9 Most Common Interview Questions (Plus 4 Curveballs)

As recruiters, we craft questions that aim to showcase candidate ability. According to Workopolis, only 2% of potential candidates even make it to the interview stage. So while our Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) help to significantly shave down the pile, we still have our work cut out for us when selecting the best candidates. 

We want to assess communication skills, self-awareness, and problem-solving in non-typical ways. The truth is, the most common interview questions are common for a reason — they work to deepen candidate understanding.

I'm going to highlight nine interview questions that withstand the test of time and four creative follow-up questions. The last four prompt great answers that'll highlight the best candidates during the job interview.

The 9 Most Common Interview Questions That Recruiters Ask 

Job seekers are used to the format of job interviews. They're expecting some version of the following interview questions.

1. Tell me about your work experience.

An open-ended question like this allows job seekers to determine what might be the most important details to share. Logical alignments between their current job and the new job signals that they've done their due diligence to research.

2. Why are you searching for new opportunities?

There are many reasons to leave a job. It can help to know whether the candidate has made a deliberate, well-thought-out choice or if it's part of a pattern. 

The cost of hiring new employees is high. Uncovering candidates who are in it for the long haul helps to reduce turnover costs and build a solid culture.

3. Why do you want this job?

Find out how much research the candidate has done on your company and the role they're applying for. In their answer, they'll explain one or two reasons why they're a solid fit. A good answer incorporates aspects of the company history and also touches on their career goals and where they see alignment.

4. What are your salary requirements?

A candidate that's done their research or at the very least a Glassdoor search will have reasonable salary expectations. If they've low-balled it or overshot it by over $10K that could be a reason to ask some follow-up questions.

5. What are your three must-haves for company culture?

This is a bit tricky but you can learn a fair bit about candidates from what aspects they focus on. Do they focus on the social aspect of culture? Are they more concerned with the company mission/ethos? There's no wrong answer here. It's more about whether you can provide the kind of experience they're seeking. If not, it's best to be upfront about that.

6. How do you respond to stressful situations?

Stress at work is not an "if" but a "when" question because it happens in every job. When a job seeker can express their ability to think clearly in tough or stressful situations, it's exciting. 

This answer gets more interesting when probed for specific behavioral-style follow-up questions.

Follow-up questions should start with:

  • How did that make you feel?
  • Why did you make that choice?
  • Were you happy with that result?

7. How would a former team member describe you?

Hopefully, the job seeker can be self-reflective and genuine. Overly rehearsed answers are often a result of someone who hasn't experienced a lot of professional growth or reflection. It can also be nerves. Sometimes nerves cause candidates to rattle off a list of non-specific qualities. For professional recruiters, it's usually pretty easy to tell the difference.

8. What did you dislike about your last job?

most common interview questions: group of people meditating

This isn't a trick question. It's helpful to know what job seekers are trying to get away from in their current job. As the recruiter, being transparent can save everyone money and time down the line. If the rigid hours are a drag and your company doesn't provide flexible hours, it's not a match. If they wished there were more wellness initiatives and that’s something you can offer, this is a great bargaining chip later if you choose to hire them.

A great answer is less about creating a laundry list of issues with their last job. Instead, it should show self-awareness to understand what's missing for them and the agency to communicate their needs. 

9. Why should we hire you?

This question is throwing candidates a bone. Here they can sell themselves in the best, most direct, and most creative way. Their answer should summarize a few of the main points that were discussed to reinforce the fit.

Consider These 4 Job Interview Questions To Get Best Candidate Answers

These curveball questions can help push past polished answers since they’re a bit unexpected when compared with the more common questions above.

1. How has your job search been going?

This is an awesome warm-up question because you learn whether they've got other interviews lined up (and where). At this stage of the interview process, it helps to know where ideal candidates are interviewing, especially if it's at your competitors. 

If they've been engaged in a lengthy job search, that can mean they're not serious about changing jobs or signify other red flags.

2. What would your current manager say is your biggest weakness?

This adds another layer and perspective to the most common interview question "tell me about your biggest weakness." You may get a more honest answer since it's easy for candidates to pull feedback from their current job. It takes a confident person to answer this question without censorship.

3. Have there been any red flags for you during this hiring process?

Transparency is such an important part of the recruitment process. Both the hiring manager and job seeker want to find the right fit. 

If there's an issue raised it can be fruitful for the hiring manager to learn about it. Otherwise, the candidate may walk away without clarity and look elsewhere. It's always good to get potential issues out on the table so you can provide the best, most accurate details. Candidates can then make an informed decision about whether to continue along in the interview process.

4. How is your current job in alignment with your career path?

If the job seeker speaks highly of their current job and can articulate why they're ready to move on, it's a top answer. This shows that this move isn't an easy decision. 

Maybe the new job is in alignment with their career goals. Maybe they've always wanted to work for XYZ company. It's a good sign if they see their new job as an upgrade from a job they already love.

Most Common Interview Questions Scrape the Surface

most common interview questions: woman holding a tablet

To get to know potential job seekers you have to go beyond a good answer, or even a great one. As a recruiter, you want to know their motivations for making choices in their day-to-day work and also on their larger career path. 

It's not necessary to trick candidates with brainteasers. Instead, provide opportune moments for honesty. Adding the wrong candidates to the team can cause high turnover, which is costly.

Anyone can rehearse the answers they think a recruiter wants to hear, but it's up to recruiters to use supportive tools that help to decode candidates and determine whether they'll make an excellent team member. Use Searchlight to minimize risky hires through science-backed referencing data that all members of the hiring team can easily access. This translates to a more harmonious work environment when it's time to add new team members.

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