Strategic interview questions to ask potential candidates

Strategic interview questions to ask potential candidates

As someone who oversees the hiring process at your company, you likely know how important it is to hire the best candidates. One way you can ensure your company's success is to ask strategic questions during the job interview to determine the candidates' strengths, weaknesses, and problem-solving skills. While the types of questions might vary slightly depending on your company and the type of job you're recruiting for, strategic interview questions can uncover key attributes and allow you to easily ask follow-up questions.

Open-ended questions allow you to get candidates to provide additional details about their previous work experience, such as the biggest challenges they've encountered on the job or interesting projects they might have worked on. Asking strategic interview questions can help you determine a candidate's suitability for a specific job or if they might work better in a different role.

What are strategic interview questions?

While interviews are an ideal opportunity to get to know candidates, they often only provide you with a small window to measure them against other people. To help you narrow down your selections and determine if candidates can perform the job to the best of their abilities, consider asking them strategic interview questions. These inquiries can uncover key attributes because they're open-ended and allow you to ask additional questions. Most strategic interview questions fall into four categories:

  • Behavioral: These questions help you determine if candidates are compatible with your company's goals and culture.
  • Career goal: These questions can gauge long-term aspirations and help you determine if the candidates want to stay at your company for the foreseeable future.
  • Situational: These questions enable you to see the candidates' aptitude for handling real or hypothetical workplace conflicts, risks, and mistakes.
  • Technical: These questions are important for technical roles, but they can also help you assess the candidates' knowledge in a particular area.

While the questions listed below focus on general strategic questions for interviews, don't be afraid to throw in position-specific ones. For instance, if you're hiring for upper-level roles, consider strategic manager interview questions to assess their communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills. Also, consider asking all candidates the same questions so you'll have the same information.

"Open-ended questions allow you to get candidates to provide additional details about their previous work experience, such as the biggest challenges they've encountered on the job or interesting projects they might have worked on."

Why are you interested in this opportunity?

This is one of the best strategic interview questions because it reveals whether the candidates took the time to research the job description and company. They should be able to explain to you what your company does and why they felt compelled to apply for the role, based on their experience and current situation. Their situation might include a layoff, wanting to further their career, or looking for something new.  If they cannot provide a solid answer, you might encounter issues if they get to the offer stage.

How do you stay motivated when dealing with difficult challenges?

Many employees face numerous challenges every day, and some of these issues can affect their motivation and performance. Ask this question to evaluate how prospective employees deal with these situations. A situational question invites the candidate to describe how they handled specific circumstances in the past and can reveal their problem-solving skills. Consider including an example scenario, and ask how they would deal with it.

How do you stay current with the latest developments in your field?

This technical-based question allows candidates to demonstrate how they stay up to date on areas they claim to be knowledgeable in. Ideally, you want an employee who strives to be at the forefront of any updates that occur in their field. Not only does that knowledge help them in their job, but it also prevents your company from becoming stagnant. You can also tailor this question to the job's specific responsibilities or technical requirements. Find out what podcasts they listen to, publications they read, and leaders they follow. 

What qualities do you think are important to be successful in this position?

More of a role-specific question, this one allows you to assess the candidate's understanding of the position. When you ask this question, you can determine if the candidate has done enough research on the role and knows what attributes would be beneficial. The answer to the question tells you if you should go further with the candidate or not. Those who are prepared will shine and stand out, while those who are not will stumble and offer a canned response.

How do you juggle work-life balance challenges?

In the past few years, a strong work-life balance has emerged as an important factor when candidates are seeking new employment. While you're looking for employees who can be productive and vital to your company, you also want them to spend time without their responsibilities. By asking how they juggle work and their personal life, you can assess their ability to plan their daily tasks and realize how often they bring work home.

How do you deal with workplace conflicts?

Having the capacity to manage any type of conflict is an asset to a company, and when you ask about conflict resolution, you can evaluate how candidates perceive and manage issues in the workplace. Candidates who provide key examples of dealing effectively with conflict can be an excellent choice to add to your team, while those who struggle with confronting issues might have difficulty communicating with management.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

When you ask this career-oriented question, pay attention to the candidate's body language. You not only need to pay attention to the words they say but also how they react. Ambitious people will light up when they think about the future because they know what they want and where they hope to be.

What is something you'd like to highlight that isn't on your resume?

While resumes provide an abundance of information about the candidates' experience and education, they might not provide a full picture of their qualifications. With this open-ended question, you're allowing candidates to showcase key aspects that aren't included in their resume. You give them a platform to brag a little bit and show you how they value their qualifications.

What are some follow-up questions to ask?

After you ask strategic interview questions, it's best to leave some time to ask follow-up questions. Think of the questions as a way to carry on a conversation with the candidates rather than a true interview. You might also want further clarification to gather additional information. Make sure you obtain all the information you need, even if it isn't the answer you desire. You can ask the following questions:

  • Why did you decide on that option?
  • Why is that?
  • What challenges did you encounter?
  • Were you happy with the outcome?

Excellent strategic interview questions can tell you more about candidates than just looking through their resumes. You learn more about their personality, skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. When you pair these strategic questions with inquiries tailored to the position, you can determine which candidates are the best for your organization.

More tips about strategic interview questions

Freshen up your staff by learning how to attract the next generation of employees.

Incorporate these six key elements into your holistic recruitment strategy when hiring top-level candidates.

Are you using sourcing databases in the best way possible? Semantic search technologies can broaden your results so you can find potentially relevant talent.

Use these tips to learn how to build a successful team.

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