16 of the Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates (And What to Look for in Their Answers)

Conducting effective interviews is crucial for hiring the right candidates and building a strong, productive team. By asking the right questions, you can gain valuable insights into a candidate‘s skills, experience, work style, and potential fit for your company culture.

In this post, we‘ll dive deep into 16 of the best interview questions to ask candidates in 2023, grouped into four key categories:

  1. Questions to assess a candidate‘s skills and experience
  2. Questions to evaluate problem-solving abilities
  3. Questions to determine culture fit and work style
  4. Questions to understand motivation and career goals

We‘ll explore why each question is effective, what to look for in a candidate‘s answer, and how to use these insights to make informed hiring decisions. Plus, we‘ll share some surprising statistics about the impact of a strong interview process on hiring success.

Questions to Assess Skills and Experience

  1. "What do you consider your most significant professional achievement to date?"

This question allows candidates to highlight their most impressive accomplishments and share the skills and qualities that enabled their success.

What to look for:

  • Specific, measurable achievements that are relevant to the role
  • Demonstration of key skills like leadership, problem-solving, or communication
  • Ability to clearly articulate their role and impact in achieving the result

Red flags:

  • Difficulty identifying a significant achievement
  • Vague or exaggerated claims without supporting details
  • Achievements that are not relevant to the role or your company‘s needs
  1. "Tell me about a time when you struggled to accomplish a goal and what you did to overcome the challenge."

This question assesses a candidate‘s ability to adapt, learn from setbacks, and persist in the face of obstacles.

What to look for:

  • Acknowledgement of the challenge and its impact
  • Specific strategies or resources used to overcome the obstacle
  • Lessons learned and how they have applied them to future situations

Red flags:

  • Blaming others or external factors for the struggle
  • Inability to identify steps taken to address the challenge
  • Giving up or failing to persist when faced with difficulties
  1. "Describe a project or initiative that you led from start to finish."

This question evaluates a candidate‘s project management skills, leadership ability, and capacity to see a complex task through to completion.

What to look for:

  • Clear articulation of the project goals, timeline, and resources required
  • Ability to break down complex tasks into manageable steps
  • Effective coordination and communication with team members or stakeholders
  • Measurable results and impact of the project on the organization

Red flags:

  • Difficulty providing specific details about the project scope or their role
  • Lack of clear outcomes or measurable results
  • Inability to explain how they dealt with obstacles or setbacks

Did you know? Structured interviews that assess job-relevant skills and abilities are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance compared to unstructured interviews (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Questions to Evaluate Problem-Solving Abilities

  1. "Describe a situation where you had to solve a complex problem without having all the necessary information. How did you approach it?"

This question assesses a candidate‘s critical thinking skills, resourcefulness, and ability to succeed in ambiguous or uncertain situations.

What to look for:

  • A systematic and logical approach to gathering and analyzing information
  • Ability to identify key assumptions and gaps in knowledge
  • Creativity in finding alternative solutions or workarounds
  • Effective communication and collaboration with others to fill information gaps

Red flags:

  • Relying solely on assumptions without attempting to gather additional information
  • Inability to articulate their problem-solving process or rationale for decisions
  • Getting stuck or giving up when faced with incomplete information
  1. "Tell me about a time when you had to make an important decision with limited time. What was your process?"

This question evaluates a candidate‘s ability to think critically under pressure, weigh trade-offs, and make sound decisions in a time-sensitive situation.

What to look for:

  • A clear and efficient decision-making process
  • Ability to quickly identify and prioritize key factors or criteria
  • Effective communication with stakeholders to gather input and buy-in
  • Confidence in making a decision and learning from the outcome

Red flags:

  • Paralysis or inability to make a decision under time pressure
  • Failure to consider important factors or stakeholder perspectives
  • Making rash or impulsive decisions without a clear rationale
  1. "How do you stay current with industry trends and best practices related to your field?"

This question assesses a candidate‘s commitment to continuous learning, adaptability, and ability to bring fresh ideas and approaches to their work.

What to look for:

  • Proactive efforts to seek out new information and learning opportunities
  • Participation in industry events, conferences, or training programs
  • Engagement with professional networks or communities of practice
  • Ability to translate new knowledge into actionable improvements or innovations

Red flags:

  • Limited awareness of key trends or best practices in their field
  • Passive approach to learning or relying solely on employer-provided training
  • Inability to articulate how they have applied new knowledge to their work

Did you know? According to a study by Glassdoor, the average cost of a new hire is $4,000, and the average time to fill a position is 52 days. A well-structured interview process can help reduce time-to-hire and improve the quality of hires, ultimately saving your company time and money.

