Skills-based Interview Questions

Our sample interview questions help you assess candidates’ skills and recruit the best hires for your open roles.

Why test candidates’ adaptability skills in interviews

Companies often need to change to meet new demands. Good companies have employees who swiftly adapt to industry, market and technology changes.

Employees with the skills to adapt to change ultimately help companies grow. These employees:

  • Stay calm under pressure
  • Try out new tools and techniques to improve their work
  • Quickly come up with solutions, when problems arise
  • Accept new team members and working styles

The following questions will help you evaluate how candidates:

  • Deal with unpredictable conditions (e.g. when a team member quits)
  • Adjust to changing circumstances (e.g. when clients modify their requirements)
  • Help their coworkers embrace change (e.g. when they have to comply with a new company policy)
  • Take on new tasks (e.g. when their job requirements increase)

 

Examples of adaptability interview questions

  • How do you adjust to changes you have no control over? (e.g. A person from your team decides to quit.)
  • If your coworkers had a “this is how we do it” attitude to learning something new, how would you try to convince them to follow a different, more effective method of working?
  • What are the biggest challenges you’re facing when starting a new job?
  • You have been working on a client’s project for a while, when your manager informs you that the project’s requirements changed suddenly. What would you do?
  • How do you re-adjust your schedule when your manager asks you to prepare a report within an hour? How do you make sure you don’t fall behind your regular tasks?
  • Describe a time you were assigned new tasks (e.g. due to job enrichment or promotion.) How did you adapt?
  • The new HR Manager implements formal, quarterly performance reviews for all employees. How would you prepare yourself and your team, if you were used to having only informal meetings?
  • Tell me about a time you had to learn how to use a new tool at work. How long did it take you to understand its features use it daily?

 

How to evaluate candidates’ adaptability skills

  • The onboarding process requires employees to adjust to new team members and different working styles. Candidates who describe how quickly they’ve onboarded in past positions are likely to be successful in their new role.
  • For candidates who are considering a significant career change, ask what drives them to make that move and how confident they are with unfamiliar procedures and tasks.
  • Keep an eye out for people who consider all possible scenarios before making a decision. These candidates are more likely to adjust to unplanned circumstances.
  • For senior-level positions, look for candidates who value flexibility, are open to new ideas and have solid change management skills.
  • If the position requires participating in multiple projects and collaboration with various teams/departments, opt for candidates who prefer mixing up their daily tasks instead of a routine.

 

Red flags

  • They’re not open-minded. People who stick to what they already know and are reluctant to try non-traditional solutions are less likely to adapt well to change.
  • They’re scared of the unknown. If your company’s environment is fast-paced and employees need to take on multiple tasks beyond their scope of responsibilities, look for candidates who aren’t afraid of taking risks and learning new skills.
  • They’re not good team players. Being adaptable also means adjusting your working style for the team’s sake. Opt for candidates who value collaboration and flexibility.
  • They’re nervous. Candidates who can’t stay calm under sudden changes mightn’t be able to find quick and effective solutions to unexpected issues.
  • They’re negative. Candidates who blame others and are grumpy when they have to adapt to a change are less likely to accept new circumstances.

Why ask candidates change management interview questions

Change is inevitable in business. New product launches, competition and employees bring shifts in business strategies and leadership. Employees who manage change with grace will adapt to new circumstances while remaining productive.

For senior-level employees and managers, it’s crucial not only to adjust to change, but also to:

 

Recognize the need for change

  • For example: “We need to evaluate employee performance regularly to increase our productivity.”

 

Prepare action plans that include doable and measurable tasks

  • For example: “We will train managers to conduct weekly 1:1 meetings, gather employee feedback and evaluate the process at the end of the quarter.”

 

Manage resistance

  • For example, “We will convince reluctant managers to implement regular performance appraisals by presenting the advantages of frequent meetings.”

 

Implement corrective actions and improvements when required

  • For example, “We will implement monthly team meetings in addition to weekly individual meetings, to foster better communication in our department.”

The following change management interview questions will help you identify candidates who will navigate change in both day-to-day operations and large-scale projects.

Change management interview questions examples

  • Are you familiar with the Change Management process? How would you request a change from your manager? Give us an example using the checklist of 7 Rs.
  • How do you explain to team members that they need to immediately alter a process? (e.g. for developers, the team needs to build a new feature on a tight deadline, due to additional system requirements)
  • Describe a time when you struggled to persuade your team to modify your goals or delegate tasks differently. What happened?
  • You’ve noticed that your sales numbers have dropped and you want to recommend new ways to advertise your products/services. How would you present your ideas to Sales and Marketing managers? What information would you include to make an impact?
  • How do you measure the results of a modification you made? Give an example of a time you successfully modified a regular procedure.
  • What metrics would you use to assess risk?
  • Mention a few reasons why people resist change. How can you ensure that all processes and decisions are transparent within the organization?
  • How would you handle it if your manager asked you to implement a different way of working but didn’t explain why?
  • What information do you include in a project plan to ensure all necessary actions are scheduled and measured?
  • How do you react to the standard “this is how we do things” response to a request for change?
  • How would you announce an unpopular decision (e.g. a budget cut)?

 

How to assess change management skills during interviews

  • New hires face the task of transitioning to a different work environment with new team members and unfamiliar procedures. Candidates who describe how they’ve onboarded in different roles are more likely to be successful in a new position.
  • You can tell how open to change candidates are by the questions they ask you. If they want to learn more about how you work and what the role includes, they’re ready to take on a new job.
  • If you’re hiring for an executive or C-suite role, make sure your candidates have experience implementing corrective and preventive actions that improved company operations.
  • If you’re looking for senior-level employees, opt for candidates with strategic vision who have demonstrated that they think long-term. They’ll be able to identify the need for change and implement it before it becomes urgent.
  • Change management requires strong decision-making skills. During interviews, test candidates’ ability to analyze pros and cons, compare alternatives and reach logical decisions.

 

Red flags

  • They have poor communication skills. Each step of the change management process requires frequent and transparent communication among interested parties. Candidates who lack communication and interpersonal skills won’t be able to effectively collaborate with their coworkers.
  • They show signs of arrogance. One staple of change management is wanting to improve your performance. “Know-it-alls” who think they’re already doing the best are the first ones to resist trying something new.
  • They underestimate performance metrics. You understand the need to revise processes when you regularly measure results. Candidates who value feedback and performance metrics are more likely to embrace improvements.
  • They are reactive, not proactive. If you want to hire employees who’ll bring new perspectives to your organization, it’s best to look for people who are able to recognize future risks and opportunities and proactively suggest adjustments.
  • They lack leadership ability. Managers need to be confident when presenting the need for change (especially when it’s urgent) and be prepared to battle resistance. If candidates demonstrate poor leadership skills, they are less likely to gain their team’s trust.
  • They’re not good team players. Significant or frequent changes may disrupt a team or cause tension. If your work environment is dynamic, it’s best to hire employees who value collaboration and are able to foster a friendly workplace.

Why use competency-based interview questions

Competency-based interview questions challenge candidates to draw from real-life examples to explain how they use their competencies on the job. This technique can help interviewers better evaluate candidates’ skills.

A competency-based interview tests candidates for specific skills like:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Adaptability
  • Risk-taking

With competency-based interview questions, the hiring team goes beyond candidate qualifications. Recruiters and hiring managers gauge a candidate’s way of thinking and their approach to role-specific problems. Depending on the role, candidates with creative solutions could stand out from candidates with similar skills. For entry-level positions, these questions can help identify candidates with a desire to learn, even if they lack experience.

Competency-based interview techniques help set hiring criteria to avoid bias. Different interviewers (e.g. recruiter, hiring manager and CEO) can identify strong and weak points for each candidate, prioritize the most important criteria and make an objective decision. Here’s a list of competency-based interview questions to consider as part of a structured interview process.

 

Examples of competency-based interview questions

  • Tell me about a time you went the extra mile for your job. How did you do it?
  • What was the last training you attended? How did you use your new knowledge in practice?
  • Tell me about the most significant project you worked on. How did you manage it, from start to finish?
  • How did you increase revenue at companies you worked for?
  • Tell me about a time you were successful in driving positive change. How did you do it?
  • Describe a time when a manager approached you with a problem they couldn’t solve. What did you do?

