15 Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates [According to Hiring Experts]

The Best Interview Questions to Ask According to 15 Hiring Experts featured image
When you’re hiring new employees, determining the right interview questions to ask candidates can provide you with better insights to help you make an informed decision. We tapped into our network of hiring experts to learn what they like to ask their candidates.

Updated: July 10, 2024

Hiring new staff is incredibly difficult, but knowing the right interview questions to ask candidates can make it a lot easier.

After all, when people are nervous, on edge, and eager to impress you, it can be challenging to get a real gauge of who they are, let alone whether they’ll be the right fit for your organization.

That’s why we tapped into our network of real-world business leaders to get the most unique, creative, and revealing interview questions to ask when you’re recruiting new candidates.

Here’s what they had to say.

6 Unusual Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

As a general consensus, most of the interview questions asked these days are predictable, cookie-cutter queries.

But by asking unusual and outside-the-box interview questions, you’ll get unique responses that do a great job of showing you a side of your candidate you might not otherwise have seen.

Here are seven you can try out.

“If you were to win $100 million dollars in the lottery, what would you do?”

Carl Jensen Money Mow

According to Carl Jensen, Founder at Money Mow, this is the perfect interview question to ask candidates for one big reason:

“You’ll be able to tell from the answers to this question which applicants are only interested in the money. If a candidate declares that they’d quit their job and relocate to Antigua, you can infer that they’re probably just present because they’re required to be. On the other hand, you can tell a candidate is genuinely interested in working for you and your business if their response is something along the lines of that they’re travel, pay off debt, and find a way to keep working because they love what they do. If you’re looking for passion, this is a great way to identify it.”

“If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?”

kathy bennett headshot

While this might seem like an odd interview question to ask candidates given their professional content, Kathy Bennett, Founder and CEO of Bennett Packaging, says it can be incredibly revealing.

“While this might seem silly at first, this question can tell you a lot about a candidate, what they value, and which abilities they’re the most confident about. The reasoning behind this question is that we tend to give animals human-like personality traits, letting you know what a person values the most in themselves. Depending on your company and its culture, the answer to this question can tell you, for example, if someone is a good team player or not. It can effectively tell if a person is a good fit for a role based on their personality and the team’s dynamic.”

“Tell me a joke.”

james green headshot cardboard cutouts

When James Green, Owner or Cardboard Cutouts, asks candidates to tell him a joke during interviews, it’s not just for a laugh.

“Most interview questions are pretty straightforward and somewhat standard across the board. So, I like to throw a few curveballs into an interview. The point of asking them to tell me a joke is that it’s unexpected and I want to see if they can think on their feet. It doesn’t have to be a good joke; it just needs to be a joke.”

“What would be a dealbreaker in a new company—one or more things you couldn’t accept regardless of compensation or growth opportunities?”

Andrew Makhovskyi headshot

For Andrew Makhovskyi, CEO of Effy.ai, this kind of question tells you a ton about who your candidate is and what matters to them.

“If you want to learn about people’s values and work principles, this is a great question to ask. It will show you their true motivation and give you an honest look at their value system.”

“A zombie apocalypse has officially just broken out. It’s chaos. What’s your first move? Where are you planning to go?”

harrison hosking headshot

Did this question make you scratch your head and stop in your tracks? That’s exactly why Harrison Hosking, CMO of KEAK, thinks it’s a perfect interview question to ask.

“This is my favorite interview question to ask—usually in the middle of an interview to break the seriousness up and to put them at ease by making them chuckle. It may seem like a silly question, but it’s unique, builds instant rapport, and is actually a great question for you to gauge what type of person your interviewee is and to see their creative side.”

“What’s a ‘utopian’ work environment look like for you?”

datis mohsenipour headshot 1

Many hiring managers have a list of interview questions to ask candidates that focus on making sure the candidate is a good fit for the team. But, on the other hand, ensuring your work environment ticks all the boxes for your prospective hire is just as important—if not more so. That’s why Datis Mohsenipour, VP of Marketing & Sales at Outback Team Building & Training, always asks this question during an interview.

“When we interview candidates, we want to make sure that we can provide a positive working environment that would make them feel happy about starting their workday every morning. By asking this question, I can get a better understanding of what really matters to them and whether or not our way of doing things would conflict with theirs. The last thing we want to do is bring on a new employee and have them feel misaligned with their job.”

2 Leadership-Focused Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Given their critical role in the company, higher salary brackets, and the fact that they’re in hire demand than entry-level staff, hiring leadership-level employees adds an extra dimension of challenge and risk.

But there are some interview questions you can ask that might give you more insights about who you’re considering for a leadership position in your company.

Here are two to consider.

“Why are you making a job change right now?”

adam rossi headshot

For Adam Rossi, CEO of TotalShield, getting to the core of what’s driving a leadership-level professional’s job change is an important part of his hiring process.

“Mid-to-upper-level employees are often at a transitional phase in their careers, or at a crossroads of some kind when they come in for an interview. With this in mind, I like to ask questions about that phase, such as why they’re making a change now instead of continuing their career path in their current position or company? What professional passions have they been unable to explore in the past? The higher you are on the corporate ladder, the bigger the risk it is to change jobs. When conducting an interview, I want to hear why that risk feels worth it.”

“What are you looking to accomplish in your career?”

For Kevin Callahan, Co-Founder and CEO of Flatline Van Co., it’s important to understand what prospective leaders in his company are looking to achieve.

