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13 Types of Interview Questions to Ask Candidates [With Examples]

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Andreea Macoveiciuc
Growth Marketing, Carv
Growth Marketing Manager at Carv

So, you’ve got a stack of resumes on your desk and a bunch of interviews lined up. You know the drill - finding the right candidate is like finding a needle in a haystack. But fear not, because I’ve been in your shoes, navigating both the in-house and agency recruiting worlds, and I've got some wisdom to share.

One of the keys to uncovering the perfect fit for a role is asking the right questions during the interview. It's not just about ticking off boxes on a checklist; it's about digging deep to understand the candidate's skills, experiences, and motivations.

In this article, I’ll break down the types of interview questions that you should be asking, along with examples to get you started.

So, let’s dive in and make those interviews count!

Common interview questions

Crafting the perfect interview starts with a solid foundation of common questions. These inquiries help you get a general understanding of a job seeker’s motivations, skill set, career ambitions, and potential fit within your company culture.

Here's a breakdown of the key areas you can explore.

Background and experience

These questions explore the candidate's education, work history, qualifications and relevant skills gained through experience, as well as how they've navigated their career path. By delving into their educational background and work history, you can gauge their level of expertise and suitability for the role.

Here are some examples:

  • Tell me about your educational background.
  • What kind of experience do you have in [relevant field]?
  • Can you walk me through your career trajectory?
  • In your opinion, what has been your most significant professional achievement to date, and why?
  • Have you pursued any additional training or certifications related to your field? If so, how have they enhanced your skills and knowledge?
  • Can you discuss a mentor or role model who has had a significant impact on your career trajectory, and what lessons have you learned from them?

Ultimately, delving into a job applicant's background and experience is essential for assessing their suitability for the position. By asking targeted questions in this area, you can uncover valuable insights into their skills, qualifications, and potential fit within your organization.

Motivation and goals

Finding candidates who are genuinely motivated and aligned with your company's mission is key to building a strong team. These inquiries aim to uncover the candidate's motivations for applying, their career aspirations, and how well they align with the company's culture and mission.

Here are some examples:

  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What do you hope to achieve by joining our team, both personally and professionally?
  • What excites you the most about the opportunity to work with our company?
  • Where do you see yourself professionally in the next five years?
  • Can you describe a project or task that you're particularly passionate about and why?
  • How do you prioritize work-life balance in your career, and how does this align with your values?
  • How do you envision leveraging your skills and experiences to contribute to our company's success?

By exploring a candidate's motivations and goals, you can ensure that you bring on board the best candidates who are not only qualified but also passionate about contributing to your organization's success.

Company knowledge and culture fit

These interview questions assess the candidate's understanding of the company, its values, and their potential fit within the work environment.

Asking the right questions here will help you find the best-fit candidates for a specific position and company, while at the same out filtering out misfits.

Here are some examples:

  • What do you know about our company and its products/services?
  • How familiar are you with our company's target market and industry trends?
  • How do you think your skills and experience align with our company's goals?
  • Describe your ideal work environment and how you believe it aligns with our company culture.
  • Can you provide examples of how you see our company's values reflected in your previous work experiences?
  • How do you think our company stands out from our competitors, and what strategies would you implement to maintain our competitive edge?

By asking these open-ended questions, you'll gain valuable insights into the interviewee's background, motivations, and potential fit within your organization.

Remember, these are just starting points – be sure to tailor your questions to the specific role and company culture to find the perfect match.

Competency-based questions

Now that we've established a strong foundation with common interview questions, let's delve deeper.

Competency-based questions are great interview questions for uncovering a candidate's capabilities and how they translate into real-world performance.

These questions target the specific skills and experiences outlined in the job description, helping you assess if the candidate has the right stuff to excel in the role.

Technical skills

The best interview questions for this bucket aim to assess a candidate's proficiency in specific technical areas or systems relevant to the job.

By diving into their technical capabilities, you can determine if they have the expertise needed to excel in the position.

Of course, you might ask follow-up questions to understand their experience with particular tools or programming languages, for example, but for the initial stages of the interview process the questions listed below should be enough.

Here are some examples:

  • Describe your experience with [relevant software].
  • How would you troubleshoot [technical issue]?
  • What steps would you take to optimize [specific process or system] for efficiency and performance?
  • Describe a complex technical problem you encountered in your previous role and how you resolved it.
  • Can you provide examples of projects where you utilized [specific technology or tool] to achieve successful outcomes?

By asking targeted questions in this area, you can gauge their level of expertise and suitability for the position, ultimately making more informed hiring decisions.

Soft skills

While technical skills are undoubtedly important, soft skills play a significant role in a candidate's overall effectiveness in the workplace.

These questions focus on assessing a candidate's interpersonal and transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, work style, problem-solving, and leadership.

Understanding a candidate's soft skills is crucial for predicting how they will interact with coworkers, handle challenges, and contribute to the team dynamic.