 

How to use competency interview questions

  • Interviewers should be prepared. First, write down core competencies that align with your company, as well as qualities related to the open role. By listing these competencies, you can ensure you’re asking the right questions to staff your company with the best employees.
  • It’s best to consult a hiring manager for more technical interview questions, like “Describe a successful project you managed from start to finish.” Recruiters can ask more generic questions, like “Tell me about a time you went against a company policy.”
  • You can use competency-based interview questions in more than one stage of the hiring process. Prioritize skills essential for your open role and use the appropriate questions to screen candidates from an early phase. You could also include competency-based questions in your application form or as a written assignment. This way, you’ll have a few good talking points in a face-to-face interview, later.
  • If you structure an interview with a series of competency-based questions, it’s best to prepare your candidates. Let them know what the process will look like, and the type of questions you might ask. This way, they’ll have time to think some good examples and you’ll have an informative discussion.
  • Ask follow-up questions to make sure you get sincere answers from your candidates. For example, when they describe a project they completed successfully, ask them to give you some quantitative results or more details, like “Who else was in that team? How long did it take you to complete the project?”

 

Red flags

  • Quick, generic answers to get off the hook. The point of competency-based interview questions is to reveal real-life examples that showcase the candidate’s skills. If a candidate can’t describe specific situations and, instead, says something generic, like “I am collaborative,” they’re probably trying to avoid answering the question.
  • Contradictory answers. A candidate may claim they have great organizational skills. But if they describe one or more situations where they were racing against the clock to meet deadlines, they may not be answering honestly. Opt for candidates who show a steady behavior: someone who thrives under pressure and strict deadlines or someone who has excellent time management skills and performs well in an organized environment.
  • Self-centered answers. It’s natural for candidates to promote their strengths during interviews. But, if they don’t give credit to external factors (e.g. a motivating manager, a hard-working team or a supportive company culture) as reasons for success, they may have issues collaborating with others.

Why you should test candidates’ conflict management skills

Employees with conflict management skills work through arguments, complaints and differences of opinion constructively. These employees are able to:

  • Resolve issues that arise among team members quickly
  • Handle complaints from customers
  • Foster healthy work relationships
  • Raise objections in a professional manner

It’s essential to test candidates’ conflict-resolution skills, particularly for:

  • senior-level positions, where your future hires will manage teams
  • sales positions, where your future hires will contact customers on a daily basis

Here are some sample conflict management interview questions to ask candidates during your hiring process:

 

Examples of conflict management interview questions

  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker’s idea on a project you were both working on together. How did you express your opposition and what happened?
  • What would you do if your manager gave you negative feedback on the way you approached a problem?
  • How do you handle conflicts within your team?
  • How do you deal with angry customers who complain about your products/services?
  • Have you ever had a team member who kept raising objections on projects? How did you (or would you) manage them?
  • How would you advise a team member who complained about a coworker’s behavior?
  • Have you ever faced a conflict of interest during a cross-departmental project? What did you do?
  • You’ve noticed that a team member is aggressive or arrogant toward the rest of the team. How would you approach this person?
  • How would you react if a coworker blamed you for something that wasn’t entirely your fault (eg. missing a deadline) during a meeting?

 

Tips to assess candidates’ conflict management skills in interviews

  • Ask candidates to explain in detail how they’ve dealt with disagreements in the past. Hire people who think conflicts through before confronting a coworker.
  • Empathy and listening skills are indicators of an individual who handles conflicts professionally. These people are valuable team members, as they manage to keep their coworkers calm.
  • Good conflict management skills go hand-in-hand with solid communication abilities. Candidates who clearly express themselves and keep a pleasant discussion during interviews are more likely to resolve issues that arise at work.
  • Use behavioral questions that demonstrate how candidates interact in team environments. Opt for people who prioritize collaboration and maintain the team’s balance.
  • If the role requires communication with clients, consider adding a role-playing activity to your interview process. You’ll be able to simulate job duties and test candidates’ abilities to resolve issues.
  • Even if candidates describe negative experiences, it’s important to see what lessons they’ve learned. Look for people who don’t take things personally and understand the importance of being patient.

 

Red flags

  • They focus on minor disagreements. If your candidates reveal that they turn each disagreement into a conflict, they might struggle listening to different opinions.
  • They cause conflicts. If the reason behind conflicts is your candidates’ poor communication or collaboration skills, that’s a sign they’re not good team players.
  • They seem uncomfortable. Certain roles, like salespeople, will often come across conflicts at work. Candidates who get stressed while describing such situations mightn’t be suitable for these positions.
  • They give generic answers. Generic answers that don’t describe specific situations won’t tell you much about candidates’ conflict management skills (e.g. “I face conflicts all the time at work, but I manage to stay calm and resolve the issue.”)
  • They are unprofessional. Candidates who blame others and bad-mouth coworkers, managers and clients lack professionalism and may not be the most empathetic future hires.
  • They avoid conflicts altogether. Problems escalate when conflicts are swept under the rug. Candidates should be confident enough to tactfully disagree with coworkers or managers, when necessary.

Why ask candidates decision-making interview questions

Employees are required to make work-related decisions about either regular tasks or unexpected situations on a daily basis. For example, designers might need to choose between two logos, developers may have to decide which feature to implement first and hiring managers might need to select between two or more qualified candidates.

Decisions – both good and bad – have an impact on the entire company. Good decision-makers:

  • Evaluate circumstances, consider alternatives and weigh pros and cons.
  • Use critical-thinking skills to reach objective conclusions.
  • Are able to make decisions under pressure.
  • Opt for a “problem-solving” attitude, as opposed to a “that’s not my job” approach.
  • Help teams overcome obstacles.

Decision-making interview questions will help you identify potential hires with sound judgement. Test how candidates analyze data and predict the outcome of each option before making a decision. Also, keep in mind that in some cases a creative decision that breaks from the norm could prove to be innovative and more effective than a traditional approach.

 

Examples of decision-making interview questions

  • Two employees are having regular conflicts with each other and often disturb the team’s balance. How would you handle this situation?
  • Describe a time you made an unpopular decision. How did you handle the feedback? How would you have handled the situation differently?
  • Do you usually make better decisions alone or with a group? Why? When do you ask for help?
  • In your experience, when you’re working on a team project, do you make the most decisions or do you prefer to step back and follow someone else’s guideline?
  • Describe a time when you had to make an immediate decision on a critical issue.
  • While working on a team project, you notice that some of your coworkers are falling behind. What would you do to help your team meet the deadline?
  • How would you deal with a demanding external stakeholder who keeps changing requirements about a specific project you’re working on?
  • You want your manager to buy a new software that will help your work and you’re trying to choose between two options. The first is more expensive, but has better reviews and the second has fewer features, but is within budget. Which one would you recommend and how?

 

How to evaluate candidates’ decision-making skills

  • Challenge candidates with hypothetical scenarios in which they have to reach an important decision. Use realistic examples to discover their decision-making skills for situations that are likely to occur on the job.
  • Asking follow-up questions is a sign that your candidates want to have as much information as possible before jumping to a conclusion.
  • Professionals who reach a decision after a thorough analysis of pros and cons should be able to present and explain their choice. Opt for confident candidates who support their decisions.
  • In most work-related issues, we don’t have unlimited time to solve a problem. The best decision-makers strike a balance between a good and a quick decision.
  • Ask candidates for examples of situations when they have made effective decisions at work to discover how they have approached problems in their past positions. Team players are more likely to have used other employees’ input and advice.

