6 Questions You Should Ask a Potential Employee


Anyone who’s sat through a job interview knows they aren’t always the most exciting. The nervous feeling you get while waiting for the hiring manager to meet you can be overwhelming. Each minute feels like an eternity as you squirm uncomfortably in your patent leather dress shoes. But the candidate isn’t the only one lost at sea in this equation.

Whether your team is growing or you’re hiring your first employee, knowing how to stage an effective job interview can be tricky. Asking the right questions is key, but how do you know what to ask? It’s fair to say that the list of “recommended questions” everyone uses has gone stale over time. Never fear! Here are some interesting interview questions to help you dig deeper and find the right candidate for the job.

6 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

1. How would you describe your communication style?

One important question to ask in an interview to a potential employee is how they interface with others. A job is more than just solo tasks — it’s also working as part of a team. It doesn’t matter if you have one employee or an extensive staff; how each employee communicates will have an impact on how your business operates. Do they describe their communication style as direct? Are they more reserved? Do they chime in with suggestions? Do they act without asking for direction? Depending on your industry, their answer could indicate if they’re the right fit.

2. Describe a situation when you’ve disagreed with a supervisor.

No one — including an employee or a supervisor — is perfect. Sometimes circumstances arise that cause discord in the workplace. While no one wants to hire an employee they feel is temperamental, it’s important to make sure your employees will speak up and share their thoughts. If they were willing to argue about something with their supervisor, there’s a good chance they had a valid reason.

I once disagreed with a manager who asked me to store a box in a way that encroached on a walking path. The reason? I felt it created a trip-and-fall risk, as well as an accessibility issue. The manager didn’t like being argued with, but appreciated that I was prioritizing workplace safety.

3. Tell us what makes you unique.

It’s important to ask about work experience and relevant skills, but don’t overlook interview questions that reveal character. Depending on your industry, your applicants may not have held many previous positions. And even if they have, they’re probably just as tired of being asked ”What’s your biggest strength?” as you are.

Job hunting can be demoralizing. And worse — it can make the applicant feel like they’ve been reduced to a bunch of buzzwords and skills. Asking about their unique qualities makes the interview more personal and gives the candidate a chance to show their personality. Employees aren’t numbers — they’re individuals. You want your team members to have personalities that work well together.

4. Why should we hire you?

There are plenty of subtle questions to ask a potential employee. There is, however, room for some directness. Sometimes the best way to get a feel for an applicant’s demeanor and work style is to ask them to pitch to you. It might catch them on their back foot, but it gives them the opportunity to expand on their skills and work experience. For those with thinner resumes, it’s a chance to discuss positive attributes they’ve shown outside work but they believe will be beneficial to your business.

5. Explain something I don’t know about.

Ask creative interview questions, get creative answers. While going off-topic might seem counterproductive or time-consuming, you may be surprised at how much you can learn from it. Everyone’s an expert at something. Ask your candidates to spend a few minutes explaining something that they know everything about but that you may not know anything about.

This isn’t just a window into their interests and what they have to offer your business — it can give you an idea of how they communicate ideas. If they can speak clearly and with authority on a subject of their choice, it could indicate that they’re a team player and will be able to support their co-workers and assist clients or customers with ease.

6. Tell us about the last book you read that you loved.

… or movie, album, or even podcast. Not everyone is a voracious reader, so make sure the question is broad enough that anyone could answer. Similar to the previous question, asking an applicant to discuss a piece of media they enjoyed can reveal a lot about their passions and interests. Icebreaker interview questions like this also have the potential to put the interviewee at ease. It may not be relevant to the job, but it can definitely help the candidate relax and open up a bit.

Don’t Forget These Interview Basics

Asking interesting interview questions is a great way to dig deeper into a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, but don’t forget to cover the basics. Explore their work history with questions about professionalism.Some universal interview questions include:

  • Why do you want this job?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or with a team?
  • How do you handle feedback on your work performance?
  • Describe any relevant skills or experience.
  • What is your ideal work environment?

It’s also important to consider what questions to ask employee references, if you’ve requested them. These are a good place to start:

  • Describe the applicant’s work ethic.
  • What sets the applicant apart from their peers?
  • How did they perform under stressful work conditions?

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Not-So-Frequently Asked Questions

Finding good help can be difficult. And sticking with the standard issue interview questions won’t make it any easier.

Think outside the box. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. If you were the one being interviewed, what would you want the interviewer to know about you? You know what makes you stand out from the crowd, but they don’t. Ask the questions that you would want to be asked, and don’t be afraid to be creative. And relax. The right candidate could be right around the corner.

Kristin Vegh

After several years of working in insurance while also freelance writing, I’ve finally found where the two interests intersect. I’m a writer with Simply Business with an insurance processing background and a love of research.

Kristin writes on a number of topics such as small business trends, license reciprocity, and BOP insurance.