When it comes to interviewing candidates for your open positions, the best interview questions are those that are direct and job-specific. You will also want to learn more about the candidate’s skills and education, as well as what they bring to the position. Below, we cover some of the best interview questions to ask, broken down by hiring stage.
Phone Screen Interview Questions
Your first contact with a candidate beyond their application and your email request to interview is the phone screen. This should be a short (no longer than 15 minutes) call between you and the candidate where you can assess their education and skills for the position, their knowledge of your company, and if you feel they may be a good fit to move to the next stage in the interview process. Ask the following questions during the phone screen interview:
- What was it about the job description that caught your eye?
- Why do you want to work for our company in this role? What do you know about the company?
- Tell me about your skills in (insert crucial skill for the role). How many years of experience do you have, and how would you rate yourself on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being an expert?
- Can you walk me through your resume and explain your employment background?
- What are your salary requirements or expectations?
- What is your ideal work schedule?
These questions will help you learn more about the candidate, what motivated them to apply for the open position, and if they have the experience required to fill the role. Be sure not to ask the candidate any illegal interview questions, such as how much they currently make (this could violate the salary history ban law).
For a more in-depth look at phone screen interview questions, review our Phone Screen Interview Questions & Examples article.
Second & Third Interview Questions
Once you have conducted the phone screen interview, you will decide which candidates you want to move to the next stage in the hiring process. These candidates should be set up for in-person, phone, or virtual interviews. This is your opportunity to dive deeper into their qualifications and learn more about their work style. Ask the following questions during the second and third interviews:
- How do you prioritize your daily tasks?
- Describe a project that you are proud of. How did you overcome any obstacles during this project? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to discuss a project scope change with a client or superior and the outcome of this discussion.
- What motivates you?
- What are your career goals?
- Do you prefer to work independently or within a team?
- Describe your style of working with a team or on a group project.
- Name two of your top strengths and how you can use those strengths in this job role.
Second and third interview questions are designed to get a more in-depth understanding of how the candidate would succeed in their role. This is the time to hold team interviews with decision-makers and team members who will work directly with the candidate. You will also want to ask job-specific questions during this stage. See our recommendations below.
Consider asking the candidate to complete a sample project directly related to the work they will be doing for your company. This will allow you to get a firsthand look at the type of skills they possess and if they can complete the assignment in a timely manner. You may want to compensate for the project as candidates may deliver better results when they know they will be paid.
Job-Specific Interview Questions
During the second and third interviews, the best interview questions are specific to the industry or position the candidate is applying for. This will help you gauge whether the candidate can complete the tasks of the position. Also consider keeping a scorecard on each candidate that you can refer back to when making a hiring decision. We’ve broken down these job-specific interview questions into categories:
If you are interviewing candidates who will manage a team, you will want to be thorough in the questions you ask relating to their management experience and style.
- What is your management style?
- Tell me about a time when you had to give someone difficult feedback. How did you handle it?
- As a manager in this role, you will lead a team of (insert #) people. What specifically will you do during year one to help ensure they each become more valuable to the company and stronger performers overall?
- Tell me about a time you had someone on your team who was a challenge. What did you do to manage them, and how did the situation turn out?
- What is your experience with hiring and terminating employees?
- Why do you like to manage people?
Interviewing candidates is only one part of the recruiting process. Check out our guide on recruiting management to learn how it all comes together.
Whether you are hiring a Social Media Manager or a Head of Marketing, make sure you hone in on your candidate’s ability to turn marketing ideas and thoughts into new business for your company. Here are the best interview questions that can give you insight into whether a marketing candidate can thrive at your company.
- What was the ROI (return on investment) on marketing campaign(s) that you’ve led, designed, or otherwise participated in? What lessons did you learn from them?
- What blogs and resources do you follow online to keep up with the industry?
- Walk me through your process of a marketing campaign from start to finish. What steps do you take to get results?
- Do you have experience building social media channels and an online presence? What do you think works or does not work?
- How do you deal with a project that’s gone over budget or pushed past the deadline?
Learn more about relationship marketing and how an in-house professional can help grow your business.
Being an administrative assistant is a multitasking-heavy job. There are certain skills that an administrative assistant must possess to succeed in their role. Here are some solid questions that you should ask every administrative assistant candidate:
- Tell me about a time when you had to complete multiple projects at one time for a deadline. How did you prioritize your tasks to complete them by the deadline?
- Why do you think you’d be the right administrative assistant for me/for this office?
- Walk me through a typical day in the role of an administrative assistant.
- What do you enjoy most about administrative work?
- What software and office equipment knowledge do you have that will help you succeed in this role?
- Describe a situation where discretion was required of you and how you handled the situation.
Our administrative assistant hiring guide goes over recruiting for the administrative assistant role, from the job description to the phone screen to interview questions and more.
Real Estate Agents must possess certain skills to succeed. Additionally, real estate is a business of relationships and people, and even the most skilled realtors should have a story to tell. Start by asking the following questions:
- Why do you want to work as a real estate agent?
- How many transactions did you close in the past year?
- From which lead generation source did you see the best ROI?
- How will you help grow your business (through our agency)?
- How would you utilize the internet, video tours, and social media to sell property?
- Tell me about a time when you struggled to build a relationship with a client. What would you have done differently?
- What do you find most challenging when you accompany prospective clients on showings? Why?
Learn more about the qualifications realtors should possess.
Information technology (IT) roles are highly skilled and technical. Candidates must possess specific skills and knowledge to succeed in these roles. Ask your candidates the following top interview questions:
- Describe a time when you worked in a group on a technical project. What was the outcome?
- What programming languages do you know?
- How would you handle a client situation where the deliverable deadline is approaching, and your team members may not be available to help?
- If you had to design a program from scratch, what steps would you take? How would you ensure the data being entered has zero or minimal errors?
Learn more about IT recruitment and how to hire the best technician for your organization.
Recruiting a good salesperson (or business development manager, depending on your industry) is key to growing your business. Ask potential sales employees the following questions:
- How do you divide your time between cultivating current clients and searching for new ones?
- What approach do you take when you are having difficulty closing the deal?
- In your opinion, what can our company do to improve sales?
- What is the difference between a short sales cycle and a long sales cycle?
- At what point do you stop pursuing a potential client?
- Explain your sales process from start to finish.
Learn more about hiring sales professionals, plus download a free checklist.
Final Interview Questions
Once your candidate has gone through a series of interviews and you are close to making a hiring decision, it is a good idea to have a final interview between the candidate and the hiring manager. This is the time to ask direct questions about why the candidate is right for the position and when they can begin work, if hired.
- Describe a situation where you went above and beyond in your role.
- How do you envision growth in your position?
- In what environment do you feel most productive?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- Tell me why you are the perfect candidate for this position.
- When will you be available to start?
- Do you have any questions for us?
ZipRecruiter, an applicant tracking system (ATS), can help you throughout the entire hiring process, from recruiting to interviewing to hire. It offers scheduling tools so you can easily set up interviews with candidates and will allow you to include screening questions during the application process.
Interview Question Resources
There are many types of interview questions you can ask during each stage of the interview process. Below are several articles that touch on different styles of interviewing:
Asking the right questions of your candidates can make the interviewing and hiring process easier. It’s also a good idea to keep a scorecard on each candidate so you can better track responses to your questions. Additionally, applicant tracking systems like ZipRecruiter can help you keep track of your candidates during the interview process.