 

Red flags

  • Yes/No answers. Candidates should be able to explain how they reached a decision. Going only by their gut or choosing one of the options without justifying their decision are red flags for their judgement skills.
  • Not mindful of consequences. Decisions often carry small or bigger risks. Candidates who give superficial answers to hypothetical problems mightn’t be prepared to deal with the consequences of their decisions.
  • Stressed/uncomfortable. Employees in senior-level roles will eventually need to make tough decisions, like delegating tasks, setting deadlines or letting people go. Opt for candidates who show they’re reliable and comfortable enough to take accountability for their decisions.
  • Ignorant of facts. The decision-making process involves taking all the relevant facts and information into consideration. If candidates answer your questions without paying attention to the facts, they’re prone to wrong decisions.
  • Track record of wrong decisions. If candidates struggle to understand why they were wrong and keep repeating the same mistakes, they don’t learn from their mistakes and possibly don’t realize the impact of a bad decision.

Why ask candidates leadership interview questions

When you’re hiring for a senior level position (e.g. team leaders), look for soft skills in candidates that may reflect their leadership styles. These can include:

  • Motivation: How they use feedback and acknowledgment to inspire productivity
  • Delegation: How they identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses to assign duties
  • Communication: How they encourage team members to express concerns and ideas
  • Integrity: How they handle confidential information, manage work relationships and follow company policies to set a good example for their team

Good leaders add value to the company by fostering a collaborative environment and welcoming new ideas. Leadership interview questions help recruiters get greater insight into a candidate’s way of working. Use job-related examples to understand how candidates:

  • manage (or collaborate in) a team to achieve goals
  • motivate their subordinates/co-workers
  • approach challenges and conflicts in a team
  • reach decisions

These interview questions can also reveal the leadership potential of candidates, even if they’re interviewing for entry-level roles. Employees with leadership skills and experience tend to show commitment to their job and overcome obstacles in a timely manner.

These sample leadership interview questions will help you identify if your candidates have what it takes to be a good leader.

 

Example leadership interview questions to ask candidates

  • Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. Did you manage to solve the problem? How did you do it?
  • Tell me about a time you took the lead in a team project. What was the outcome of the project?
  • Tell me about a time your idea improved the company in some way. How did you make sure it was implemented?
  • Two employees left from your team just before the deadline on a big project. How would you change your leadership style to meet the deadline?
  • How do you monitor the performance of individual team members?
  • In what specific ways do you motivate your team?
  • How do you make decisions about the compensation of team members?
  • How would you describe your leadership style?

 

Tips to assess leadership skills in interviews

  • All candidates will claim to have communication and motivational skills. Behavioral and situational interview questions will help you identify how they use these skills in work-related scenarios.
  • Leadership is not (only) about knowledge. A good leader shares the company’s values and contributes to its long-term growth. Opt for candidates who aspire to grow and are interested in developing their careers.
  • Team leaders get involved with hiring and training new members. Ask interview questions to gauge their familiarity with these procedures.
  • A good leader is tenacious during hard times. Use work-related leadership examples to identify how candidates react to challenges and approach difficult decisions.
  • Ask leadership questions that reveal candidates’ creativity. Employees who can make quick decisions when things don’t go as planned can prove vital for your company.

 

Red flags

  • Negativity. It’s important that those in leadership positions nourish positive team environments. Candidates who focus on the negative or lack energy will struggle to motivate their team members.
  • Dishonest answers. If you spot inaccuracies in candidates’ answers, that indicates they lack professionalism. Leaders usually play a strategic role in a company, so look for employees who are honest, ethical and don’t hesitate to admit their mistakes.
  • Inflexibility. Experienced leadership candidates might be used to a specific way of working. To be good leaders, candidates should be eager to adjust to different circumstances.
  • Signs of arrogance. Being a team leader doesn’t give you license to be bossy or order people around. Effective leaders know when to follow other people’s suggestions and value contributions from others.
  • Blaming others or making excuses. Employees in leadership positions who don’t take accountability for their actions (or failures) risk ruining the team’s balance. Look for trustworthy candidates who focus on finding solutions instead of complaining about problems.

Why assess presentation skills in interviews

Good presentation skills are essential in various positions. They’re particularly important for:

  • Salespeople, who sell a company’s products and services to prospective clients.
  • HR Professionals, who represent their company to potential and current employees.
  • Trainers, who prepare and deliver educational materials in classes and seminars.
  • Marketers, who interact and network with industry professionals.

Senior-level employees should also have solid presentation skills, as they often need to present their ideas (e.g. to investors, executives) or announce goals and results to their teams.

The following sample presentation skills interview questions will help you evaluate candidates’ abilities:

 

Examples of presentation skills interview questions

  • How do you prepare before delivering a presentation?
  • Describe a memorable presentation you’ve attended. What made it successful? (e.g. interesting topic, visual aids, entertaining speaker)
  • How do you modify your presentations for different audiences? (e.g. people with and without technical backgrounds)
  • Describe how you would present our company/products to a prospective client.
  • What would you do if you noticed that your audience looked bored during a meeting?
  • Describe a time when you had to announce bad news to your team.
  • How do you prefer to communicate your team’s results to senior managers: through a detailed report or during an in-person meeting? Why?
  • What tools do you use to create a presentation? (e.g. Powerpoint, SlideShare, Canva)
  • When is it appropriate for speakers to use humor?

 

How to evaluate candidates’ presentation skills

  • Candidates present themselves in their resumes and cover letters, so carefully read these documents. During interviews, test how well candidates describe their achievements.
  • Candidates are likely to be prepared for typical interview questions (e.g. “What are your greatest strengths?”) Use less traditional situational questions to test whether they’re ready to manage real challenges on the job.
  • Presentations should be brief and specific. Ask candidates about their current position, e.g. to describe a product they’re regularly using or explain a daily work procedure. Opt for people who manage to provide necessary details while holding your attention.
  • A good presentation is also impassioned. You could ask candidates to describe something they like even if it’s not job-related. For example, their favorite TV character or one of their hobbies. This way, you’ll test how much enthusiasm candidates bring to your discussion.

 

Red flags

  • They are unprepared. During interviews, candidates should be prepared to talk about topics they’re familiar with, like past positions. Being unprepared indicates a lack of interest and difficulty in delivering presentations.
  • They are not persuasive. Often, the goal of a presentation is to persuade your audience to take an action (e.g. buy your products.) Candidates who use engaging language and coherent arguments during interviews will be more likely to influence others.
  • Their body language is uncomfortable. Good speakers are confident and maintain eye contact. Nervous candidates are less likely to keep their audience’s attention.
  • They don’t listen to their audience. Good presentations involve interaction between speakers and audiences. Candidates should avoid answers that are too short or too long and should be able to tell when an audience understands their points or needs further clarification.

Why you should ask candidates problem-solving interview questions

Employees will face challenges in their job. Before you decide on your next hire, use your interview process to evaluate how candidates approach difficult situations.

Problem-solving interview questions show how candidates:

  • Approach complex issues
  • Analyze data to understand the root of the problem
  • Perform under stressful and unexpected situations
  • React when their beliefs are challenged

Identify candidates who are results-oriented with interview questions that assess problem-solving skills. Look for analytical and spherical thinkers with the potential for technical problem solving. Potential hires who recognize a problem, or predict one could potentially occur, will stand out. Candidates should also demonstrate how they would fix the issue, and prevent it from occurring again.

These sample problem-solving interview questions apply to all positions, regardless of industry or seniority level. You can use the following questions to gauge your candidates’ way of thinking in difficult situations:

 

Examples of problem-solving interview questions

  • Describe a time you had to solve a problem without managerial input. How did you do it and what was the result?
  • Give an example of a time you identified and fixed a problem before it became urgent.
  • Tell me about a time you predicted a problem with a stakeholder. How did you prevent it from escalating?
  • Describe a situation where you faced serious challenges in doing your job efficiently. What were the challenges, and how did you overcome them?
  • Recall a time you successfully used crisis-management skills.
  • A new project you’re overseeing has great revenue potential, but could put the company in legal hot water. How would you handle this?
  • How do you know when to solve a problem on your own or to ask for help?

