Common Interview Questions

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Common Interview Questions

Are you looking for the perfect opening questions to ask in an interview? The common interview questions are tired and mostly unhelpful. They allow candidates to answer with "yes" or "no," removing the most important part of the interview, which is the person behind the answer.

Questions like: "what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?" Have lived a good life, but they need to be replaced with better questions that allow the candidate to showcase their problem solving abilities, humor, drive, and their personality. After all, you're not building a company of robots (yet).

Here are some of the strongest interview questions we've seen to kickstart an interview. They will give you a better sense for how your candidates think when put on the spot:

1. If you could pick one superpower, what would it be and why?

2. How many cups of coffee does it take you to wake up in the morning?

3. If you had to teach something new to a room full of people, what would it be?

4. What kind of animal would you want to be and why?

5. What's the most interesting thing that's happened in your life so far?

6. If you could travel anywhere in the world, but you had to stay for the rest of your life, how would you decide where to go?

7.If you were to create the perfect day, what would it look like?

Questions like these are a little offbeat and can be used as ice-breakers to set the candidate at ease but they’re also more fun, engaging, and memorable than traditional interview questions. These questions will help you get a better understanding of who the person is behind their answers, and allow them to show off their personality. 

I'm not sure if this is urban lore or not but there's a rumor that back when Elon Musk started hiring employees for Tesla and SpaceX, he'd ask: “You're standing on the surface of the earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”

Before we get into the semantics of the question, I want to recognize that Elon has lost favor with many of us because of his recent antics at Twitter, and I'm in no way condoning his actions, but this question had the internet buzzing with wild theories for years. (If you haven't figured out the answer, spoiler - it's The North Pole.)

Imagine asking candidates questions that they've never heard before. Interview questions that they find funny, interesting, or challenging. Questions that will engage them, stump a few, and truly give you a picture into how they think.

Some of the most important aspects of a hire are hard to quantify on a resume, but they can be measured through thoughtful questioning - which is why it's so important to ask what we'll call "intrigue questions," like the ones listed above.

Once the intrigue questions have been asked, it's time to get to qualifying questions. Assessing a candidate's answers for honesty and clarity is key in the interview process, especially as you're asking qualifying questions - and luckily there are interview intelligence platforms like Pillar to help with this.

Common Interview Questions and Answers

The best interview questions are multifaceted. They should be open-ended, thoughtful, and give the interviewer a variety of answers to choose from. They should also verify that the candidate is qualified for the role. Let's assume you're hiring a customer service or customer success rep. You've already asked your “intrigue questions,” now it's time to verify their CS skills.

Here are some examples of common interview questions and answers:

1. What experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate for this role?

Answer: "I have 5 years of experience in customer service, which has helped me develop strong communication and problem-solving skills. Additionally, I am highly organized and proficient in using various CRM software."

If you analyze this answer, you'll see that it covers the candidate's experience, as well as their top skills.

2. What do you think sets you apart from other applicants?

Answer: "My commitment to providing excellent customer service and my ability to work in a fast-paced environment make me stand out from other candidates. Additionally, I have a strong technical understanding of customer service software, which helps me resolve customer issues quickly and efficiently."

This answer verifies the candidate's knowledge in CS software, as well as their commitment to customer service.

3. Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer?

Answer: "I once had a challenging situation with a customer who was very frustrated with the product. I listened to their issue and asked follow-up questions to understand what had happened. Then, I proposed a solution that addressed their concerns and managed to turn the situation around."

This answer not only shows the candidate's ability to deal with difficult customers, but also how they were able to resolve the situation.

These are just a few examples of common interview questions and answers and this thought exercise is primarily to spark your creative brain to create questions to accomplish the same goal. It's important to remember that each candidate is unique and will have different experiences and skills that make them qualified for the role so use these example questions as a starting point, turn them into a list of semi-structured questions to ask every candidate so that each one has a fair and equal chance to prove their qualifications - but be sure to add your own flair to tailor them to fit the culture of your company.

Interview Questions and Answers

There are literally 100's of interview questions and answers. But that would turn this article into a book, and nobody has time for that. The 13 basic interview questions and answers that are asked in almost every interview are:

1. What's the biggest challenge you faced in your previous role?

2. Tell me about how your previous role prepared you for this one?

3. If we hired you, hypothetically, what actions would you take first?

4. Which of your previous roles prepared you most for this one, and why?

5. How would your friends/ former colleagues describe you in three words?

6. What does success look like to you, in the context of this role?

7. What do you think makes a great leader?

8. How would you handle a difficult employee?

9. Describe a situation where you had to think outside the box to solve a problem?

10. Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision?

11. What do you think sets you apart from other candidates for this role?

12. How would you handle a situation where you disagreed with your boss on the best way forward?

13. Describe how you handle stress and pressure in a work environment?

A candidate's answers to these questions will give you a glimpse into their experience, integrity and character. Make sure your interview questions are tailored to the position and that you ask follow-up questions to get more insight into how the candidate would approach different situations.

Unique Interview Questions and Answers

Companies are getting creative with interview questions. Several reasons for this are the need to stand out in the war for talent, the desire to hire younger generations who put culture and impact above salary expectations, and expressing the company culture in the hiring experience. We covered several unique interview questions and answers in section one, but here are a few that are tailored to transitional seasons in a company lifecycle or a personality.

1. If you could give yourself a nickname, what would it be and why?

2. How do you think your favorite book or movie can help inform the work you do?

3. What qualities do you admire in someone else and why?

4. Describe a time when you had to take initiative and make a decision without being asked?

5. With the small amount that you've heard about this role, what one thing do you think makes someone successful in it?

6. How would you deal with an unexpected change of plans at work?

7. Tell me about a time when you needed to be creative to solve a problem? 

Strategic interview questions to ask candidates like the ones above can be helpful to understand how a new employee would react to a company in transition, employee turnover, or other transitional seasons. They will give you some insight into the candidate's personality, ability to handle change, and think outside the box. It also gives you a chance to get to know them better on a personal level.  Asking these types of questions can help provide you with an overall sense of how well they might fit into your team and company culture.

If you're a Pillar customer, you have access to over 1000 of these questions already. These questions are indexed by title so they can be easily added to your interviews and will show up as prompts while you’re speaking with a candidate - that way, you'll never run out of great questions to ask.

If you're not yet a customer, schedule a demo to see how Pillar can help you hire better.