How To Write Effective Interview Questions

interview questions and answers info graphic

How to write interview questions

You could use the same list of interview questions that everyone uses, or you could create a strategy to ferret out candidates that aren’t a good and specific fit for the role and your company. Having more specific questions will make you more informed in your hiring decisions, and hopefully, more successful in hiring the right candidate. Here are the steps you should take when writing interview questions that promote quality answers:

1. Establish your needs and wants

Each job is different and every company has its own culture. Knowing what your company wants and needs from its employees will help you write more effective questions. Start conceptualizing just this by asking yourself the following questions:

2. Assess the job opening

Though company culture may remain more consistent, employee roles have a more dynamic nature. Take time to assess what the job entails: its needs, functions and goals. A good way to approach this is to list the job tasks and qualifications needed to make this role successful.

*Qualifications: Associate degree or equivalent, communication skills, ability to multitask, organization skills, customer service experience, basic knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel*

3. Consider the potential employee

Now you know what you want, consider who you want. Each position requires a certain level of skill and understanding, so finding an employee who meets or exceeds your expectations is important. It is important to avoid relying solely on an applicant’s qualifications when writing your interview questions. You should also consider the type of employee you want for this position. Ask yourself questions similar to the following:

4. Write your interview questions

As the interviewer, you set the tone for your interview. If you are more laid-back, the interviewee is more likely to be laid-back. The same goes for a more serious tone. With this in mind, structure your questions to mirror your work environment, language and company culture. You may work at a law firm and structure your questions to heavily focus on education and experience. If you work in a customer service call center, you may focus more on attitude and behavior.

Start with the basics

Getting the small things out of the way, in the beginning, helps with introductions between you and your interviewee. Whether you adopt a serious or laid-back position, consider starting with some of the following:

Inquire about interests

Learning why candidates are interested in the job opening, your particular field or the company can help reveal their motives, attitude and intentions. This can either be surface-level or may involve a bit more questioning. Here are good interest-based questions to consider using:

Ask qualifying questions

Once you’ve become acquainted with one another, it’s time to discuss qualifications, skills and experience. These questions should be specific to the job description and the candidate’s background.

Ask questions of character

Again, candidates who meet your qualifications are great, but you also need to know what kind of worker they are. Choosing situation- or circumstance-based questions to transition into can help give you an idea of your candidate’s potential assets or set-backs.

Goal-based questions

Asking questions about your interviewee’s future career plans and goals can help you determine if they will be the right fit for the position. Here are some ways you could ask these questions:

Closing questions

No matter the tone of the interview, it’s important to close things on a positive note. The below example displays just a few ways you can approach this before ending your interview:

5. Reflect on your questions

Once you have written your interview questions, take a moment to analyze each one, the reasoning behind it and the way it may be received by your interviewee. Here are some other things to consider during this process:

Assume your interviewee is an intelligent person

This person has acquired an interview with you, so they are already on the right track. Use language that illustrates you think highly of them and remember to remain interested when it comes time for the actual interview.

Consider your time

Respect your interviewee

It takes courage to interview for a job. From the preparation to the actual meeting, the best candidates put effort into making a good first impression during their interview. With this in mind, do the same and come to your interview prepared. This helps solidify your integrity, as well as the integrity of your organization.

Have a back-up plan

Even with preparation, not all things go as planned. Your interview may be running behind schedule, or perhaps the interviewee reveals relevant information that pushes you to ask a different set of questions. Having more than one plan for how you can approach your interview can help you remain on track and in control of the process.

How to Answer 14 Most Common Interview Questions [+ Sample Answers]

In this section, we’re going to go through 14 of the most common job interview questions and answers. We’re going to explain what the HR manager wants to see in you, as well as give you sample answers you could use.

1) Tell me something about yourself.

However, recruitment managers are not looking for your whole life story, your third-grade achievements, or what you had for dinner last night. Instead, they are looking for a pitch.

This is usually the first question asked in an interview, so it acts as your introduction. Make sure your answer is relevant to the position you are applying for. What you should be aiming for here is to present yourself as the ideal candidate for the job.

For example, at Company X, I led a project for migrating all operations data to a new data warehousing system to cut down on costs. The new solution was a much better fit for our business, which eventually led to savings of up to $200,000 annually.

I have just graduated with honors in Biochemistry. I know my way around a lab and have had multiple opportunities to put my knowledge into practice as a chemistry research assistant.

The lab felt like home, which is why I’d love to work as a lab assistant. I am passionate, hard-working, and extremely responsible. I am also looking forward to putting to practice all the things I learned during my time at university.

2) How did you hear about this position?

Even if you haven’t been continuously refreshing the company’s website for job listings, make it seem like you have (in a professional way, of course). Show excitement and curiosity.

So, mention his/her name and his/her position inside the company and give their reasoning for inviting or recommending you to apply for the position. Tell the hiring managers what excites you about the job opportunity or what exactly caught your eye.

“I heard from Jim Doe, my old colleague and college friend, that [Company X] was looking for a new sales director. He encouraged me to apply, saying that my experience managing a sales team at [Some Software Company] would be helpful for [Company X].

3) Why did you decide to apply for this position?

What the interviewer is looking for here is to see how passionate you are about the job or the company. After all, job performance is directly linked to job satisfaction. The happier you are about your position at the company, the more productive you’ll be.

When you’re talking to a person that’s passionate about something, you can pretty much feel them glow as they talk. And if you’re an HR manager who’s interviewed hundreds of people, this is a very good sign to hire the candidate.

Keep in mind, though, that if you don’t know much about the company or the position – that’s OK too. Just be honest and show your passion for the job. However, it’s always better to do your homework before going to an interview..

4) What are your biggest strengths?

There are two answers you could go for here: what your actual strengths are, and what you think the hiring manager or HR representative wants to hear. We would most certainly suggest you go with the first answer.

For this question, you would want to narrow your answer down to at most three strengths. Pick 1 or 2 skills that would help you really excel at the job, and 1 or 2 personal (more or less unrelated) skills.

top strengths for different fields

My biggest strength is that I’m good at picking up new skills. I’ve worked a variety of different odd jobs – things like working as a waiter, house-keeper, cook, and a lot more (as you’ve probably seen on my resume).

As an event manager at Company X, we were organizing an IT conference for a client. There were a ton of last-minute hiccups – some speakers canceled and the catering company said they’d be late for the lunch break. On top of that, we were understaffed because 2 of our volunteer organizers got sick and couldn’t show up.

At that point, things looked so bleak that we were considering canceling the event or postponing it. Instead, I took the initiative in my hands and sorted through the problems one by one.

5) What is your biggest weakness?

And NO: fake humble-brag weaknesses don’t count as weaknesses. You can’t just say that your biggest weakness is that you work too hard, or that you’re a perfectionist.

The key here is to mention a weakness that’s real, but not something that would get in the way of you doing your job. You wouldn’t want to say you’re bad at math if you’re applying for an accountant position, would you

What is your experience with social media?

Writing is a form of communicating, and many writers are expected to know the major social media platforms so they can get their work out into the world and make it accessible to different audiences. Highlight all the platforms you know, big and small, and if you have any particular insights to share, go for it.

“I know all the basic platforms: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I’m well versed in writing for a specific platform, ensuring Instagram posts are image-focused, Twitter posts are succinct, and LinkedIn posts are purely professional. At my last internship, I used HootSuite to preschedule my posts to ensure consistency and quality.”

Whether you’re seeking to write the next great American novel or the next viral social media post, getting a writing internship is a key first step in your writing career. If you research the company and have strong answers for these 10 questions—and know your way around an Oxford comma—you’ll be well on your way.