 

Tips to assess problem-solving skills in interviews

  • During your interviews, use hypothetical scenarios that are likely to occur on the job. It’s best to avoid unrealistic problems that aren’t relevant to your company.
  • Examine how candidates approach a problem step-by-step: from identifying and analyzing the issue to comparing alternatives and choosing the most effective solution.
  • Pay attention to candidates who provide innovative solutions. Creative minds can contribute fresh perspectives that add value to your company.
  • When problems arise, employees should show commitment and a can-do attitude. Test candidates’ problem-solving skills in past situations. If they were determined to find the best solution as soon as possible, they will be great hires.
  • Most complex situations require a team effort. Candidates’ previous experiences will show you how they collaborated with their colleagues to reach decisions and how comfortable they felt asking for help.
  • If you’re hiring for a technical role, ask questions relevant to the work your future hires will do. Technical problem-solving interview questions, like “How would you troubleshoot this X bug?” will reveal your candidates’ hard skills and their ability to effectively address problems on the job.

 

Red flags

  • No answer. If a candidate can’t recall an example of a problem they faced in a previous position, that’s a sign they may avoid dealing with difficult situations.
  • Canned answers. A generic answer like “Once, I had to deal with a customer who complained about the pricing. I managed to calm them down and closed the deal,” doesn’t offer much insight about the candidate’s thought process. Ask follow-up questions to get more details.
  • Focus on the problem, not the solution. Identifying the problem is one thing, but finding the solution is more important. Candidates who focus too much on the problem may be too negative for the position.
  • Feeling stressed/uncomfortable. It’s normal to feel slightly uncomfortable when put on the spot. But, if candidates are so stressed they can’t answer the question, that’s an indicator they don’t handle stressful situations well.
  • Superficial answers. Candidates who choose the easy way out of a problem usually don’t consider all aspects and limitations of the situation. Opt for candidates who analyze the data you’ve given them and ask for more information to better dig into the problem.
  • Cover up the problem or minimize its significance. Unaddressed problems could quickly escalate into bigger issues. Employees who leave things for later mightn’t be result-oriented or engaged in their jobs.

Why ask strategic-thinking interview questions

Strategic-thinking in the workplace is the ability to make business decisions by analyzing current and future scenarios. Strategic thinkers translate a company’s vision into doable actions.

Companies hire employees with a strategic mindset to help achieve long-term business goals. Strategic thinkers:

  • Set long-term objectives
  • Proactively identify and address potential risks
  • Use resources efficiently
  • Develop action plans in the face of obstacles
  • Successfully deal with competition

Here are some sample strategic-thinking interview questions to ask candidates during interviews:

 

Examples of strategic-thinking interview questions

  • How much time per week or month do you invest in strategic planning? What do you do?
  • How do you inform your team and other departments within your company about your strategic decisions?
  • Describe a time when you proactively identified and addressed an issue at your company.
  • How do you set long-term goals for your team? How often do you check and review these goals?
  • Describe a time when you failed to achieve your goals and had to follow a different approach. What happened?
  • What are the key factors you take into consideration when building an action plan? (e.g. to increase sales)
  • How do you measure a strategy’s effectiveness?

 

Tips to assess candidates’ strategic-thinking skills

  • Before deciding on a business plan, employees need to know how their company or team works. During interviews, evaluate candidates’ analytical skills in gathering and evaluating information.
  • Ask candidates to explain how they craft a strategy for their company/team. Opt for people who are methodical and assess all alternatives and potential risks.
  • Describe a past campaign/methodology that failed and ask candidates to evaluate it. You’ll be able to test whether candidates can identify mistakes and suggest better solutions.
  • Challenge candidates with hypothetical scenarios that relate to your company’s operations. Test whether they understand your needs and can craft strategies that align with your objectives.

 

Red flags

  • They’re uncomfortable making decisions. To choose the best tactics, employees need to evaluate various alternatives, weigh pros and cons and forecast potential risks. Candidates who lack confidence and seem nervous when they have to make a decision mightn’t be a good fit.
  • They lack leadership skills. Strategic planning involves setting challenging objectives and motivating your team to achieve these goals. Look for candidates who are good team leaders and are confident delegating tasks.
  • They don’t consider consequences. Candidates who approach your questions superficially and pick the first answer that comes in mind, mightn’t be prepared to think strategically when problems occur.
  • They don’t embrace change. Strategies need to be flexible. If your candidates are not adaptive and have poor change management skills, they’re likely to stick to an ineffective approach instead of re-evaluating strategies.

Why assess teamwork in interviews

Teamwork skills are key in all positions. Some employees might work on their own occasionally (e.g. a developer who debugs a program), but the results of their work impact their entire team.

Good team players:

  • Resolve issues before they escalate
  • Nurture healthy work environments
  • Understand each person’s unique strengths
  • Accept feedback and try to improve their work

Depending on the company and the position, teamwork might mean something different. Teamwork is when:

  • Senior-level candidates are able to handle conflicts and motivate their team members.
  • Entry-level candidates work with experienced coworkers to learn their roles.
  • Remote team members prioritize good verbal and written communication to work with their teams.
  • HR professionals organize company activities to build team spirit.

 

Examples of team player interview questions

  • Describe a group project you worked on. What was your role and what did you achieve?
  • Describe a time you had to gather input from employees outside your team. How did you approach them and how did you ensure you’d get information on time?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with a colleague you didn’t get along with.
  • Has your team ever failed to reach a goal? If so, what went wrong and what did you learn from that experience?
  • What would you do if your team didn’t want to implement your idea?
  • What’s your preferred way of working on a group project: each member works on an assigned task independently or the entire team meets and works together? Why?
  • How would you onboard a new team member?
  • What’s the best way to give credit to an employee for their good work?
  • What work habits promote team spirit? (e.g. regular meetings, cross-departmental projects, team-bonding activities)
  • How would you approach a disengaged employee who tanks the team’s productivity?
  • How would you make sure a remote team communicates well?
  • What group collaboration tools have you used? 

 

How to identify team players in interviews

  • Candidates’ past experiences will give you a good idea of how they behave on a team. What’s their role in group projects? How do they share information and express their ideas? How do they react during conflicts?
  • Look for people who own their accomplishments and also acknowledge their coworkers’ contributions. Ask candidates to describe what they achieved through teamwork.
  • Employees with solid communication skills are more efficient in team environments. They’re likely to avoid sending multiple back-and-forth emails to explain or arrange something.
  • Entry-level candidates might struggle with providing examples of teamwork skills in a professional setting. College work, internships or extracurricular activities can also show you how candidates behave on a team.
  • It’s a good sign if potential hires want to learn more about their future team. Questions about the structure of the department show that candidates want to picture themselves as part of the team.

 

Red flags

  • Using “I” a lot. Do your candidates start every sentence with “I,” even when they’re describing a team project? This might be a sign that they prefer working independently, instead of a group setting.
  • Generic answers. Most candidates will claim they’re good team players. But, if they can’t support their argument with real examples, they might be simply trying to say the right thing, without being honest.
  • Arrogant attitude. Bossy behavior is a red flag for teamwork. “Know-it-all” employees don’t value other people’s opinions and ideas and usually don’t take criticism well.
  • Putting the blame on others. Candidates who bad-mouth prior employers and coworkers are less likely to form healthy work relationships. Good collaboration is based on compromise and mutual respect.
  • Trust issues. People who want to double-check everyone’s work tank the team’s productivity, as they slow down all processes. Senior managers, in particular, who don’t trust their team members and don’t let them take any initiative risk damaging the team’s synergy.
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Why you should test candidates’ analytical skills

Analytical skills refer to the ability to gather data, break down a problem, weigh pros and cons and reach logical decisions. Employees who have these skills help companies overcome challenges, or spot issues before they become problems.

Every position requires analytical skills. For some roles (e.g. Investment Banker), methodical thinking is key, while for others (e.g. Marketing Strategist) brainstorming abilities are more relevant. Regardless of how they approach problems, employees with sharp analytical skills are able to confidently connect the dots and come up with solutions.

The following analytical interview questions will help you assess how candidates:

  • Gather data from various sources
  • Use a critical thinking to evaluate information
  • Communicate the findings of their research to team members
  • Make judgments that help businesses

Combine these questions with problem-solving and competency-based interview questions to gauge how candidates address complex situations that are likely to occur on the job.

