strategic interview questions to ask candidates

Top 20 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Hiring the right candidate can feel like a leap of faith. Many employers often regret hiring someone, with a recent survey showing nearly 74% of employers admitting to hiring the wrong candidate for a position.

To address this, incorporating strategic interview questions in the hiring process is highly recommended, as it can help weed out unsuitable candidates. Such questions can be helpful in any industry and almost all job openings. The strategic interview questions to ask candidates can help get you started.

Top 20 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Interview Questions

#1. What is a challenging situation that you have faced, and how did you overcome it?

This is a standard question as it is a behavior inquiry that can serve any purpose. How the candidate answers this question will show how resilient they are and how creative and resourceful they can be when tasked with handling adversity.

#2. Tell me something about you that’s not on your resume.

Resumes are often filled with a candidate’s academic achievements, but they don’t always paint a complete picture. This question can help you learn about your candidate’s personality and traits that may impact their work.

#3. What are your strengths (and weaknesses)?

You’ll be surprised by the answers — or lack thereof — your candidates present. Understanding a potential employee’s strengths will give you better judgment if they are fit for the role they are applying for and if you are setting them up for success and growth.

#4. If I were to ask your former colleagues, how would they describe you?

This is a good question because your applicant would have to answer not based on their perspective but from the point of view of others. Their answer shows their self-awareness as well as hint at their team player attitude.

#5. How are you with meeting deadlines, and how do you respond to urgent tasks?

Your candidate’s answer will tell you whether they tend to procrastinate until the last minute, which can be a red flag, or know how to manage their time and meet deadlines. And if you get a rare candidate who claims they have never missed a deadline, have them explain the time management system they follow.

#6. Which project have you been a part of that you are most proud of?

This question can help you learn more about your candidate’s work experience and how involved they were in their position. How they answer will also reveal what they’re passionate about, which usually involves more engagement and proactive participation.

#7. How do you take feedback from a colleague or supervisor?

Feedback, both negative and positive, should pave the way to growth and should always be accepted professionally and with an open mind. The way a candidate answers this will show if they’re receptive to constructive criticism and have used previous feedback to develop their skills.

#8. What are your career goals?

This question often leads to answers like “still with the company but as a team leader.” It shows that your candidate has ambition, but you may need to prod a bit to learn how much work they are willing to invest to reach those goals.

#9. Can you share an incident or experience where you were wrong?

Admitting a shortcoming is very difficult in an interview because, as much as possible, candidates would want to highlight the instances where they excelled and not when they had misgivings or were reprimanded.

#10. Can you teach me something in less than 5 minutes?

Putting the candidate on the spot would show you how good a teacher they can be. Most importantly, it will reveal plenty about their communication skills.


#11. If you were assigned a project with a colleague you just didn’t get along with, how would you deal with the situation?

This question can help highlight a candidate’s emotional maturity as well as communication skills. It will also show you how they approach conflict in a solution-oriented manner.

#12. What motivates you?

As a recruiter, learning what drives an applicant is important. Your applicant’s answer will show you more of their character and dedication.

#13. For you, what is the ideal working environment or work culture?

Every organization has its own culture and environment. This strategic question can help you preliminary assess if the candidate will thrive well and succeed in your current working environment.

#14. What skill do you want to learn?

Learning is a continuous process. How an applicant answers this question will reveal their willingness and passion for work and improving themselves.

#15. Please tell us an interesting fact about our company.

Most will be caught off-guard by this question. Based on your candidate’s answer, you’ll know if the applicant was proactive in learning about the organization they’re applying to work for.

#16. Why do you want to work for us?

Anticipate answers like experience, career growth, and self-improvement. However, this is one strategic interview question you should always ask to determine whether a candidate is genuinely interested in becoming part of your team and why.

#17. Why are you leaving your current job? (Or why did you leave your last position?)

You want to ensure that you are hiring someone for the long haul and not just for applicants who want to keep shopping around for their “perfect job.” Additionally, understanding why someone left their previous job will help you gauge what they need to thrive in their career.

#18. Career-wise, if you can start over, what will you change?

Your applicant’s answer will show you how much self-reflection they are doing. Wanting to make changes to their career doesn’t automatically mean they regret their current career; instead, it shows awareness of decisions that could have been better.

#19. What’s your take on failure?

This question will let you know if the applicant can bounce back and move on from failures. Disappointments are inevitable, but being able to learn from failures and improving and becoming better is a crucial trait in any candidate.

#20. What color was the receptionist’s shirt?

This question may sound silly, but it may help highlight an applicant’s attention to detail and observation.

How to Answer Strategic Interview Questions

#1. Be specific with your answers. If you can’t explain yourself coherently, consider giving examples or detailing previous experiences. Always focus on the result or lessons learned.
#2. Be confident with your answers. Since you will typically be drawing on your experiences, you can always back up your responses with actual examples.
#3. Think before you answer. As much as you want to showcase active listening skills, take a few seconds to process the question and understand what’s being asked.
#4. Use simple language and clear, concise explanations. Using jargon or thesaurus-heavy words will not win you any favors. You want to ensure everybody can easily understand you.