What are the best interview questions to ask candidates?

February 14, 2024 Updated: February 14, 2024 10 min read

The right interview questions get you closer to the right candidate. The wrong questions lead to poor candidate experiences, biased or inaccurate decision-making, or even legal trouble. Don’t risk it! In this post, learn more about the best interview questions to ask candidates and the ten most essential categories, in no particular order:

  1. Job-specific skills and experience questions
  2. Behavioral questions
  3. Problem-solving and critical-thinking questions
  4. Communication and interpersonal skills questions
  5. Motivation and culture fit questions
  6. Adaptability and learning ability questions
  7. Leadership and teamwork questions
  8. Ethical and integrity questions
  9. Customer focus and client service questions
  10. Long-term goals and career aspiration questions

Keep reading to review examples of each, and learn how you can deliver best-in-class interviews—starting today!

The impact of great interview questions on the hiring process

You’ve shared job posts, sorted resumes, and conducted screening calls. Next step? It’s time for the interview. All your prep work has brought you to this pivotal moment. Follow through with a thorough, meaningful interview to find the great candidate your company needs.

A good interview gives clear insight into the candidate and helps you make a more informed decision. A structured interview does this even more effectively. When you deliver the same set of questions to each candidate, it makes comparing and contrasting answers more straightforward. Objective and consistent questions are also inclusive of job candidates from all backgrounds. With well-structured interviews, you can evaluate a wider range of people and be more confident that you’ve truly found the best candidates for your open roles.

A group of people waiting for an interview

Key considerations in crafting interview questions

When you’re deciding the right questions to ask in a job interview, there are a range of factors to consider. Craft a thoughtful interview process by asking relevant skills-based questions, and keeping inclusion, consistency, and structure in mind.

Job relevance

It should go without saying, but just in case: don’t ask questions that aren’t related to the position or the skills needed for the role. Irrelevant questions waste time, create unnecessary tangents, and cause confusion. Off-topic questions also leave room for bias to cloud decision-making. For example, if you start asking about sports, you might unconsciously decide to hire people who like the same teams you do. These kinds of details have nothing to do with how prepared someone is to do their job. Remember, the interview is about finding out how prepared the candidate is, not whether you’ll be great friends. Instead, stick to relevant, appropriate questions.


Don’t make assumptions about what your ideal candidate will look like or where they’ll come from. Preconceived beliefs could exclude qualified candidates. Insensitive or exclusionary questions can also turn away top talent and cause your company to miss out on great opportunities. Instead, give everyone a chance. Deliver an interview experience that welcomes candidates from all backgrounds. Consider using questions that have been pre-approved for inclusion before you even get to the interview.


When deciding what interview questions to ask, take the guesswork out. Use a consistent set of questions for any given role to ensure a fair interview experience. Consistent questions also make it easier for hiring teams to compare responses and narrow in on who is the best fit for the job. If you ask different things of each candidate, it becomes difficult to accurately assess each person’s abilities, strengths, and potential. Inconsistent interviews leave room for bias or personal preference to skew the decision-making process too.

Structured questions

Though most interviews flow like a conversation, that doesn’t mean they’re aimless or unorganized. A quality interview paints a well-rounded picture of the interviewee. It might start with simple questions, move to open-ended questions, then become more focused as the interview progresses. Establishing an interview structure also helps interviewers by reducing prep time and ensuring compliance. Using a reliable interview tool to structure your interviews is a great way to guide conversations from beginning to end.

Best interview questions to ask candidates in the interview process

When it comes to the top interview questions to ask candidates, there are many different types. Let’s explore ten essential question categories and review examples of each.

1. Job-specific skills and experience interview questions

These questions are specifically related to the skills needed for the open position. They help you discover the candidate’s relevant abilities and qualifications. You might pose hypothetical scenarios or discuss past work experiences.

  • Can you describe your experience with [role-specific skill]?
  • Tell me about a project or accomplishment that best showcases your [relevant skill set].
  • What past work experience has prepared you for this opportunity?

2. Behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions explore a candidate’s soft skills and past experiences. The candidate’s answer will reveal how they handle obstacles, interact with others, or prioritize different tasks.

  • Can you give an example of a time when you faced a challenge at work and how you handled it?
  • Describe a situation where you worked in a team and had to resolve a conflict.
  • Can you share a time you had to show initiative and leadership skills?

3. Problem-solving and critical-thinking interview questions

These questions evaluate a candidate’s ability to analyze information and make good decisions. They could address specific issues the interviewee has faced or give insight into their problem-solving skills.

  • Can you give an example of a time when you had to think outside the box to solve a problem?
  • In your previous role, how did you approach stressful situations with no clear solutions?
  • Can you describe your process for managing a heavy workload?

Two puzzle pieces and a lightbulb

4. Communication and interpersonal skills interview questions

Pose these questions to gauge how effectively a job seeker can work with colleagues or communicate with clients. Encourage your interviewee to offer real-life examples to illustrate their points.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to communicate complex information to a non-technical audience.
  • Describe a situation where you successfully resolved a conflict with a colleague or client.
  • In your current role, how do you respond to feedback from others?