 

Examples of analytical skills interview questions

  • Describe a time when you had to solve a problem, but didn’t have all necessary information about it in hand. What did you do?
  • How do you weigh pros and cons before making a decision?
  • If you had to choose between two or three options, how would you decide? (e.g. pricing, performance evaluation systems, training)
  • Explain step-by-step how you troubleshoot [X] problem. (e.g. “wifi connection issues” or “a sudden drop in sales”)
  • What metrics do you track on a regular basis (e.g. conversion rates, number of new customers, expenses)? What information do you research and how do you use it?
  • Your manager wants to buy new software or hardware that will increase the team’s productivity and asks for your recommendation. How would you reply?

 

Tips to assess analytical skills in interviews

  • Pose hypothetical but job-related scenarios to test candidates’ way of thinking. It’s important to figure whether they take all relevant factors into consideration.
  • Make sure you give candidates enough time to come up with an answer. These types of questions usually require thinking through a situation and evaluating given facts.
  • “Highly analytical” is often confused with “losing the big picture.” Look for people who can prioritize what’s most important and ignore irrelevant information.
  • Candidates who are intrigued by challenges are more likely to effectively manage complex situations on the job. Keep an eye out for candidates who don’t easily quit when faced with problems, even if they can’t immediately find solutions.

 

Red flags

  • They give canned answers. Candidates tend to describe themselves in resumes and interviews as highly analytical, organized and detail-oriented. If they can’t support these skills with examples from real work experiences, they mightn’t be honest.
  • They only scratch the surface. Candidates who don’t ask follow-up questions are likely to jump to rushed conclusions or miss out on important facts when dealing with a challenge.
  • They have poor communication skills. Thorough analytical skills should be paired with the ability to communicate ideas to coworkers, managers and clients. Candidates who struggle to explain technical details (e.g. rates) using simple language will find it hard to be effective in their roles.
  • They make assumptions. Analytical skills go hand-in-hand with critical thinking. Candidates who take things for granted and don’t fact-check tend to make more superficial decisions.

Why test candidates’ communication skills in interviews

Clear communication is key to a healthy and productive workplace. Its benefits are manifold. Consider how:

  • One concise email helps avoid back-and-forth messages
  • A well-written policy ensures all employees understand company values and procedures
  • Informative and engaging presentations help team members understand problems and solutions

Employees, regardless their position or seniority level, interact with their coworkers, managers, clients or external partners on a daily basis. This is why “good communication skills” is a common requirement within job ads.

With good communication skills:

  • Senior-level employees make tough decisions, handling difficult discussions with grace
  • Salespeople strike a friendly and empathetic tone when contacting unhappy clients (via phone or in-person)
  • Social Media Managers exude their company brand when writing for their followers online

Interviews allow you to evaluate how candidates communicate. You can also use interviews to get an idea of how candidates collaborate on teams and whether they clearly convey and listen to messages.

Here are some sample interview questions to help you identify good communicators:

 

Examples of communication interview questions

  • Do you prefer to communicate via email, phone or in-person? Why?
  • What team communication tools have you used? What was your experience with them?
  • How would you overcome communication challenges on a remote team?
  • If you’re presenting your ideas during a meeting and your audience seems disengaged, what would you do to get their attention?
  • How would you reply to a negative online review about our company?
  • Have you ever worked with someone you struggled to communicate with? If so, what was the obstacle and how did you handle it?
  • What would you do if your manager gave you unclear instructions for a new project?
  • If you wanted to inform your team or stakeholders about quarterly results, would you email them a detailed report or present the data live? Why? Regardless of the method you choose, how would you ensure your message is clear?
  • How would you reply to a potential customer who claims that our competitors offer better prices?
  • Have you ever talked to an angry customer? If so, how did you manage the situation?
  • Describe a time you had to share bad news with your team or have a difficult conversation with a coworker.
  • If hired, how would you introduce yourself to your new colleagues? How would you get to know your team members?

 

Tips to assess candidates’ communication skills

  • A candidate’s resume can speak volumes about their written communication skills, particularly when the role requires writing or expressing oneself in a foreign language. Pay attention to candidates’ phrasing. Simple, clear sentences and lack of grammar and spelling errors indicate good communication and proofreading skills.
  • People can’t fake their communication skills. During interviews, watch closely how candidates express themselves, whether they can maintain a pleasant discussion and if they’re good listeners.
  • Avoid vague questions, like “How good are your communication skills” or “Do you like to communicate with people?” Instead, ask candidates to give you specific examples that highlight their communication abilities in a professional setting. For example, prompt them to name a time they successfully handled a conflict at work or contributed to a team project.
  • If the role requires interaction with clients, consider adding a role-playing activity to your interview process. You’ll be able to simulate job duties and test candidates’ abilities (e.g. how to present a product or persuade a potential customer.)
  • To evaluate written communication skills, use assignments that are similar to the position’s responsibilities. For example, ask candidates to craft emails to address two or three hypothetical scenarios. Or, ask them to prepare specific pieces of text (e.g. a short article.)

 

Red flags

  • Rude or arrogant behavior. Impolite comments, constant interruptions and a bossy attitude are all red flags. People with these bad habits may not collaborate effectively with their team members.
  • Poor presentation skills. If you notice that candidates struggle to talk about topics they’re likely to have prepared (e.g. describe their past positions), it’s possible they’ll also find it hard to deliver presentations or discuss more complex issues.
  • Uncomfortable body language. Being stressed is normal during interviews. But, candidates who don’t maintain eye contact or are on edge throughout the interview will struggle to interact with clients, managers and coworkers.
  • Too short or too long answers. “Yes/No” replies don’t leave much room for discussion. Likewise, never-ending responses could confuse or fatigue the interlocutor. Candidates with good communication skills will strike a balance between respecting your time and getting their points across.
  • Lack of persuasion abilities. Good communicators don’t only provide facts, they’re also able to influence others (e.g. with engaging language, visual aids or coherent arguments.) Instead of someone who only states the obvious, look for creative, persuasive people, particularly for roles that require selling.

Why you should evaluate candidates’ confidentiality skills

Confidentiality in the workplace means keeping sensitive business and personnel matters private (e.g. medical histories, competitive data and salary information.) Good confidentiality skills are important for:

  • HR professionals who handle sensitive data, from candidates’ resumes to employees’ contracts.
  • Finance staff who manage compensation packages.
  • Legal staff who compose and maintain classified documents and agreements.
  • IT staff who store digital files and manage internal communications and data privacy.
  • Senior managers who participate in strategic decisions and have access to sensitive corporate and employee information.
  • Executive assistants who organize managers’ schedules and take minutes during important meetings.

Here are some questions to ask during interviews to identify trustworthy potential hires.

 

Examples of confidentiality skills interview questions

  • What’s the best way to store historical employee records? (e.g. employment contracts and medical reports)
  • During events and job fairs, when people approach you with questions about the company, how do you know what you are and are not allowed to say?
  • How would you respond if one team member wanted to know their coworker’s salary?
  • How do you share confidential documents with your coworkers? What tools do you use if these documents are in digital formats?
  • What would you do if there was a fire emergency and you had to leave documents with sensitive data on your desk?
  • You’re talking to a potential customer and they insist on learning your detailed roadmap (e.g. for new products and features.) How do you respond?
  • During a group meeting, a senior manager asks you to disclose something confidential, like a coworker’s salary information. What would you do if there were people in this meeting who were not supposed to know this information?
  • What would you do if you accidentally received an email with confidential data addressed to the HR manager or the CEO?

 

How to assess candidates’ confidentiality skills during interviews

A direct question “Can you keep sensitive information confidential?” will prompt an obvious “yes.” So instead, during interviews, use hypothetical scenarios, that are likely to occur on the job to test whether candidates are:

  • Professional: Employees who steer clear of office gossip and respect other people’s privacy are more likely to handle confidential data with care.
  • Ethical: People with good judgement are able to assess what information is classified and who should have access to sensitive data.
  • Discreet: Being careless with corporate or personal matters can put coworkers in very uncomfortable situations and raise legal risks for your company.

