February 4, 2020

My favorite interview questions

These days, I find myself doing a lot of coaching for folks who are searching for or interviewing for new jobs. I’ve been trying to distill for them questions they might be asked on the interview trail that are out of the ordinary, as well as questions candidates can ask that impress interviewers.

This week’s post pulls together some of those I like best, and I think they will get you thinking about the questions you might encounter in your own next interview — or questions you could ask next time you hire.

When I’m the interviewer, I love to get the candidate talking about themselves.  I tend to be a “collector of stories,” so I use questions that require more than simple, straightforward, data-driven answers, even if the position is technical and data-driven.

Here are some of my favorites:


Questions I love to ask candidates

  1. What is the elevator speech describing your career up to this point, and in particular, how did you come to be in this interview?
  2. If you had to write the “rest of the story” for your career, what would that story look like in the years after you get this job?
  3. What accomplishment, professional or personal, are you most proud of in your life?
  4. Describe one experience in your work life where you learned a hard lesson.  How did you grow from that experience?
  5. Who do you most respect as a leader or mentor?
  6. What is it about this role or job that generates energy or passion for you?
  7. If you were to take this position, what would you do in the first month to integrate yourself as a real part of our team?
  8. Tell me about a situation where you got something done but were not the leader of the project or effort.
  9. What question have I not asked you that I should have asked you?

There is nothing worse as an interviewer than asking all of my questions and closing with “what would you like to know from me?” only to then hear … crickets.  If I don’t hear questions, I assume that the person is either not interested, or that they think they know everything they need to know.

Don’t be that person.

Instead, have three to five good questions in mind that you can ask about the position, role or organization to demonstrate your interest and your thought process.

Here are some of my favorite questions to be asked when I am interviewing someone:


Questions I love to hear from candidates

  1. If I get this job, what is the most important thing I could focus on during my first 90 days to make a significant impact on the team’s success?
  2. Are there any tips you could share about how best to communicate with you as my supervisor?
  3. Would you describe how you see my role if I get this position?  What is most important to you about the role or the function?
  4. If I get the job, who are the first three people you think I should get to know better?
  5. What opportunities for professional development and mentoring are available to me if I get the job?
  6. What key skill is missing from the team that you think I could bring to the table?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Here are some additional resources if you’d like more inspiration:

Questions for interviewers:

10 best questions to ask an interviewee

100 top job interview questions — be prepared for the interview

Questions for job candidates:

51 great questions to ask in an interview

Top 12 best questions to ask at the end of the job interview


Elevating the interview

An interview is a two-way opportunity to share information, and the best interviews function more as a conversation than a grilling.  You should want to know just as much about me and my organization as I want to know about you.

When I am interviewing, I am looking for someone who is engaged, excited and able to tell their story.  Thinking through these questions, and ensuring you have a good list of your own to ask, will help you be an active participant and a compelling candidate.


What are your favorite interview questions?

Whether as candidate or hiring manager, what questions have stood out to you as especially insightful or effective?  And, what about any questions that bombed? Questions to avoid are also important!  I hope you’ll share some in the comments.