8 Common Questions Every Employer Should Ask During An Interview

Some interviewers ask uncommon questions to a candidate during an interview, but more often than not, job interviews involve asking questions that a candidate had already heard many times before. Still, an employer could learn a lot about the candidates through their answers and how they answer them. These questions, after all, are tested and proven to retain committed and worthy applicants.

Some veteran interviewers have, over the years, compiled a list of their common go-to questions that give them a good idea of a prospective employee’s job skills, job fit, and potential cultural fit. You, as an employer, probably consider some as your favorites because you’ve asked these common questions to candidates who became successful in your organization, and you probably know already what kind of answers would lead you to the best employees.

Common Questions To Ask A Candidate 

These common questions are the foundation of an effective interview. You could gain valuable insights if you know which answers to particular questions made you decide to hire an applicant who later became a valuable employee. An interviewer also remembers a candidate who asks intelligent questions whether during job or internship interviews.

  1. Tell Me A Little About Yourself.

Of course, the interviewer already knows a few things about the candidate; the resume and cover letter would already give you plenty of information, along with the candidate’s social networking accounts. However, the interview aims to find out if the candidate will thrive on the job. That means assessing the skills and the attitude of the applicant and comparing them with what’s needed for the position. 

How a candidate answers this seemingly natural question could give you an insight into her confidence, which would give you an idea of how she would present herself to clients and colleagues.

  1. What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?

Almost all applicants answer this question by picking a hypothetical weakness that isn’t really a weakness but strength in disguise. For example, one would say, “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard.” There aren’t any right answers to this question. What’s important is how a candidate answers this question.

An interviewer asks this question to see how well a candidate responds to a seemingly unsettling question. After all, you’re looking for the perfect candidate for the job; a candidate who flounders on answering this question could show you a lot about a candidate’s ability. A lot can be revealed by how an applicant answers a layered question like this one. 

A candidate would do well if he picks an actual weakness instead and tell you what he’s doing to rise above that weakness. Nobody is perfect, and that answer at least would tell you about a candidate’s honesty, ability to self-evaluate, and how to improve himself. 

  1. What Are Your Biggest Strengths? 

Another layered question, which on the surface seems trite. But you aren’t looking for a definite answer. It’s how a candidate tackles this question that would give you valuable insights into a candidate’s character. If an applicant says something about being a problem solver, he should provide a few scenarios wherein she demonstrated that strength. If he claims to have shown outstanding leadership in a high-pressure situation, he should also give how she led a team or initiated the execution of a campaign.

A good applicant doesn’t just claim a useful attribute; he should show proof of those attributes. Moreover, knowing how to answer implied or unasked questions is always a good indication of a candidate’s intelligence and initiative.

  1. Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years? 

Average applicants answer this question in two ways: by trying to show you that they are very ambitious (because they think you want that) and gives an overly ambitious answer, or by trying to show their humility (because they think you want humility) by providing a subservient and self-effacing answer. 

You won’t really get anything from these answers, except an idea of how they sell themselves. But as an employer, you’d want to know a candidate’s intention—whether he sees this position as a stepping stone for something higher, or to gain experience working for a company like yours. 

  1. Why Should We Hire You?

This is the time when a candidate usually tries to impress you. You just have to sit back and listen to him as he shares his skills, desires, experience, and whatever else they feel they can give to the company. Realistically, if you just sit there listening and then blurt out something like “Thanks, we’ll be in touch,” you’ll learn nothing important.  

The objective of an interview is to find out about a candidate as much as you possibly can, so if you could give someone a chance to talk about something he feels wasn’t given enough emphasis on during the interview, you’d get a few more insights about the person you’re interviewing. 

You could ask something like, “What do you think I need to know more that we haven’t discussed yet?” Then you’d get a chance to turn the interview into a genuine conversation instead of one person essentially trying to get hired for a job. 

  1. How Did You Learn About This Job Vacancy?

Although not a real concern, a candidate who learned about the job vacancy in your company through postings, online listing, job fairs, or job boards, means he is just figuring out what he’d do. Furthermore, he’s probably just looking for any company that would accept him. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re interviewing for a vital position, you’d want a candidate who learned about the job position through a current employer, a colleague, or by following your company.

For that vital position you want to fill, you generally don’t want to hire a candidate who’s just looking for employment. You should hire the person who wanted the job because he wanted to work for you and your company and knows precisely what you need. 

  1. Why Do You Want This Job? 

If the candidate is first-rate, he shouldn’t be talking about how great it would be to work for your company, or any of that pablum. Instead, consider a candidate who talks about how the position is a perfect fit for her skill and experience and how she is an ideal match for what you hope to achieve. You’d also get an idea of how much she wants the job if she did her homework before coming to the interview.

  1. What Is Your Most Significant Professional Accomplishment?

The answer should be specific and relevant to the position to which a candidate is applying for. If a candidate’s most significant achievement was increasing sales by 10% during a quarter, but you’re interviewing for a project manager position, that candidate may not be the perfect fit for the job.     

On the other hand, their answer would give you an insight into what they consider to be an achievement and what they prize most about their career. This may be their chance to brag a little about themselves, and you’d get to observe how they take advantage of this chance.

As a side note, you should give a second look at the candidate who talked about how he mentored underperforming employees toward success or how he made interdepartmental infighting disappear at her previous job.    

Conclusion

Interview questions emphasize the skills you want the applicants to possess and what you expect them to contribute. Their answers help you evaluate a candidate’s work experience and her method or approach to solving a problem. These questions also help you understand how the applicant interacts with people and how he integrates herself into the work environment.  

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.