If necessary, include short assessments to understand how candidates approach situations that require good confidentiality skills. For example:

  • If you’re hiring executive assistants, ask them to organize an office. Pay attention to whether they will store classified documents and agendas in locked drawers.
  • If you’re hiring IT administrators, ask them to research and recommend cyber security applications. The best candidates will ask follow-up questions about your teams and specific requirements and will suggest data encryption, anti-virus and password management tools.
  • If you’re hiring HR managers, ask them to describe step-by-step the process they’d take responding to a sexual harassment complaint. Keep an eye out for candidates who not only explain how they’d investigate the matter, but also take measures to ensure the privacy of the coworker’s claim.

 

Red flags

  • They don’t understand what constitutes confidential information. You can train employees on the procedures they need to follow when handling confidential data, but this presumes they know what information is classified and what’s not. Qualified candidates should be able to recognize when to keep information private.
  • They’re secretive instead of discreet. Being confidential doesn’t mean not disclosing any information at all. Candidates and employees should be able to understand who can get access to which information and how to provide access to them.
  • They underestimate the importance of secure storage and transfer of confidential data. While this mightn’t be a red flag for all roles, candidates for IT positions should be able to provide specific examples of tools to share and store data safely.
  • They are unprofessional or impolite when declining data access requests. Maintaining confidential information is one thing. But, being able to politely decline access to unauthorized personnel is also important. Senior managers and HR staff, in particular, should be able to gracefully explain that they can’t reveal certain information.

Why test candidates’ critical-thinking skills

Critical-thinking skills allow people to evaluate situations through reasoning to reach logical decisions. Companies benefit from employees who think critically (as opposed to mechanically performing tasks) because these individuals use an independent mindset to seek ways to improve processes.

Critical thinkers are great assets in all teams and roles. They are:

  • Responsible. You can count on them to make tough decisions.
  • Consistent. They’re top performers who check their facts before acting.
  • Unbiased. They keep their emotions in check to reach sound decisions.
  • Creative. They suggest out-of-the-box solutions.

Challenge candidates with complex critical thinking questions to reveal their skills. But, present them with realistic problems related to the job. Brainteasers (e.g. some Google-type questions) are off-putting for candidates who already feel the pressure of the interview process. Questions like “How many haircuts happen in America every year?” are very popular online, but may not reveal much about their skills. Asking something like “How would you explain cloud computing to a 6-year-old?” will more accurately show you a candidate’s way of thinking.

Keep your challenging interview questions as job-related as possible. Sometimes it’s not important to assess whether the answer is right or wrong. Puzzling questions are your opportunity to evaluate how candidates react outside their comfort zone.

These critical-thinking interview question examples will help you identify candidates with high potential for future leadership positions. Combine them with various behavioral interview question types (like problem-solving and competency-based questions) to create complete candidate profiles and make better hiring decisions.

 

Examples of critical-thinking interview questions

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. What did you do?
  • During a live presentation to key stakeholders, you spot a mistake in your manager’s report, but your manager isn’t at the presentation. How do you handle this?
  • Describe a time when you had to convince your manager to try a different approach to solve a problem.
  • You’re working on a project and you struggle coming to an agreement with your team about your next step. What would you do to make sure you choose the right direction and get your co-workers onboard?
  • What’s the best sales approach: increase prices to achieve higher revenues or decrease prices to improve customer satisfaction?

 

How to assess critical-thinking skills in interviews

  • Use hypothetical scenarios and examples from candidates’ past experiences to understand their mindsets. An analytical way of thinking (comparing alternatives and weighing pros and cons) indicates people who make logical judgments.
  • When problems arise, employees don’t always have ample time to design a detailed action plan. Opt for candidates who strike a balance between good and fast decision-making.
  • Critical thinking requires questioning facts and the status quo. Look for candidates who have implemented new procedures or applied changes to processes in their past positions. These are signs of professionals who actively seek ways to improve how things get done, as opposed to taking the “this is how we always do it” approach.
  • Candidates who are intrigued by solving problems are more likely to effectively manage challenges and stressful situations on the job. During your interview process, keep an eye out for candidates who show enthusiasm and don’t easily quit when faced with problems, even if they can’t immediately find solutions.

 

Red flags

  • They don’t fact-check. If you present candidates with a hypothetical problem and they don’t ask for clarifications, it’s a sign they take information for granted. A critical thinker should always research data for accuracy before relying on it.
  • They make assumptions. Beyond taking things for granted, employees who make assumptions tend to jump to rushed and often biased conclusions. Look for candidates who use logical arguments to justify their decisions.
  • They don’t answer. If they don’t at least try to solve the problem, they’ll probably keep procrastinating when something goes wrong or push their work onto to someone else. Asking for help when you face a challenge is more than acceptable, but avoiding problems reveals irresponsible employee behavior.
  • They give you the obvious answer. Tricky questions are tricky for a reason. Candidates who go with the first answer that comes in mind are more likely to approach challenges superficially and avoid using critical-thinking skills to come up with the best solution.

What to ask candidates

Managers play a strategic role in a company’s performance and growth. Their responsibilities include:

  • Setting and tracking goals
  • Increasing team productivity
  • Training and motivating subordinates
  • Taking part in business development planning

When hiring for management positions, look for experienced candidates. These are individuals who have a deep understanding of your industry and business objectives. Use role-specific interview questions to test their knowledge. Also, interview for soft skills and traits essential for all senior level roles. Those include:

  • Leadership skills
  • Problem-solving attitude
  • Motivational personality
  • Results-driven

Managers need to report results and suggest improvements. Focus on candidates who can take accountability for their actions and possess strong decision-making skills. Managers juggle different tasks on a daily basis and coordinate with people from other departments (and/or customers.)

Gear your questions toward identifying candidates who enjoy variety in their work and can handle challenging duties. They should also demonstrate high professionalism, as they set the example for their team members.

Here are some examples of interview questions for managers:

 

Sample interview questions for managers

  • Imagine you’re assigned an important task but your team members keep interrupting you with questions. How do you complete the task, and how do you respond to your team?
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a team member who constantly opposed your ideas. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when your team managed to achieve ambitious goals you set. How did you support and motivate them?
  • Describe a project you successfully managed end-to-end. What challenges did you face and what did you do to overcome them?
  • What’s your approach to delegating work to employees? How do you ensure that tasks are completed?
  • Describe a time you mentored someone. How did they grow? What were they doing initially, and what are they doing now?
  • How would you tell a colleague that he/she was underperforming?
  • Talk about the time you led an important meeting. How did you prepare for it?

 

Interviewing tips

  • Ask candidates to describe their previous work experiences. These examples give you the chance to understand their management style and decide whether it fits your needs.
  • A high turnover rate in managerial positions could tank the team’s balance. It’s best to view managers as your long-term partners. Do the candidate’s career goals match with your company’s future plans? Do you share the same values?
  • If the position involves hiring new team members, test how familiar candidates are with recruiting and training processes.
  • Keep an eye out for candidates who are creative and share innovative ideas. A new manager can offer a fresh perspective and help your company perform better.
  • Don’t instantly reject candidates who lack experience in your sector. Test them to see if they understand basic terms and procedures and gauge their interest in learning new things.

 

Red flags

  • Putting the blame on someone/something else. It could be a “lack of resources” or team members who “are not good enough.” A candidate who makes excuses for bad results shows they’d rather not be held accountable for their actions.
  • Lack of interest. Team motivation begins with the manager. If he/she can’t inspire their team members, how will the team be more productive? Opt for candidates who are interested in learning about your company and are passionate about the role.
  • Inflexibility. A strong manager is open to new ideas and promotes team spirit. If you notice signs of bossiness or arrogance in your candidates’ answers, this can indicate they lack collaboration skills.
  • Unrealistic answers. Candidates aim to make good first impressions during interviews. But if they struggle to answer questions like “Describe a time when you had a conflict with a subordinate,” they don’t have much experience or they don’t know how to manage difficult situations.
  • Uncomfortable with regular duties. Managers have to handle difficult responsibilities, like delegating tasks and giving negative performance reviews to employees who don’t reach their goals. Candidates who seem uncomfortable with these kinds of duties mightn’t be suited for the role.

