The Top 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Interviewee

Interviewer and interviewee.

Google is notorious for its bizarre interview questions, such as “How would you design an evacuation plan for the city of San Francisco?” and “How many golf balls would fit inside a school bus?” (These questions were so baffling, in fact, that the company eventually eliminated their use during the hiring process.)

On the other hand, traditional questions posed to an interviewee — “What are your weaknesses?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” — are no longer very useful for evaluating potential employees.

So what questions should you ask during an interview? Below are five queries that will help winnow out the wheat from the chaff.

Top 5 Interview Questions

Many people, especially job seekers, tend to view an interview as a test, which they will either pass or fail. However, it’s better to think of the interview as a date. There aren’t any objectively right or wrong answers; instead, you’re looking for mutual compatibility.

1. Can You Describe Your Ideal Work Environment?

This question helps determine a candidate’s cultural fit — an aspect of hiring that many human resource management experts feel is just as important as skills and experience.

Company culture is about more than dress codes and Friday pizza parties. Does the candidate understand and feel aligned with your mission? Will their supervisor’s management style stifle them, or help them thrive?

It’s also a good idea to provide a brief overview of the company culture to ensure that you’re both on the same page.

2. How Do You Work Best?

Again dealing with cultural fit, this question will give insight into an interviewee’s self-awareness. If they stammer their way through this, or claim that they can adapt to any environment, that could be a red flag.

Some positions are highly collaborative. Others ask for independence and initiative. Top-down management is a bit of a dinosaur, but it still exists.

The best candidates will understand what motivates them, how well they work with others, and what environments are conducive to their productivity.

3. If You Got the Job, What Would You Tackle First?

Ask this question to make sure that the interviewee has a solid grasp of the job description and duties. This will also give insight into what aspects of the position they see as a priority, and how they approach new situations.

If the candidate answers with, “Whatever I’m told to do,” that might be a sign that they’re not a self-starter. Or, depending on the position, it could mean that they understand the value of playing by the rules.

4. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Position?

Here’s a classic interview question. If an interviewee seems like they’re sugarcoating the reason for the split, or if they blatantly badmouth their current boss or company, take that as a warning.

It can be very difficult for someone who is dissatisfied with their professional situation to conceal their emotions. Read between the lines on this one, and you’ll be able to glean a lot of useful information about the candidate’s attitude.

5. What’s a Skill That You Would Like to Improve? How Do You Plan to Do So?

This puts a positive spin on the old “biggest weakness” chestnut. The candidate’s answer should illuminate areas in which they may be lacking skills, while also providing important details about the individual's professional goals and aspirations.

If the interviewee can’t think of anything, that’s another red flag. Smart candidates are forthcoming about their desire to improve, and won’t pretend to know it all.

Final Thoughts

Careful candidate evaluation is extremely important for ensuring employee retention, high company productivity, and reduced human resources costs. It may seem difficult to evaluate an interviewee in just half an hour, but the right questions can go a long way in gathering key information.


Image Credit: Antonio Guillem/

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