Questions to Determine Culture Fit and Work Style

  1. "What type of work environment allows you to be most productive and engaged?"

This question helps you understand a candidate‘s preferred work style and assess their fit with your company culture and team dynamics.

What to look for:

  • Alignment between their preferences and your company‘s work environment
  • Ability to articulate what motivates and engages them at work
  • Flexibility and adaptability to different work styles or team dynamics

Red flags:

  • Preferences that are significantly misaligned with your company culture
  • Inability to work effectively in diverse or collaborative environments
  • Rigid or inflexible work style preferences
  1. "Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a colleague or manager. How did you handle the situation?"

This question assesses a candidate‘s communication skills, emotional intelligence, and ability to navigate conflict or differences of opinion in the workplace.

What to look for:

  • Ability to respectfully and professionally express their perspective
  • Willingness to listen and consider alternative viewpoints
  • Focus on finding a mutually beneficial solution or compromise
  • Ability to maintain positive working relationships despite disagreements

Red flags:

  • Aggressive or disrespectful communication style
  • Inability to find common ground or compromise
  • Holding grudges or allowing disagreements to negatively impact work performance
  1. "Describe your approach to collaborating with team members who have different personalities or work styles."

This question evaluates a candidate‘s teamwork skills, adaptability, and ability to build strong working relationships with diverse colleagues.

What to look for:

  • Ability to recognize and appreciate different strengths and perspectives
  • Proactive efforts to understand and adapt to different communication styles
  • Effective strategies for building trust and fostering collaboration
  • Examples of successful collaboration with diverse team members

Red flags:

  • Lack of self-awareness about their own communication style or preferences
  • Difficulty adapting to or working effectively with different personalities
  • Negative or dismissive attitudes towards colleagues with different work styles

Did you know? Companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147% in earnings per share (Gallup, 2017). Hiring candidates who align with your company culture and values can lead to higher engagement, retention, and overall business success.

Questions to Understand Motivation and Career Goals

  1. "What attracted you to this role and our company?"

This question assesses a candidate‘s understanding of the role and company, as well as their motivation for pursuing the opportunity.

What to look for:

  • Genuine interest in and knowledge of your company‘s mission, products, or services
  • Alignment between the role and their skills, experience, and career goals
  • Enthusiasm for the specific challenges and opportunities of the position

Red flags:

  • Limited knowledge or generic interest in your company
  • Misalignment between the role and their background or career aspirations
  • Lack of enthusiasm or specific reasons for pursuing the opportunity
  1. "Where do you see yourself in five years, and how does this role fit into your long-term career plan?"

This question evaluates a candidate‘s long-term potential, career aspirations, and alignment with potential growth opportunities within your company.

What to look for:

  • Clarity and intentionality in their long-term career goals
  • Alignment between their aspirations and potential career paths within your company
  • Realistic expectations and understanding of the skills and experience required to achieve their goals

Red flags:

  • Lack of clear career goals or direction
  • Aspirations that are not realistic or achievable within your company
  • Short-term focus or lack of commitment to long-term growth and development
  1. "Describe a time when you went above and beyond to contribute to the success of your team or company."

This question assesses a candidate‘s work ethic, initiative, and commitment to organizational success.

What to look for:

  • Specific examples of proactive efforts to support team or company goals
  • Willingness to take on additional responsibilities or challenges
  • Ability to identify and address unmet needs or opportunities for improvement
  • Tangible impact or results of their efforts

Red flags:

  • Difficulty providing specific examples or details
  • Passive or reactive approach to work responsibilities
  • Limited impact or value added through their efforts

Did you know? A study by Jobvite found that 30% of new hires leave their job within the first 90 days. Assessing candidate motivation and long-term fit during the interview process can help reduce early turnover and improve retention.


Asking the right questions during a job interview is crucial for identifying candidates with the skills, experience, work style, and motivation to succeed in your organization. By incorporating these 16 questions into your interview process and knowing what to look for in candidate responses, you can gain valuable insights to inform your hiring decisions.

Remember, the most effective interview processes are tailored to the specific needs and priorities of your company and the role you are hiring for. Use these questions as a starting point, but don‘t hesitate to adapt or expand on them to better assess the key qualities and competencies you are seeking.

By continually refining your interview questions and process based on feedback and results, you can improve the quality of your hires, reduce turnover, and build a strong, engaged team that drives long-term business success.