Why ask candidates prioritization interview questions

The ability to prioritize tasks is an essential skill in all roles. Employees with good prioritization skills are able to:

  • Meet deadlines
  • Manage their workload effectively
  • Use their time wisely and avoid distractions
  • Adapt to changes and re-evaluate their priorities
  • Control their stress when dealing with multiple tasks
  • Deal with the most important projects first and put secondary tasks aside

Here are some sample interview questions to evaluate candidates’ prioritization skills:

 

Examples of prioritization interview questions

  • How do you organize your work when you have to juggle multiple projects/clients at the same time?
  • If you’re reporting to more than one manager, how do you prioritize your duties?
  • Describe a typical day at work. What’s your morning routine?
  • How much time do you spend per week on X task?
  • You return to work after a two-week vacation and find fifty new emails in your inbox. How do you choose which emails to open and answer first?
  • Have you ever missed a deadline? If so, what happened? If not, how do you make sure you’re not falling behind?
  • What productivity tools (e.g. time-management or project-management software) have you found useful?
  • Describe a time you successfully delegated tasks to your team.
  • How would you reply if your manager suddenly asked you to complete a challenging task on a tight deadline? (e.g. make fifty cold calls to potential customers in one day)
  • Have you ever felt overwhelmed at work? What did you do?

 

How to assess prioritization skills in interviews

Here are signs of candidates with good prioritization skills:

  • They make to-do lists. People who are organized and break large projects into smaller, doable steps are more likely to complete their work on time.
  • They separate important from urgent. Most job duties are important, but only some of them are time-sensitive. Look for people who understand the difference and follow deadlines.
  • They estimate the time, effort and resources needed for each task. To properly prioritize tasks, employees need to prepare themselves. They should evaluate a project’s requirements before digging into work.
  • They don’t hesitate to re-evaluate tasks. Employees should be able to identify inefficiencies in their workload and suggest ways to improve processes. And managers should frequently re-assess regular duties to determine what works and what doesn’t.

 

Red flags

  • They micromanage. Employees who want to control every part of a project find it hard to delegate tasks. They’re more likely to wind up with more tasks than they can handle.
  • They lack communication skills. Managers who can’t clearly communicate requirements cause team-wide misunderstandings regarding priorities and deadlines.
  • They lose the bigger picture. Employees who view projects as individual tasks aren’t likely to consider how they add value to the company. This makes them less likely to prioritize projects based on their importance.
  • They procrastinate. Poor concentration and lack of a “can do” attitude are red flags. Also, people who are easily distracted by trivial issues struggle with focusing on their most important job responsibilities.

Why you should evaluate candidates’ soft skills

Imagine you want to hire an account manager. You have two candidates with degrees in Marketing, knowledge of the CRM software your company uses and two years of relevant work experience. How will you choose who to hire? Soft skills can help you differentiate them.

At the beginning of your hiring process, define which soft skills are important for your open position and build questions around those. Here are some sample soft skills interview questions to help you get started. For more soft skills-based interview questions, check out our library of interview questions by type:

 

Examples of soft skills interview questions

Adaptability

  • What are the biggest challenges you face when starting a new job?
  • Tell me about a time when the scope of a project you were working on changed significantly. How did you adjust your work and what did you do to ensure your team stayed motivated?

Collaboration

  • Tell me about a time you had to work with a colleague you didn’t get along with. What did you do?
  • What would you do if your team rejected all of your ideas?

Communication

  • If you’re presenting ideas during a meeting and your audience seems disengaged, what would you do to get their attention?
  • How do you calm angry customers?

Decision-making

  • Describe a time you made an unpopular decision. How did you handle the feedback? How would you have handled the situation differently?
  • What’s the best way to make decisions when working on a group project?

Leadership

  • Have you ever fired an employee? If so, why did you have to let them go and how did you inform them?
  • How do you motivate your team members during challenging projects? Please give an example from your experience.

Time management

  • If you were assigned multiple tasks at the same time, how would you organize yourself to produce quality work under tight deadlines?
  • Describe a time you fell behind schedule. What went wrong and what would you do differently next time?

 

How to evaluate soft skills in interviews

  • Assess past work behaviors. It’s tricky to evaluate soft skills the way you evaluate hard skills (e.g. using tests or questions like “What programming languages do you know?”) Behavioral interview questions will help you understand if and how candidates use these skills on the job.
  • Create hypothetical scenarios. Test how candidates would handle situations that are likely to occur at work. Consider asking situational questions during interviews or give candidates larger projects that simulate job duties.
  • Use a scoring system. Create interview scorecards to measure how satisfying candidates’ answers are. For example, you can use rating scales or a pass/fail system to evaluate candidates’ answers.
  • Ask all candidates the same questions. To avoid introducing bias during interviews, make sure you use the same set of questions for all candidates, in the same order. That way, it’s easier to compare their answers and make objective hiring decisions.

 

Red flags

  • They give canned answers. Candidates are likely to come prepared for questions like “Describe your role in a team project” or “How do you manage deadlines?” Add hypothetical scenarios to your interviews that require on-the-spot thinking to identify candidates who give genuine answers.
  • They are inconsistent. Use more than one question to determine whether candidates master a specific soft skill. For example, if you’re looking for a good communicator, compare candidates’ answers to questions with their email communication and their performance in role-playing activities.
  • They don’t provide specific examples. Generic answers don’t tell you much about how candidates use skills on the job. Ask follow-up questions to get clarifications. Qualified candidates will be able to relate soft skills to real-life experiences.
  • They’re not a culture fit. Soft skills are not black and white. Candidates can have the same quality (e.g. leadership) and use it differently (e.g. they’re good decision-makers and give clear instructions to team members or they inspire trust and encourage taking initiative.) Opt for candidates who use their soft skills in ways that match your company culture and business needs.

Why ask candidates stress management interview questions

Most jobs have stressful aspects, like reaching a quarterly goal, presenting an idea to managers or meeting a tight deadline. Employees with good stress management skills perform better because they:

  • Reach objective decisions
  • Keep those around them calm
  • Come up with solutions in trying times

Employees who can’t manage stressful situations struggle to complete their duties, even if they possess the required skills and knowledge for the job. Some positions (like managerial roles) face more pressure than others. That’s why it’s important to identify candidates who can handle stress while remaining productive.

Here are some sample stress management interview questions to ask candidates:

 

Example stress management interview questions

  • How do you prepare for a presentation to important [clients/stakeholders/the executive board] the day before it’s due?
  • How would you respond if your manager gave you negative feedback in front of your peers?
  • What’s the most stressful situation you’ve faced at work so far? How did you handle it?
  • How do you prevent a situation from getting too stressful to manage?
  • What advice would you give to calm down a colleague who’s stressed out about a deadline?
  • Can you describe a time when your stress resulted in making errors at work?
  • How would you deal with frequent changes at work? For example, if stakeholders were indecisive about a project’s requirements, or if new members joined your team.
  • If assigned with multiple tasks at the same time, how would you organize yourself to produce quality work under tight deadlines?
  • Describe a time you had to make a tough decision (e.g. fire a team member or choose between two job offers.) How did you make sure you were objective?
  • How do you ensure that stressful situations in your personal life don’t affect your work performance?

 

How to assess candidates’ stress management skills

  • Use a combination of behavioral and situational interview questions. You’ll have the chance to find out how candidates handled stress in past positions, but also how they’ll manage stressful situations in their new role, if hired.
  • Generic questions like “How do you handle stress?” will yield equally generic answers. Ask candidates to describe specific work examples of when they beat stress.
  • Deliberately being persistent or even aggressive won’t give you a clear idea of how candidates react under pressure. Use realistic examples, instead. For example, if you’re hiring salespeople, ask how candidates would address the most common customer issues.
  • Compare candidates’ answers to common problems related to the position. Opt not only for people who offer the best solutions, but for those who are able to maintain composure even during unexpected circumstances.
  • Candidates might already be prepared to describe a situation where they successfully handled stress. So, use the interview to gauge their stress management skills. Do they feel uncomfortable when you ask tough questions or are they able to remain calm?
  • Don’t be fast to reject candidates who seem on edge at first, as job interviews are stressful by nature. If, though, they remain stressed throughout the interview, you might want to reconsider their candidacy, especially in roles that require more socializing.

