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Types of common interview questions

Sep 07, 2020

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When Hiring Managers are screening candidates for a job or contract, asking the right interview questions is essential to finding the right fit for the company. Common interview questions will include traditional and non-traditional questions, as well as both closed and open-ended interview questions.  

Performing a successful job interview will require asking the right questions to find a good fit for the job and company, and the better you interview, the more you will learn about your candidates and the work they can perform.  

Hiring misconceptions  

A common misconception among Hiring Managers is that it's expected for the candidate to come out and say why he or she is a great fit for the company - when in fact, it's the interviewer's job to ask the right questions and take the lead in order to understand the candidate and their work qualifications. 

Choosing the right interview questions, therefore, is critical to understanding the skill and cultural fit of candidates. 

If you're looking to bring talent quickly and effectively into your company, the information below will provide insights into the types of common interview questions that would find a good fit. 

Types of common interview questions

Choosing the right job interview questions will help gain an in depth and wholistic understanding of your candidates' skills, work preferences and personality type.  

The types of common interview questions can be broken down into two broad categories: 

Traditional interview questions 

These common interview questions are essential to understanding the candidates' work experience, career goals and cultural fit for the company. Asking these types of job interview questions will uncover how each candidate will act in certain workplace situations while performing the job.  

Traditional interview questions include: 

Skills based questions 

Skill based questions are common interview questions that are directly related to candidates' soft and hard skills while performing a job. They help the interviewer identify the difference between academical knowledge and practical work experience & knowledge gained from a similar job. 

Examples include:

Tell me about a time when you've been involved in_________while working at your current company or previous job?

Have you ever done requirement gathering while working at your current company or previous job?  

Can you speak about your experience with SDLC while working at your current job or previous company?  
 

Behavioral based questions 

In a behavioral interview, the common interview questions asked will help uncover a candidate's aptitude and approach to a job, mostly based on work experience. Behavioral based questions are mostly useful for identifying soft skills.   

Examples include:

Thinking back on your last job or work experiences, can you describe a time/situation/project/implementation/job that you feel best demonstrates your teamwork skills? 

Describe a time when you implemented a procedure to help make your job run more smoothly that was effective? 

Tell us about a time on the job when you had a user request that was very challenging work to fix.  

Situational based questions 

These common job interview questions are typically hypothetical questions, giving the interviewer a chance to see how each candidate might react in any given situation on the job. The answer allows the Hiring Manager to get a sneak peek into a candidate's work instincts, confidence and decision-making ability while performing a job.  

The answer is generally given by the candidate using real life examples about a time in their past-experience in (STAR) - S- Situation, T- Task, A-Action R-Result methodology.   

Examples include: 

  • What professional work or accomplishment are you most proud of, and how did you achieve it?  
  • What would you do if an angry and dissatisfied customer confronted you on the job? How would your last boss say you resolve their concern?  
  • Tell me about a time when you failed on the job. How did you deal with this work experience?  
     

Why they're Important

Traditional interview questions are essential to understanding the candidates' work experience and cultural fit for the company, how they react in certain situations and how they would react performing a job.   

What is the STAR method when interviewing? 

When conducting a behavioral or situational job interview, a Hiring Manager will often use the STAR method. This method will help the Hiring Manager ask questions based on Situation, Task, Action and Result.  

Non-traditional interview questions  

Non-traditional interview questions would take the job interview more outside of the box in order to find the right fit. These questions are asked using: 

Case studies 

A consulting company would typically use the case study job interview model. This model enables the Hiring Manager at the company to get a sense of the type of work that consultants do and test candidates' ability to analyze, present information and perform under pressure.   

Examples include: 

Business Case Study 
Market-sizing/ Guestimates 
Brainteasers 

Puzzles 

Introduced by Microsoft in the 90’s, much like how brain teasers would require candidates to rely on literal thinking and problem solving skills to perform a job, puzzles are used to determine the a candidate's fit for the company by assessing their ability to solve complex work problems using strategies and higher order thinking.   

Examples include: 

Riddle & Questions 
Finding amounts 
Number tricks  

Presentation Interviews 

This type of interview is one of the most popular un-conventional interview types that is becoming a new norm for most industries, like sales, marketing, technology and academic positions within a company. A presentation interview would assess things like communication and public speaking skills, while also gauging a sense of how well-versed the candidate is in their respective industry. 

Role Playing

A role play interview would be used by a company to determine how a candidate fits a job role and might approach a difficult situation that may frequently occur while on the job. This would also be considered as an advanced version of situational questions, where the Hiring Manager would ask the candidate to assume the position of a company employee and ask how they would approach a hypothetical work situation that may occur while performing the job.  

A role play situation would help the company assess the performance of candidates under pressure, as well as their problem solving, communication and leadership skills.   

Why they're important 

Non-traditional interview questions are not used to uncover drivers like candidate career goals. Instead, they would be used to gauge candidates' soft skills in details, like analytical skills, critical thinking skills, presentation skills, cognitive ability and communications skills. They also would be used to test candidates' real-life approach to a difficult work situation, their ability to perform under pressure and discover any leadership skills and decision-making skills. 

How to know what types of interview questions to ask to find the right fit for your company 

Typically, the seniority of the candidate or job would determine the types of questions that should be asked during the job interview and asking the right types of questions is critical for an effective recruitment process. 

Below is an overview of what types of questions would be asked at each seniority level.  

  • Senior/ More experienced candidate- Skill Based/ Resume related Questions (more) > Situational/ Behavioral interview questions.  
  • Intermediate Candidate- (combination) Skill Based = Situational/ Behavioral questions + Unconventional Interview Questions.   
  • Junior Candidate- Skill based/ Resume related questions (less) < Situational and Behavioral question (to gauge the cultural fitment & trainability of the candidate) + Unconventional Interview questions. 

When it's time for your company to find the right fit for a job or project, it's important for all parties involved to familiarize themselves with the types of questions that would enable the Hiring Manager to make informed decisions with logic - and not only on a candidate's likability. 

Get deeper insights into how your company can find the right with our Guide to an effective recruitment process. 

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