30 Interview Questions You Should Ask (Best Answers Included)

Hiring is one of your company’s most important responsibilities, and you know it. You’re hiring for a complex role, and you are down to a short list of applicants. The first interview covered basic qualifications and initial introductions. What’s the best way to proceed? Take advantage of the second interview, where you can dig deeper into candidates’ expertise, skills, and mindset by asking questions that reveal personality traits and strengths.

If you are not sure where to start, here are 30 smart second-interview questions to help you select the right candidate. Use them to start candid conversations that will unveil the true nature of your next hire.

Problem Solving Interview Questions

“Every problem has a solution. You just have to be creative enough to find it.” ~ Travis Kalanick

Questions concerning a candidate’s problem-solving skills will show you how she responds to challenging and stressful situations. A successful problem solver will know how to “think on her feet,” and take initiative. Her answers should demonstrate an ability to logically assess a problem, consider multiple remedies, and implement a solution.

Here are some smart second interview questions to assess problem-solving skills:

  1. Tell me about a time when you were given numerous projects with the same deadline. What did you do?

Look for answers that demonstrate that the candidate understands the company’s priorities. You are looking for someone who knows how and when to establish priorities. If it’s not apparent from the answer, make sure to ask if they completed all projects on time or if they missed any deadlines.

  1. Have you ever had to adapt to (multiple) modifications in a project in progress? How did you deal with the situation?

A candidate who is flexible will be easy to work with and can be an asset. Be attentive to answers that demonstrate task management, problem solving, and stress management skills.

  1. How do you use analytical skills to assist a team or company?

From the candidate’s answer, determine if they are able to access a situation and devise solutions that benefit the team and the company ahead of personal gain.

  1. What is your process and approach to problem solving?

A candidate who outlines a systematic approach to problem solving and describes methods to solve issues, demonstrates he has the ability to work independently and think logically. Look for answers that illustrate persistence.

  1. Have you ever had a difficult or challenging situation you had to resolve in the workplace?

In this response, note creative approaches to problem solving and the presence of stress management strategies. Give the candidate time to develop the scenario and explain his solution.

Team Spirit Interview Questions

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” ~ Henry Ford

Your company’s culture is built on team members. When everyone works together in harmony, the organization can focus on the task at hand and move towards a common goal.

Smart second interview questions to determine a candidate’s team spirit include:

  1. Did you ever have to make a decision that affected your team? How did you decide on the right course of action?

The candidate whose answer shows he considered the impact on others and took steps to involve the team when making his decision will, ultimately, be a good fit for the team and, by extension, the organization.

  1. What were your most rewarding and most challenging relationships at work?

Look for a candidate who can adapt to different personalities and finds ways to work with challenging co-workers. Answers to this question will tell you how well he will gel with his new colleagues.

  1. What is your usual role on a team? Why?

You are looking for a candidate who is comfortable assuming different roles as the situation dictates. Answers to this question will help you identify natural-born leaders.

  1. What aspects of your current job do you enjoy? What do you dislike?

Use this question to determine a whether the candidate is generally positive or negative. If they focus on aspects they enjoy, rather than the ones they dislike, they will be a positive influence on the team.

  1. Why do you want to work for our company?

A candidate who has specific knowledge about your company, and how his skills can benefit the business model, shows that he is prepared and is genuinely interested in becoming part of your organization.

  1. Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the problem?

How an applicant handles disputes with colleagues and interpersonal challenges will let you know whether they can work with a team. Listen for the presence of lingering resentment or blame as these are indicators of someone who cannot forgive and forget.

  1. Can you describe a time when a team member wasn’t performing? How did you handle it?

A candidate who shows initiative in addressing this issue and uses established and proper procedures to rectify the situation is a “professional” and will be a great asset.

Leadership Interview Questions

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

Strong leadership skills will unite a team behind a project or company. It enhances employee wellbeing and performance, which results in healthy and prospering organizations.

Smart second interview questions for leadership include:

  1. What are the first three things you would do if you were hired for this position?

Look for a candidate who is confident setting personal goals and will disclose what she hopes to achieve as an employee. It shows initiative and leadership.

  1. What do you think your biggest contributions will be in this role?

A response that reflects the candidate’s strengths, skills, and intent will help you decide if her goals are in alignment with the company’s objectives.

  1. Why do you think you should be the top choice for this job?

Listen for an answer that shows a healthy symbiotic relationship between the candidate’s qualifications and the company needs. A humble response will indicate a candidate who is likely to be an agreeable addition.