 

Red flags

  • They obsess over the stressor. Identifying who or what causes stress is only the first step in dealing with it. Candidates who fixate on the stressor, instead of taking action, are less likely to actually manage the situation.
  • They cause stress. Bad habits, like procrastination or poor time-management skills, put people in needlessly stressful situations. Hire candidates who can get themselves out of such situations and not candidates who create them.
  • They get stressed over little things. Pay attention to what makes candidates get stressed. If they mention regular, daily tasks, rather than bigger challenges, they mightn’t be suitable for this role.
  • Their body language shows discomfort. Pose some tough, but realistic, problems to candidates. If they’re nervous when trying to find a solution, they’re likely to get stressed when actual problems arise on the job.
  • They never experience stress. Most people get stressed by work at some point. Candidates who claim they never get stressed might take problems too lightly.

How to conduct a technical interview

Technical interviews can be tricky, as they require specialized knowledge (e.g. of the software development process) and familiarity with related terminology. Prepare yourself before inviting candidates to an interview. Recruiters who are hiring developers and engineers should:

  • Coordinate with the hiring team to identify basic technical skills candidates should have.
  • Create interview questions that test whether candidates possess must-have skills required for the position.
  • Ask hiring managers what to expect from candidates’ answers.
  • Include a written assignment that tests candidates’ coding skills.

During the interview process, look for how candidates apply their theoretical knowledge on the job. Scrutinize examples from their resumes and ask for clarifications. Here are resume-based questions to consider:

  • What was the project?
  • Who did you work with?
  • What did you develop?
  • What was the outcome?

It’s also important to cater your interview questions to the seniority level of each position. For entry-level positions, focus on identifying strong and weak points and potential training needs. For senior-level positions, ask candidates how much experience they have with specific tools and languages that you use.

Tech recruiters are usually familiar with programming interview questions. However, hiring managers should ask the most complex questions, because they have better insights into their team’s goals and way of working. Hiring managers can also discuss candidates’ written assignments with them, provide feedback and ask follow-up questions.

 

Example technical interview questions to ask candidates

For entry-level roles

  • What programming languages are you most familiar with?
  • Describe the troubleshooting process you’d follow for a crashing program.
  • How can you debug a program while it’s being used?
  • What is your field of expertise and what would you like to learn more about?

For senior-level roles

  • Have you implemented significant improvements to an IT infrastructure? What were they, and how did you implement them?
  • What’s the most effective way to gather user and system requirements?
  • Describe a time you had to explain technical details to a non-technical audience. How did you modify your presentation?
  • Where do you place most of your focus when reviewing somebody else’s code?

Assignment review

  • What would you have done differently if you had more time?
  • What would you do differently if you were under a strict deadline and you couldn’t meet the project scope? Which features would you prioritize?
  • What did you find most challenging about this assignment? What resources did you use to complete the assignment?

Resume review

  • In which of your previous positions/past projects did you use [X] software?
  • Tell me about [X] project. Who did you work with and what was your specific contribution? Describe the timeframe and how you worked within it.
  • What did you learn from [X] project?

 

Interviewing tips for technical roles

  • Computer Science is an evergreen discipline. Keep an eye out for candidates who enjoy following trends and learning. Potential hires who test new software, participate in coding meetups and are active on technical forums and blogs are invested in their industry.
  • Brainteasers and trick questions don’t reveal candidates’ skills. Be specific. Ask about candidates’ experience with software you use and how they would approach a relevant problem likely to arise in their position. These types of questions will also help you compare candidates’ answers.
  • Too many theoretical questions (like “Give me the definition of…”) can get tiring. Also, they don’t measure candidates’ problem-solving abilities. Include situational and behavioral interview questions that show how candidates perform in real-life projects.
  • A written assignment should follow a first screening, usually by phone. Inform candidates about the written assignment and email them detailed instructions. Give them enough time to complete the project, and make sure you are clear about the deadline.
  • When evaluating the assignment, avoid focusing only on the right or wrong answers. Gauge candidates’ way of thinking. An innovative, out-of-the-box solution (even if it’s not error-free) can reveal a creative mindset needed for the role.

 

Red flags

  • Unclear answers. Candidates who struggle to explain their resume might have had little or no participation in the projects they listed. Ask follow-up questions to identify their exact roles and contributions.
  • Lack of energy. Developers are passionate about their profession, even if you can’t tell at first sight. Ask candidates about fun side projects, or about their favorite tools. Their reactions can indicate how committed they are to the field.
  • Inflexibility. You can’t expect candidates to know every software or framework that you use. But, candidates who are unwilling to adjust to your way of working are less likely to collaborate with your team. Opt for candidates who showcase a desire to learn and aren’t discouraged by getting used to new systems.
  • Bad team players. Developers might usually work in front of a computer screen, but they need to communicate with various people and teams on a daily basis. Poor interpersonal skills and signs of rudeness or arrogance indicate lack of team spirit.
  • Order-takers. Candidates who fail to see the “big picture” are not able to understand your company’s needs and objectives. Consider candidates who engage in the full software development life cycle. These people are proactive and suggest solutions – they don’t simply wait for instructions.

When and how you should test candidates’ HTML skills

A good knowledge of HTML is usually required in roles like Web Developer, Front-End Developer and UI Engineer. If candidates don’t have enough experience in this markup language, they might not be able to do their job properly.

Since HTML knowledge is a technical skill, you need tangible proof to make sure candidates really know their stuff. There are two good ways to test this:

  • You can ask candidates to complete an exercise or short work sample (assignment) that relies on HTML.
  • You can ask candidates targeted questions on the use of HTML during the interview.

Note that it’s probably best not to ask candidates to actually write HTML during interviews as this may put undue pressure on them and affect their interview performance. One exception could be to ask them to comment on existing HTML code or demonstrate their way of thinking around the HTML assignment (if they completed one) by repeating parts of it on a whiteboard.

If you’re hiring for junior roles, ask basic questions to see if candidates have enough familiarity with HTML (and also CSS and JavaScript depending on the role). Below you can find both basic and advanced questions.

 

Examples of HTML interview questions

General Questions

  • What’s your experience with HTML?
  • Please walk us through the HTML code you wrote in the assessment we gave you.
  • What do you like about HTML?
  • What do you dislike about HTML?
  • Tell me about your experience with HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • What templating languages have you used with HTML?
  • What would you change in our website to improve performance and user experience?
  • Is HTML validation part of your development process? What do you pay attention to?

Technical questions

  • What do we use semantic elements for? Can you give us examples?
  • What are the main new elements in HTML5?
  • How would embed an audio and video file in an HTML document?
  • What would you use the <canvas> element for and how is it different from <svg>?
  • What tag would you use to link to a CSS file and a JS file? Where would you place that tag and why?
  • What does the <!DOCTYPE HTML> do? What if you don’t use it?
  • How do you ensure readability of HTML?
  • What’s your experience with custom data attributes?
  • What are the empty elements and what’s the purpose of each?
  • What’s the difference between standards mode and quirks mode?
  • Describe how we can get the location of a user with HTML5.
  • How have you used HTML5 Web Storage?
  • Why are Server-Side Events useful and how would you use them?
  • Are you familiar with accessibility rules? Give us some examples.
  • If you had to load external fonts to your website, how would you do that? What’s the best practice performance-wise?
  • Have you worked with svgs before? How do you use them in your code? What are their benefits, if any? What are the differences between svg files and image files?
  • What do you take into account for mobile versions? Do you use a ready framework for grid?
  • What tools do you use to check browser compatibility? What browsers do you take into account while building websites?

 

How to evaluate candidates’ answers

Since knowing HTML is basically a hard skill, there’s a definite red flag in candidate answers: not knowing the basics. Candidates should feel fairly comfortable answering knowledge questions (such as “what does this tag do?”) and be able to formulate a logical answer when presented with an HTML exercise.

For senior roles, you can also look at whether candidates seem comfortable making high-level decisions (for example, how they would improve your website’s layout). Also, keep an eye out for candidates with wide experience in using HTML in tandem with CSS and JavaScript.

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