A Guide for the Interviewer: Asking the Right Questions

For most corporate employees, interviewing job candidates is not part of their job description. For those who are tasked with that job, it is usually a very small and infrequent portion of their job responsibilities. Because of that, most people do not know how to conduct good interviews or how to ask questions to solicit the information they need to make an informed hiring decision. This guide, designed for the interviewer, offers tips to help you ask the questions to get the answers you’re looking for.


First and foremost, you need to prepare for the interview. Ideally, before you reach the interview phase of the hiring process, your potential candidates have been vetted for the minimum job qualifications and education. The purpose of the interview is to further qualify the candidate against the job performance expectations, the requirements of the role and the suitability of the candidate to fit the team and company’s culture and environment.

Be Aware of Restrictions

Begin by making certain you are aware of any legal or company restrictions. Check with your Human Resources or Legal department to help avoid any questions related to topics that could be discriminatory in nature such as questions of race, sex, color, national origin or religion. Make yourself aware of any company or industry-specific policies or state and city laws to avoid.

Inform the Candidate About You & The Company

Remember that the candidate is making a decision about whether they want to work for you as well. Take time to write out a brief pitch about you, the team, the company and the role you are looking to fill. This will not only serve to help break the ice and put the applicant at ease but help them to get more interested in the job opportunity.

Set an Agenda

Set an agenda to help you stay on schedule and cover all of the information both you and the applicant are hoping to during the interview. Prior to the interview, clearly communicate the date and time of the interview, who will be involved and the format of the interview so the candidate can prepare.

Prepare Your Questions

Next prepare a written list of questions. It is vitally important that you ask your questions of each candidate in the same order and format. This will not only allow you to give an apples to apples comparison of each candidate but will limit potential conflicts or impropriety.

To help structure your questions, start by determining the top 5 or 6 key requirements of the role such as knowledge of specific technology, equipment or methodology. 

Craft Open-Ended Questions

Create open-ended questions such as ones that begin with “why”, “how”, “what” or “describe.” This will yield more detailed answers than closed-ended questions. Your purpose is to obtain a balanced picture of the applicant’s qualifications and job motivation without prompting applicants to produce responses that they think you want to hear.

Phrase Questions to Gain Insight

A good way to phrase a question about a specific skillset is to say “How does your experience qualify you for this job?” This will not only test that the candidate has done their homework, but give them the opportunity to share their skillset. You might also ask a question such as “Describe your experience with ____ software.”

Think Beyond Their Skillset

In addition to job requirements, you might need to learn more about how a candidate will respond to your culture. Ask open-ended questions such as “How did you handle meeting a tight deadline?” Or “Give us some examples demonstrating how you’ve reacted to pressure situations.”

Track Their Answers

Finally, develop a form to help take notes and keep track of the candidate responses to each question. Having this ready ahead of time will allow you to focus on the answers, and to go back and compare them to other candidates if you have a difficult decision to make.

Conducting the Interview

Make sure you are on time and have reviewed the candidate’s resume and any additional notes before the interview. This not only demonstrates your interest in them but will help keep everyone on schedule. Start the interview by building rapport to help put the candidates at ease and feel confident before asking your questions.

Prompt for Questions

After you have asked your questions, allow the candidate to ask questions of you. This will not only give you additional opportunities to sell the candidates on your job opening, but allow you to evaluate their listening and questioning skills.

Inform about Next Steps

Finally, inform the candidate that the interview is over and what the next steps will be in the process, including any additional steps you need the candidate to take, such as providing references or completing any assessment testing.

Your Most Valuable Resource

In any company, success or failure depends almost entirely on the quality of the team. Remember that when as you conduct your interviews. Someone with less experience, but a tenacity to learn might add more value than someone with a robust resume that seems resistant to new ideas.

If you need any assistance finding quality candidates, building your packaging team, or have an especially difficult to fill position, don’t hesitate to contact our recruiters.