Types of Interview Questions to Help You Find the Right Hire

As a hiring manager or recruiter, you’re always on the lookout for the ideal candidate. In your job description, you sketch a success profile of what qualities and skill sets this person should possess. When you sift through online job board applications and LinkedIn profiles, you narrow down your job candidate pool based on who seems to match that profile and who doesn’t. 

But who makes the cut when you’ve got several ideal candidates in the pipeline? It really boils down to what types of interview questions you ask job seekers — and how they respond. I’ve listed five common types of interview questions, and included examples that you can use in your own interviews, too.

Oh, and look out for my favorite interview question below (hint: It involves some play!). 

5 Types of Interview Questions You Should Be Using

There are a million ways to categorize interview questions, but I like to keep it simple and break them up into five main types: 

  1. Behavioral questions 
  2. Experience-related questions 
  3. Situational questions 
  4. Non-directive questions
  5. Nonsense questions

While it’s important to ask each type of question to find the most qualified candidates, the goal isn’t to exhaust your list of questions. Try instead to get into a conversational flow with the candidate.

The most important part of an interview is to get a realistic glimpse of how they might interact outside of the interview process, which is the best way to determine if they’ll be a good fit for your work environment. 

Now, let’s jump into these questions.

Behavioral Interview Questions 

Behavioral interview questions are used to measure someone’s past work experience to get an idea of how they might perform in the future. 

Here’s some examples of common behavioral interview questions I’ve used a lot: 

  1. “Tell me about a time you had to collaborate with team members you don’t work well with.” 
  2. “Give me an example of a time you were presented with a problem and had to come up with a solution.” 
  3. “Tell me about a time where you handled a situation with a colleague or team poorly. What would you have done differently?” 
  4. “Give me an example of a new system or idea you came up with and implemented in the workplace.”
  5. “Can you tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership qualities?”

Do any of those ring a bell? Most job seekers train for behavioral interviewing types of questions using the S.T.A.R. method. Although the acronym is designed for the job seeker, it helps to know what it means so you as the hiring manager know what interview answers to expect: 

  • Situation: Describe a situation you were in or a task you needed to accomplish.
  • Task: Highlight a goal you were working towards. 
  • Action: Discuss the actions you took to accomplish that goal. 
  • Result: Describe the outcome of those actions. 

The S.T.A.R. method is like the exposition of a story. If your candidate doesn’t provide adequate context and details with their answers, you’ll get an incomplete idea of the candidate’s performance. I don’t like to mark off people too quickly, but if they struggle to give you a thorough answer, it’s an indicator that they might not be a good fit. 

Experience-Related Interview Questions

Types of interview questions: Two people shake hands

Experience-related interview questions are just what they sound like: questions used to ask about a candidate’s experience in past roles. There’s no right answers or wrong answers, really. They’re just great leading questions because they allow the candidate to elaborate on their past job experience, which helps you determine how well they fit into your ideal professional profile. 

Here are some common interview questions I like to use to get an idea of someone’s experience: 

  1. “Why did you leave your last job, and why do you want to leave your current job?”
  2. “What experiences from your last job would make you a good candidate for this role?” 
  3. “Do you have any managerial experience?” 
  4. “Tell me more about your job responsibilities in your last position.” 
  5. “Why do you think you’d be a fit for this role?” 

The experience-based questions almost overlap with the behavioral questions, but they’re asking for different things. Experience-based questions are designed to see where a candidate comes from. Questions about their first job or work history are ideal and expected. 

Situational Interview Questions

Situational interview questions ask job candidates hypothetical questions to see how they might respond in a real-life scenario. It’s a great way to see how someone ticks, and it can tell you a lot about their tendencies, like whether or not they’ll be a good team player. 

Here are some situational interview questions I like to use: 

  1. “What would you do if you made a mistake no one else saw?” 
  2. “What would you do if a manager asked you to complete a task you’ve never done before?” 
  3. “How do you react to criticism, and how would you respond to a colleague’s comments if they criticized your work or ideas?” 
  4. “What would you do if a task was too difficult or poorly explained? Would you ask for help or try to figure it out on your own?”
  5. “If you got the job and realized you don’t like it, what would you do?” 

One tip with these is to interlace your interview with situational questions rather than asking them all at once. You’ll get a more honest and true response when they aren’t expecting a litany of hypothetical questions. It also forces them to think through difficult situations without much time to process, which shows how well they adapt and think on their feet. 

Non-Directive Interview Questions

Non-directive interview questions are the nice, easy ones that give the candidate a moment to talk about themselves. Your questions should encourage them to talk openly so you can get a basic sense of their personality traits, career goals, and work ethic.

Here are some great non-directive questions I like to ask in interviews: 

  1. “Tell me a bit about yourself.” 
  2. “What are some of your long-term goals?” 
  3. “Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Five years?” 
  4. “Can you give me examples of your strengths and weaknesses?” 
  5. “Do you consider yourself to be ambitious?” 

It’s OK if they briefly discuss their personal life, like their hobbies and interests, too. The point of non-direct interviews is to let the candidate “lead” the conversation — just make sure you keep it from completely derailing. 

Nonsense Interview Questions

Types of interview questions: Women talking over meal

These could be labeled “curveball” questions, but I really like to bookend my interviews with nonsense questions just to keep things light and fun. These aren’t the most common interview questions, as it doesn’t fit everyone’s style, but I think they’re worth asking to see if the candidate has a sense of playfulness. 

Here are a few I’ve used before (#3 is my all-time favorite): 

  1. “What’s the last show you watched on Netflix?” 
  2. “If you had to be a planet, which one would you choose and why?” 
  3. “If you could invite anyone in the world to come to our team offsite, who would it be?” 
  4. “Can you name two actors that have won a Golden Globe or a Grammy?” 
  5. “Favorite film genre?” 

Some of these have the potential to be actual brain teasers, but it’s really a fun part of the hiring process. The only good answer is a truthful (or funny) one, so make sure the candidate knows you’re just having fun with them. 

The Goal Is Most Important 

Throughout an interview process, you’re trying to assess, “Who is this person really like?” It can be difficult to get an accurate representation through a candidate’s direct answers. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to ask candidates about their past colleagues, and what they might say about them. It puts the candidate in a more objective point of view. 

Remember: You want to improve the hiring process without hindering retention. It’s crucial that you thoroughly vet your candidates in their job interview so you can hire someone that fits neatly into that success profile you sketched out in your job description. Look for authentic candidates that are equally invested in their career goals and your company — you can’t go wrong.

Want to hire more high performers and increase retention?

Serchlight’s Talent Intelligence has got you covered