Here are some examples:

  • Give an example of a time you had to work effectively under pressure.
  • Tell me about a situation where you demonstrated strong communication skills.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to navigate a conflict within a team and how you resolved it.
  • Describe a project where you had to collaborate with colleagues from different departments, and how you ensured effective communication and teamwork.
  • Can you share a situation where you had to adapt to unexpected changes in a project or work environment, and how you managed it?
  • Tell me about a time when you took the lead on a project or initiative and how you motivated and guided your team to success.
  • How do you approach problem-solving in the workplace, and can you provide an example of a challenging problem you solved?

Soft skills are often the glue that holds a team together and drives success in the workplace. The candidate’s answers can give you valuable insights into their potential for success in the role and their compatibility with your team culture.

Behavioral interview questions

Moving beyond qualifications on paper, behavioral interview questions get to the heart of a candidate's past experiences. Here, we focus on how they've applied their skills and knowledge to real-world situations.

These questions will reveal a candidate's problem-solving abilities, communication style, and approach to challenges – all crucial aspects of success in any role.

Customer service skills

Interacting with clients is a core competency for many roles. Here, behavioral questions can shed light on a candidate's work ethic as well as ability to handle difficult situations and resolve customer issues effectively.

By delving into their customer service experiences, you can determine if they have the communication, empathy, and problem-solving skills necessary for providing exceptional service.

Here are some examples:

  • Describe a situation where you had to deal with an upset customer in person, or online. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond to meet a customer's needs. What was the situation, and what steps did you take?
  • How do you handle difficult or demanding customers, and can you provide an example of a challenging situation you successfully navigated?
  • Describe a time when you had to communicate complex information to a customer in a clear and understandable manner.
  • Can you discuss a situation where you had to de-escalate a tense interaction with a customer, and how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you received positive feedback from a customer. How did it make you feel, and what did you learn from the experience?

Evaluating a new hire's customer service skills is essential for ensuring they can effectively meet the needs of clients and uphold your company's reputation.

Teamwork and collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration are essential for achieving common goals and driving success in the workplace.

These questions aim to evaluate a candidate's ability to work effectively with others, communicate openly, and contribute to a positive team dynamic.

By exploring their teamwork experiences, you can assess their interpersonal skills, self-awareness, adaptability and emotional intelligence, conflict resolution abilities, willingness to support colleagues, as well as leadership skills.

Here are some examples:

  • Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a team to achieve a goal. What was your role, and how did you contribute to the team's success?
  • How do you handle disagreements with colleagues? Tell me about a time when you faced a challenging situation at work and how you handled it.
  • Describe a project where you had to work with a difficult team member and how you managed the situation.
  • Can you discuss a situation where you had to step into a leadership role within a team? How did you motivate and guide your colleagues to achieve the desired outcome?

Assessing a candidate's teamwork and collaboration skills is crucial for ensuring they can thrive in a collaborative work environment.

Time management and prioritization

Keeping multiple plates spinning is a key skill in today's fast-paced work environment. This is where behavioral interview questions focused on time management and prioritization come into play.

By asking about past experiences, you can assess a job candidate's ability to organize their workload, manage time effectively, and prioritize tasks to meet deadlines in stressful situations.

Here are some examples:

  • Describe a situation where you had to juggle multiple deadlines with competing priorities. How did you manage?
  • Can you give an example of a time when you had to meet a tight deadline and how you prioritized your tasks?
  • Tell me about a time you had to delegate tasks to complete a project. How did you choose which tasks to delegate, and how did you ensure they were completed effectively by others?
  • Can you describe a situation where you had to reprioritize your tasks at the last minute? How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?
  • How do you stay organized and keep track of your tasks and deadlines? Can you provide an example of a system or method you use to manage your workload effectively?

Assessing a candidate's prioritization and time management skills is critical for ensuring they can thrive in a role that requires multitasking and meeting deadlines.

Problem-solving and decision-making

Problem-solving and decision-making skills are invaluable in navigating the challenges of the workplace. Whether it's resolving conflicts, overcoming obstacles, or making tough choices, these skills are essential for driving success in any role.

So in this section, you’ll evaluate a candidate’s ability to solve problems and make sound decisions. Behavioral questions can assess a candidate's approach to challenges as well as their analytical and critical thinking skills.

Here are some examples:

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision under pressure. What was your process?
  • Tell me about a time when you identified a problem or opportunity for improvement in your work. How did you approach the situation, and what was the outcome?
  • Describe a challenging project or task you were assigned. How did you break down the problem, and what steps did you take to find a solution?
  • Can you discuss a situation where you had to collaborate with others to solve a complex problem? How did you leverage the team's strengths to achieve a resolution?
  • Tell me about a decision you made that had a significant impact on your team or organization. How did you weigh the options and come to a conclusion?
  • Describe a time when you had to think on your feet to resolve a problem quickly. What factors did you consider, and how did you reach a decision?