5. Motivation and company culture interview questions

Culture-fit questions aren’t about whether the new hire will fit in with their coworkers—they’re about whether the interviewee’s values and motivations align with your organization’s values. For example, if your company prioritizes innovation or leadership, ask questions that explore those things.

  • What excites you about this position and our company?
  • Why did you apply for this position with our organization?
  • What motivates you to do your best work?

6. Adaptability and learning ability interview questions

Some of the best interview questions to ask candidates are those related to adaptability and openness to learning. Adjusting quickly to new information helps teams solve problems more effectively and grow. Assessing for a willingness to evolve is more meaningful than simply asking how long your applicant has worked at their current job or where they went to school.

  • Can you share a time when you had to quickly adapt to changes at work?
  • Describe a time you had to face unexpected challenges.
  • What do you do when you’re assigned a task and aren’t sure how to complete it?

7. Leadership and teamwork interview questions

Everyone has the potential to be a leader. And everyone who joins a new company becomes part of a new team. Get a better sense of your candidate’s approach to work and readiness to collaborate with others by asking strategic questions.

  • How do you support team members struggling to complete their work?
  • Describe a time you took on a leadership role in a project.
  • Can you describe a time you worked on a project that didn’t meet its goals and what you took away from the experience?

8. Ethical and integrity interview questions

When deciding which questions to ask in an interview, be sure to include questions related to ethics and integrity. You’ll learn about the candidate’s willingness to positively influence others and their sense of honesty, loyalty, and responsibility. Though you can teach many job-related skills, it’s harder to teach employees how to do the right thing. 

  • Have you ever encountered an ethical dilemma at work, and how did you resolve it?
  • How do you handle situations where you’ve made a mistake?
  • What would you do if you saw a coworker doing something that doesn’t align with company values?

The word integrity typed on paper

9. Customer focus and client service interview questions

If your interviewee will work closely with customers and clients, evaluate their ability to offer good service and manage customer concerns. Assess for professionalism and readiness to positively represent your company.

  • Can you provide an example of a specific situation where you exceeded a client’s expectations?
  • How do you ensure that you understand and meet a client’s needs effectively?
  • Can you share an example of a dissatisfied client and how you resolved their concern?

10. Long-term goals and career aspirations

Questions about goals and aspirations can give insight into the candidate’s ambition and work ethic. Ideally, your long-term business objectives align with the candidate’s desire for growth. For instance, if your potential employee wants to become a subject matter expert or achieve recognition for leading successful projects, this benefits both them and your company.

  • How would a new role align with your professional goals?
  • What would you like to learn more about professionally?
  • What steps have you taken to achieve your long-term goals?

With strategic interview questions, you’re on your way to getting to know candidates better. Choose at least one great question from each category, and approach each interview systematically. Then the exciting part begins—finding your next great hires! 

Focusing on the candidate experience and inclusivity 

A positive candidate experience is essential to a successful talent acquisition strategy. Happy candidates turn into more engaged employees. Retention rates go up, the quality of job applicants goes up, your employer brand is boosted, and inclusive behavior increases. If you deliver high-quality interviews, even candidates who don’t receive job offers are more likely to think positively of your company and remain an engaged part of your talent network.

Inclusive and effective interviews are a great way to enhance the candidate experience. Demonstrate an openness to and appreciation for all candidates with respectful conversation. Avoid forming opinions before you’ve gotten to know your applicants, and approach each interview with an open mind. Consider using video interviews to maintain accountability and create a shareable record for other decision-makers. Show you’re committed to truly getting to know each person with questions that investigate capabilities, rather than asking irrelevant, biased, or inappropriate questions. You never know what kind of person will be the best fit for the role until you’ve taken the time to really learn who they are.

Panel interview

It doesn’t stop there—the behind-the-scenes part of your interview process impacts the candidate experience too. Ensure that your hiring team doesn’t discuss candidates until each interviewer has had the opportunity to evaluate and score the interview. This helps avoid “groupthink” and results in more fair hiring decisions. For example, if a panel of interviewers completes an interview but the manager says “I liked that candidate” before anyone has the chance to set down their scores independently, this can influence the results. A newer employee on the panel, who didn’t think the interview went very well, could be afraid to speak up and counter what their boss thought.

This kind of subtle interaction leads to the groupthink trap, where candidates aren’t given equal opportunities, and teams don’t make the best possible hiring decisions. Respect the process, allow each interviewer to make their own assessments, and then be open to everyone’s opinions. This ensures a fair and equitable experience for every job seeker. And if candidates know your interview process is a fair one, they’ll feel more positively about your workplace whether or not they are hired.

Start hiring better candidates for your company today

If you’re ready to deliver great interviews but aren’t sure where to begin, Clovers can help. Our interview intelligence platform can widen your talent pool, increase insight, and help you and your team make the best hiring decisions. Take the guesswork out of interview prep with our structured interview guides, or talk with our team today!


Scot is a successful HR technology entrepreneur and advocate for conscious inclusion. Passionate about helping others succeed, he’s committed to improving the hiring process for employers and job-seekers every step of the way.

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