product development. I would like to see myself in a place with a huge clientele and having close relationship with my clients.”

“I hope to be in a place where I can build my career and take on additional management responsibilities. My goal is to take on new challenges and ultimately be involved in decision-making process.” 

“I am driven to be the best in my field of IT and would like to be with a company that gives me ample opportunities to grow, and develop my skills. Your company has the most talented people and innovative thinkers in the industry, so I hope to see myself here long term and build my career.”

23. Give details about your education?

Instructions: Be prepared with a great sales pitch when the hiring manager asks about your educational background. This question is usually asked in the beginning, setting the pace for the interview with a low-pressure probe. While you can easily breeze through this question, it’s best not to take it too lightly as some jobs focus primarily on education or qualification than other competencies. An interviewer will also judge through your coursework and projects how well prepared you are for the job. In this question you can go into detail, explaining about a coursework that’s related to the position you’ve applied for and what you learned from it. 

If you have prior work experience, you can point out how a college assignment helped you succeed at your previous job. You can also pick a skill that’s required for the job and explain how your coursework trained you and honed your skill. Answer with confidence and emphasize that you look forward to utilize your academic training in solving real-world problems in the company. Remember to connect your educational background to the job, talk about transferable skills that a coursework helped you develop, and don’t be modest – your education should always be something you’re proud of. 

Example: The interviewer can ask questions related to education in different ways like “How has your education prepared you for this job?” or “What influenced your choice of college?”. Look at these sample answers to plan your answer beforehand. 

“I majored in English language and it has played an important role in developing my communication skills. But along with that I was also a part of many extracurricular activities and they prepared me for a career in project management. In school I was the president of the events’ volunteer committee and it required me to coordinate with numerous people. I organized a charity gala in my final year, in which I managed more than 30 volunteers. I feel that experience is really helping me now in my collaborative responsibilities.”

“As finance major, I took many courses as electives that gave me a broader perspective. My coursework mainly focused on financial analysis but I decided to take a course in accounting as well that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I feel it was a good decision as ever since I have entered the professional world, I have been using what I learned in that course and it has helped me fit in different job positions.”

24. Do you prefer working alone or as a team?

Instruction: This question is mostly asked during an entry-level job interview as these positions require staff members to work in teams. While there’s no right or wrong answer to this question, the hiring manager just wants to know how well you’d blend in with the company’s culture. It also gives them an idea of how you interact with others and gauge your social skills. Asking your preference is not a trick question, so you shouldn’t over think it and try to answer it honestly. 

You can emphasize your ability to work in both the situations as your skills and personality traits are suited for either. Talk about an experience where you worked independently and achieved the goals effectively. Similarly, also share an incident where you displayed collaborative efforts and reached target as a team. You can tailor your answer according to the position you’ve applied for and its requirements. 

The interviewer will be looking for well-rounded applicants who can handle themselves professionally in all kinds of social situations. Don’t portray yourself as someone who can’t handle conflict and will cave under pressure. 

Example: You can take some guidelines from these sample answers for the question regarding your preference to work alone or in team. 

“I’m quite flexible regarding my preference to work alone or in a team. In collaborative projects I feel it’s better to work together and contribute as a team. It gives you an opportunity to learn from others and succeed through teamwork. I can also work independently and am driven this way to meet deadlines in an organized manner.”

“I’ve worked both as part of a team and independently, and have found that I’m more productive solo. I like to focus on my work and can be distracted by the chatter around me. I can’t formulate my thoughts properly if there’s too much noise.”

25. Do you have any questions for me?

Instructions: Every interviewer wraps up the meeting with the question, “Do you have any questions for me?”. And surprisingly many interviewees answer “no”. Not only does it show your disinterest in the job but you also miss the opportunity to find out more about the position and the company. Don’t go for a passive response that doesn’t demonstrate imagination or interest. It’s important that you ask questions about the job challenges, people you’ll be working with and what’s expected from you. Come prepared with a list which you can alter according to the things covered during the interview. 

Important tip – ask open-ended questions that will give you a better answer than yes or no. Use this as an opportunity to clarify your uncertainties and ask specific question like what are they looking for in an ideal candidate. It’s time for you to reverse the question and ask them where they see the company in the next few years. Remember, if you don’t ask a question then you’re raising a red flag – meaning you couldn’t be bothered with the position or the company. 

Example: Here are some sample answers that you can use to tailor your own. 

“Can you give me more details about the responsibilities, like what will my typical day look like?”

“What is the procedure for performance review? How long does it normally take for first formal evaluation?” 

“How would you describe the management style of the company?”

“Are there any training programs available for the employees? What opportunities are provided by the company for advancement and professional development?”

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