Evaluating a candidate's problem-solving and decision-making skills is crucial for determining their ability to handle the complexities of the job and contribute to the organization's success.

Situational interview questions

Situational interview questions ask candidates to imagine themselves facing challenges directly related to the role they're applying for.

Here, you'll get a glimpse into their thought process and how they might approach typical situations, problems, or scenarios they might encounter on the job.

This is a powerful tool for assessing a candidate's suitability for the specific duties and responsibilities of the position.

Job-specific scenarios

These questions tailor hypothetical situations to the core functions and potential challenges of the advertised role.

By presenting realistic scenarios, you can assess the candidate's problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, and how they would leverage their skills and experience in the context of your company.

Here are some examples:

  • Imagine a situation where you have to meet a tight deadline for a complex project with several dependencies. What steps would you take to ensure everything gets completed on time and to a high standard?
  • How would you address a situation where you disagree with your manager's approach to a particular task? What steps would you take to voice your concerns while remaining respectful?
  • Imagine you're leading a project with a team of individuals who have varying levels of experience. How would you ensure everyone feels included and contributes their best work?
  • You discover a significant error in a report you're about to submit to a client. What steps would you take to rectify the situation?
  • How would you handle a situation where a team member consistently fails to meet deadlines or deliverables?
  • Imagine you're working on a project with a tight budget. How would you prioritize spending to ensure project success?
  • You're tasked with implementing a new process or system within your team. How would you ensure buy-in and cooperation from team members?
  • Imagine you're tasked with leading a team to implement a new software system. What steps would you take to ensure a successful rollout?
  • Imagine you're responsible for training new team members on [specific task or process]. How would you approach the training process to ensure comprehension and effectiveness?

Job-specific scenarios offer recruiters a focused way to evaluate candidates based on their ability to handle situations directly relevant to the role.

Ethical dilemmas

Ethical dilemmas present hypothetical situations that test a candidate's moral compass and decision-making abilities in the face of conflicting priorities.

These questions can reveal a lot about a candidate's values, integrity, and how they would navigate difficult situations that might arise on the job.

Here are some examples:

  • Imagine you overhear a colleague making negative comments about a client. What would you do?
  • In a previous role, did you ever face a situation where you had to choose between following company policy and doing what you believed was right? How did you handle that situation?
  • Imagine you discover a coworker is engaging in unethical behavior. How would you address the situation?
  • You're aware that a colleague is consistently taking credit for your work. How would you handle this situation?
  • Describe a scenario where you were pressured to compromise your ethical principles at work. How did you respond, and what was the outcome?
  • You suspect that a manager is engaging in discriminatory hiring practices. What steps would you take to address your concerns?
  • Imagine you're offered a bribe by a client to secure a contract. How would you handle this ethical dilemma?

Ethical dilemmas offer recruiters a unique opportunity to evaluate candidates based on their responses to challenging moral scenarios.

By asking targeted questions in this area, recruiters can assess a candidate's ethical awareness, judgment, and integrity, ultimately helping to identify individuals who align with the organization's values and ethical standards.

Other interview questions

There's a whole world of interview questions beyond the core categories we've explored so far. These "other" questions can be valuable tools for assessing a candidate's personality and approach to challenges outside the box.

Stress interview questions

Stress interview questions involve aggressive questioning or unexpected scenarios designed to test a candidate's composure under pressure.

While some argue about the effectiveness of this approach, it can reveal a candidate's ability to handle difficult conversations, think on their feet, and stay calm under pressure.

Here are some examples:

  • Why should we hire you over the other candidates?
  • What's your biggest weakness, and how do you overcome it?
  • Can you explain why there's a gap in your employment history?
  • How do you handle failure or setbacks in your career?
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor's decision. How did you handle it?

Use these questions judiciously and ensure they don't become a negative experience for the candidate.


Brainteasers are non-job-specific puzzles or riddles designed to assess a candidate's analytical thinking and problem-solving skills in an unconventional way.

While they may not directly relate to the specific role, they can reveal a candidate's creativity, critical thinking abilities, and approach to tackling unfamiliar problems.

Here are some examples:

  • How many tennis balls can fit in a school bus?
  • How many windows are there in New York City?
  • If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be and why?
  • How many golf balls can fit in a Boeing 747?
  • What's the next number in the sequence: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25?
  • You have a 3-gallon jug and a 5-gallon jug. How do you measure exactly 4 gallons of water?

Remember, these are strategic interview question that should be used sparingly and intentionally. The goal is to gain additional insights, not create an overly stressful or confusing interview experience.

Over to you

Now you're armed with a toolbox overflowing with interview question types! By strategically combining different categories you'll gain a well-rounded picture of each candidate's qualifications, thought process, and potential fit within your organization.

But remember, the key to a successful interview lies in tailoring your questions to the specific role and company culture.

To make these questions better, I encourage you to give Carv a try. The AI recruiting workmate will join your intake calls and help you create interview questions that are tailored to a specific role and company.

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