Questions To Ask Job Applicants: Guide for Hiring Managers and Sneak-Peak for Jobseekers

Whether you’re a hiring manager lining up some interview questions for new applicants, or a job seeker preparing for your upcoming interview, it pays to get prepared.

In this guide, we’ve rounded up the best questions to ask job applicants to assess their skills, experience, and behavior at work.

Table Of Contents

Soft Skills Questions

These questions help interviewers assess how potential employees would handle the challenges of the job. They can also give insights into an applicant’s level of self-awareness. Here are some of the top questions to ask:

1. What’s Something You Believe in That Nobody Agrees With You On?

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and LinkedIn, likes to use this question to test a candidate’s originality and courage. This question will certainly put applicants in an awkward state.

The best one will be courageous and persuasive enough to capture the interviewer’s attention.

How To Answer This Question

Whether you think the interviewer will agree with you or not, it’s all about being firm and enthusiastic about what you believe in. Take note that organizations value members who are willing to speak out and challenge the status quo.

2. What’s the Biggest Mistake You Made in Your Previous Jobs?

Every organization values accountability. Interviewers often ask this question to gauge how well a person handles failure at work. It also gives insights into the candidate’s overall attitude toward work.

How To Answer This Question

After discussing the story behind your mistake, focus on what you learned through the experience.

Did it help you become more organized as a person? Did it teach you to set a higher standard than you did previously?

Remember not to blame a co-worker or boss, as this might suggest that you don’t know how to take responsibility for your actions.

3. What Steps Do You Take When Making Decisions?

Every hiring manager would want to assess the decision-making skills of candidates. It is very important because decision-making helps employees save time, prevent conflict, and stay productive.

How To Answer This Question

It’s important to show the interviewer that you have a system or a process for making important decisions. For clarity, give an example of a decision you made, the steps you took, and the outcome of that decision.

4. What Motivates You To Work?

Motivation is an essential factor to succeed in a job. Asking this question also helps managers assess whether or not the applicant is culture-fit to their organization.

How To Answer This Question

We all have varying motivations for work, but an excellent way to answer this question is to be as detailed as possible. Things like meeting deadlines, learning new things, working well as part of a team, and mentoring others are some great examples.

Skill Assessment Interview Questions

Skills assessment interview questions validate an applicant’s practical skills. Through these questions, employers can avoid hiring underqualified or overqualified people. They can eliminate unsuitable candidates early in the process, remove bias, and ultimately find the best person for the job.

1. If You Get the Job, What Do You Hope To Accomplish in Your First Week, Month, or Year?

Interviewers need to know whose candidates will be assertive about learning the job and become productive as soon as possible. They also want to know whether an applicant would be ready to make an impact.

How To Answer This Question

Your best bet is to focus on the things you will do to contribute to the company right away. When talking about them, emphasize that you’ll take an active approach to learn about your new role and how you will work through the challenges initially.

It also helps to mention specific skills that will help you adjust to the new role quickly.

2. Can You Talk About a Critical Work Situation You’ve Solved?

Interviewers often ask this question to gauge a candidate’s technical experience and problem-solving abilities.

How To Answer This Question

The best way to respond to this question is by using the STAR technique:

  1. Describe the challenging situation.
  2. Talk about the actions you took to solve it.
  3. Discuss the results of your action and what could have happened if you didn’t react that way.

You may have several scenarios in mind. Be sure to choose one that highlights your hard skills and experience.

3. What Makes You Unique?

This question might be the most underrated interview question. If you’re a hiring manager trying to be creative with your questions, you might get tempted to skip this. However, you shouldn’t.

That’s because it’s the best way to know the strengths and weaknesses of potential employees. It also helps you delve deeper into their character and personality.

How To Answer This Question

You may have many qualities or skills to highlight, but you want to limit your answer to those relevant to the job you’re applying for. Give examples from your background and reference previous accomplishments or results from your past roles.

You should also avoid generic phrases like “I’m a hard worker.” Instead, talk about how your specific skills can help the company succeed.

what are the questions to ask job applicant

4. What’s Your Proudest Accomplishment?

This question enables the hiring manager to figure out what a candidate can accomplish based on their results in a previous role. At the same time, it helps interviewers understand how efficient a person is in their job.

How To Answer This Question

You can also answer this question using the STAR approach. The key is to be as detailed as possible. Choose an accomplishment that highlights your technical experience and rich background.

For example, if you’re a marketing professional, highlight the time when you were able to close a big project or ran a campaign that went viral for weeks. Discuss the steps you took that lead you to success.

Behavioral Questions

Emotional intelligence gives a person the ability to create better relationships with co-workers, managers, and clients. Having an emotionally intelligent workforce allows an organization to make decisions with ease and complete tasks more efficiently.

These are the best behavioral questions to ask job applicants to assess their EQ:

1. How Do You Deal With a Difficult Colleague?

This question is aimed at understanding how effective a person is in dealing with everyday conflicts at work. It also helps interviewers pinpoint who the team player is among the applicants.

How To Answer This Question

Avoid saying that you never had a conflict with a co-worker. Conflicts and disagreements are an everyday scenario in the office. Think about an experience from your previous job, no matter how minor the issue was.

Do note that the hiring manager is asking this question to find out how you work with others. That said, you should not focus on what your co-worker did wrong or didn’t do. Instead, talk about what you did to get the problem resolved.

2. What Would You Do if You Were Assigned Multiple Tasks With the Same Deadline?

Most jobs can be stressful at times. This question lets the interviewer know how well a candidate handles priorities and works under pressure.

Time management is an essential aspect of any professional role. The ability to manage one’s time impacts productivity and reflects how well one manages their resources.

How To Answer This Question

It’s best to discuss the process you follow when prioritizing tasks or determining what is more important and urgent. Focus on when you had to get others involved in setting goals or prioritizing tasks or objects.

Ideally, this would include your manager and other team members, even external managers or clients requesting your time.

3. Describe a Time When You Weren’t Pleased With Your Work and Why?

There will always be a time when an employee will be dissatisfied with their work. It is another great question to find out how well a person responds to failure in the workplace.

A good interviewer will have follow-up questions like “What did you learn from it?” and “How did you correct your mistakes?” 

How To Answer This Question

It’s best to give an example relevant to the role you’re applying for. Explain your work, why you weren’t satisfied, and what you could have done differently.

For example, you were asked by your supervisor to create a competitor analysis. You covered all the essential metrics, and your supervisor was satisfied with the report.

However, as you were reading about a relevant topic, you realized that you could have included another critical piece of information. Such an event led you to realize that you should have asked your supervisor and colleagues to provide their feedback before submitting the final report.

Questions To Ask Job Applicants

The right questions can help hiring managers find the best talents for specific roles. The questions we outlined can help uncover potential employees’ emotional and behavioral characteristics. They will also help determine whether or not they have the skills needed for the job.

As for job seekers, knowing about these questions ensures they can highlight the specific qualities and skills that interviewers need to know.

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