“One solid interview question to ask a job candidate is what they’re hoping to accomplish in the role laid out before them. It can offer deeper insight in several areas. By seeing what a potential employee wants in a career, you can gauge their maturity and their degree of attachment to the company. If a candidate has goals that are aligned with the company’s needs, or they share goals, it could certainly be a sign of good things to come.”

5 Personal Interview Questions to Ask Candidates to Get to Know Them Better

Jobs aren’t all business. In addition to their professional skills, there’s also a personal element in hiring the right people because they need to be the right personality fit for your team and organization.

So, identifying some personal interview questions to ask candidates can help reveal the ever-important personality side of your candidate.

You can consider these three ideas.

“How do you manage deadline pressure?”

Dustin Porreca Elevate Demand 1

In today’s fast-paced professional environment, Dustin Porreca, SEO & Growth Manager at Elevate Demand, believes this is the most important interview question to ask candidates. It can be telling about how they’ll handle inevitable busy periods.

“The deadlines for technology-driven projects are frequently very short. So, it can be useful to find out how effectively your potential hire handles pressure. To delve a little deeper, encourage the applicant to provide an example of how they’ve kept a project on schedule when it appeared like it would miss the mark. Or you can ask how the applicant reacted when, despite their best efforts, they were unable to reach a crucial deadline? Their response to this question will be revealing.”

“Do you work better on a team or by yourself?”

Ashley Chubin 1

Ashley Chubin, COO of FlyHi, feels this question is incredibly important, especially in an increasingly remote professional landscape.

“I ask this because, as a primarily remote company, it’s important that our staff is able to work independently but also collaboratively. Most of them will be working from home, but much of their work will be tackled in groups. So, they’ll need to be able to communicate well with other staff members. Our company thrives on proper communication, and it’s vital that our team members can connect and get along because we consider our team to be one big, happy family.”

“Other than your family, what are you passionate about?”

gene caballero headshot

Before becoming Co-Founder of GreenPal, Gene Caballero was a hiring manager for a Fortune 500 tech company. And one of his favorite interview questions to ask was intended to get to the core of what matters to candidates.

“Getting the right candidate for the job is paramount in any business, and the interview plays a vital role in the hiring process. Finding out what they’re passionate about is vital. Whether it’s their Sunday night bowling league or their son’s Boy Scout group, they need to be passionate about something. If the candidate is not passionate about anything, he/she will not be passionate about working for any company.”

“Can you describe a time when you had to take criticism from a coworker? How did you respond to the criticism?”

gerrid smith

Gerrid Smith, Chief Marketing Office at Joy Organics, likes to take interviews as an opportunity to understand how candidates handle uncomfortable situations.

“Interviews often concentrate on aspects of a candidate’s job history, such as knowledge, skill level, and experience. However, overall likeability can also have a big impact on whether or not a new employee fits in and succeeds. One way to get at this quality is to ask the applicant about times when they might have been put under pressure. How a candidate expresses their response—as well as how they respond to your question—can reveal a lot about how well that person will fit into your company’s culture.”

“Explain something complicated that you understand very well.”

Caitlyn Parish

While this might not yield a response that’s directly tied to the role you’re interviewing for, Caitlyn Parish, Chief Digital Officer at Cicinia, believes it’s a valuable interview question to ask because it shows how well people can break down complex ideas and showcases their communications skills.

“This is a great interview question to ask because it helps display how they can break down a very complicated and complex idea or situation to someone else. This is a helpful way to display their critical thinking and communications skills and is also a great way to gauge their passion to learn. A top-tier candidate or future leader can always manage to make difficult concepts simple.”

2 Interview Questions to Ask Candidates to Gauge Industry Expertise

When you want to dive into a candidate’s understanding of and passion for the industry in which you’re hiring, it’s great to ask interview questions that pertain to the industry as it is today and how it might be down the road.

These two questions explore the present as well as the potential future.

“What do you think your industry is going to look like in five years?”

Megan Moore

When it comes to gauging a candidate’s knowledge and expertise about their industry, Megan Moore of Photography Lighting, likes to ask this question to get a gauge on a candidate’s past experience and future insights.

“In my opinion, the best interview question to ask is what they think the industry will look like in five years. I think this is a solid question because it allows the job candidate to show their previous knowledge of the industry your business is in, and it also encourages them to think creatively and analytically. This is a great way to allow them to demonstrate their knowledge-based imagination.”

“What are your thoughts on the current industry landscape?”

Dr. Chris Lewandowski Dentist Scottsdale AZ

On the flip side of the coin from Megan Moore, Chris Lewandowski, President of Princess Dental Staff, likes to focus on the current industry landscape when interviewing new candidates.

“This is one of the most important interview questions to ask candidates because it will allow you to gauge a candidate’s industry knowledge, understanding level, and ability to think critically about current affairs. In addition, it reveals if they are keeping up with industry news and trends, which can be crucial in today’s ever-changing business world. Thus, asking this question during an interview can give you a better sense of whether or not a candidate would be a good fit for your company.”

When it comes to hiring new employees, finding the right person is critical. But if you only ask the same old interview questions, you’ll continue to get the same old responses. So, in order to find the perfect new team member, you need to dive a little deeper with the interview questions you ask.

What are your favorite interview questions to ask candidates? Let us know in the comments section below, and we’ll add your question to this article!

Learn about team building activities to help onboard new employees after the hiring process is complete.

If you’ve got questions about team building activities you can use to onboard new employees, reach out to an Employee Engagement Consultant.  


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booking extranet
1 year ago

Good insights! Thanks for sharing.