  1. Can you tell me about a time when you had a difficult group to lead? What did you do to manage them?

A candidate who can rally and unite dissenting team members is an excellent leader. These people are usually highly trusted and very well liked and will make an excellent addition to the team.

  1. What was the toughest project you had to lead? Why was it difficult?

How a candidate manages difficulties will give you an idea of their capability of leading a team, handling stressful situations, and their adaptability. Be sure to give the candidate the time to outline the difficulties and the steps taken to complete the project.

  1. Was there a time you assumed leadership for a team and why did you take the initiative?

The answer to this question will spotlight a candidate who goes beyond expectations to tackle responsibilities and one who values team collaboration as part of an overall approach to completing projects.

Recovering from Failure Interview Questions

“I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. ~ Thomas Edison

Failure is not the end-all; it is an opportunity to learn, adapt, and move closer to success. A candidate’s willingness to discuss past failures will show they are authentic, honest, and humble.

Second interview questions to ask in discerning if your candidate can come back from failure include:

  1. Have you ever failed at a mission or task?

An honest description of the experience will be key to answering this question. Give them an opportunity to describe the scenario and conclusion. A candidate who owns his “failures” will have the best chance of learning from it and succeeding in the future.

  1. Can you talk about a time when you failed to communicate properly? What was the cause of the failure and how did you handle the situation?

Highlighting the cause and personal responsibility for a communication error displays maturity and self awareness–excellent characteristics for any employee.

  1. Describe a situation in which you made a mistake and how you handled it. What caused the mistake?

A response that clearly narrates details of the mistake demonstrates a “big-picture” comprehension of cause and effect. Listen to see if the candidate suggests the result was a “learning experience,” which will demonstrate her ability to grow from adverse conditions.

  1. Have you ever made an unpopular decision and how did you deal with the repercussions?

Look for a candidate who understands the big-picture ramifications of his decisions and is willing to accept responsibility for them.

  1. Can you describe a decision that you regretted? Why did you regret it?

Displaying vulnerability and a positive attitude to overcoming bad decisions are great qualities in a candidate who can learn and adapt without clinging to the past.

  1. Was there a time when you didn’t meet your deadline?

Look for a sincere and honest answer. Allow the candidate to describes the situation and, if it’s not proffered, ask what steps he took to resolve it. You want a candidate who will see things to completion.

Stress Management Interview Questions

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” ~ Hans Selye

Stress management involves taking charge of your thoughts, emotions, as well as your approach to dealing with problems. Every job has challenges; the key is to surround yourself with people who can handle those challenges with dignity and poise.

Second interview questions to determine a candidate’s stress management skills:

  1. How did you manage your most stressful project? Why was it stressful? How did the project turn out?

Give the candidate the opportunity to describe the project, the complexities that led to the situation, and the outcome. Listen for clues to the candidate’s ability to manage stress while ensuring project completion.

  1. What is your internal dialogue when you are working through a stressful problem?

A candidate who devises logical strategies and employs relaxation methods to manage stressful situations will be the most likely to weather your company’s challenging projects.

  1. How do you handle rapidly changing environments/projects?

Demonstrating a flexible mindset and a positive attitude towards change will be an indication of the candidate’s temperament and stress management skills.

  1. Was there a time when you disagreed with a supervisor? How did you handle it?

Listen for answers that demonstrate the candidate can remain calm and collected while maintaining respectful boundaries. Look for signs of personal growth and an amicable resolution in the situation.

  1. Can you describe a scenario when you worked well under pressure?

Pay attention to the candidate’s mindset as they describe this experience. Are there any lingering hard feelings? Does the candidate believe he was a victim? Answers to these questions will help you determine whether the candidate can handle pressure.

  1. How did you handle having to work unexpectedly on your own?

This question allows the candidate to describe his ability to work independently, and allows you to ascertain his ability to cope with the added stress and the challenges of “flying solo.”

Wrapping Up

In the responses to each of these 30 smart second interview questions, listen for honest, candid, and humble replies. Any applicant who can maintain composure under stress and learn from mistakes while adapting to the company culture and assuming leadership roles will be a positive addition to your workplace. While no one can guarantee you’ll hire the right candidate the first time, every time, with these 30 smart second interview questions, you’ll be one step closer to decrypting the true nature of your next dream team.


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