Employer interview questions to ask candidates

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We always advise graduates to prepare for a job interview, and the same goes for employers and hiring managers.

In a job interview, the aim is to gain as much information about a candidate as possible, so you make sure you can recruit staff that are right for a role.

Employers will need to prepare a selection of good interview questions to ask interviewees.

Given that you will already have read their graduate CV, looked on LinkedIn for a profile, and viewed their online portfolio, it should be straightforward to decipher whether or not the candidate would be perfect for the role.

Yet interviewers of all levels of experience find that this can be a real challenge in such a short space of time.

Selecting unique and useful interview questions can be what makes or breaks a successful hiring process.

Read on and discover the best questions to ask in an interview process!

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You’ll have in your hand what the candidate can do on paper, but preparing insightful questions can help you make those key decisions on suitability.

When interviewing a candidate, you will be looking to find out:

  • Whether or not the candidate meets the requirements of the job
  • How the candidate reacts under pressure
  • How well the candidate would fit in to your team
  • How the candidate explains and builds upon their CV

Examine the candidate’s graduate CV, including their education, previous work experience, and skills they have listed, as well as enquiring about employment gaps.

Once you know the basics of what they can offer, move onto more investigative job interview questions to help decide whether the person is right for your role.

Here are the best employer questions to ask during an interview in every industry:

20 best employer interview questions to ask interviewees (general)

Below we cover the basic interview questions for employers, and with them you can improve your hiring process.

Asking interview questions about salary expectations and whether the candidate is interviewing elsewhere at the end of the interview can help you gauge if you’re both on the same page.

If you feel like a candidates answers are making your feelings on them very clear, then it’s likely whatever you’re asking are good questions to ask in an interview.

Further down, we delve into more sector/job-specific interview questions to ask candidates.

But it’s important to start with the basics.

These starters will let you know, for example, if the candidate is a good culture fit. They are often behavioural interview questions.

So here are some common employer interview questions that can be asked for most job roles, graduate or otherwise.

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What attracted you to this particular role/company?
  3. What can you tell me about our company? Are you familiar with our industry? Who would you guess are our biggest competitors?
  4. What is your biggest achievement to date?
  5. Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your CV
  6. Describe yourself in 3 words
  7. Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge?
  8. What makes you unique?
  9. What kind of environment do you enjoy working in?
  10. What kind of management style do you prefer?
  11. What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
  12. Who do you admire or look up to the most?
  13. What interests you most about this industry?
  14. Are there skills you’d like the opportunity to develop in the future?
  15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  16. Why are you leaving your current job? What will you miss about your current work environment and what will you not miss?
  17. How did you learn about this open position?
  18. What are your salary expectations?
  19. Are you interviewing anywhere else?
  20. Do you have any questions for me?

Job sector specific questions to ask an interviewee

Naturally, different roles require different sets of interview questions based upon the skills, personality traits, and experiences you the job requires.

Below, we run through some great interview questions for sales candidates, finance candidates, graduate developers, and creative candidates.

‣‣‣ Top 10 sales interview questions to ask interviewees

If you’re hiring sales candidates, chances are there will be certain character traits or attributes of a salesperson you are looking to find in your perfect graduate hire.

Are they target-driven, adaptable, and confident?

Will you require the candidate to have some previous business development, sales, or client-facing experience?

By asking a combination of role-specific and skill-specific questions, you can ascertain whether the sales candidate is right for this particular graduate role.

Prepare these interview questions to ask the candidate in your sales interviews.

These employer interview questions review the candidates’ skills and gauge whether the candidate is right for your sales opportunity:

  1. What do you think is more important; keeping clients happy, or meeting targets?
  2. When do you think is right to stop pursuing a client?
  3. How do you handle stress?
  4. How do you handle rejection?
  5. What is your ultimate career goal?
  6. What drew you to this company?
  7. What do you already know about the company?
  8. Tell me about a time you have gone above and beyond
  9. What kind of rewards do you find the most satisfying?
  10. Sell this company’s service / product to me

‣‣‣ Top 10 finance interview questions

In finance graduate recruitment, there are several strategic interview questions to ask candidates in order to work out if they are the right fit.

Finance jobs often involve long hours, therefore it’s a good idea to find out whether the candidate is flexible and adaptable in their approach to work.

The candidate should demonstrate an interest in financial markets, good knowledge of your company, and key competitors.

Focus on the questions that will help you uncover their passion for finance, working style, and ambition.

  1. Are you willing to work flexibly?
  2. Are you willing to relocate?
  3. What are some of your interests outside of work?
  4. What do you know about our company/industry?
  5. Can you name a few of our competitors?
  6. Can you tell me about an event that has happened in the last year which has affected our industry?
  7. What motivates you?
  8. How would your previous or current colleagues describe you?
  9. Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
  10. What do you think is the biggest challenge our company is currently facing?

‣‣‣ Top 10 employer interview questions to ask a graduate developer

In IT graduate recruitment, asking the right interview questions can help you determine whether a candidate has the skills your business needs, and if they are a good fit for your team.

After reviewing their graduate CV, and their GitHub if they have one, ask questions that will prompt the candidate to elaborate on their skills, and when they have utilised them.

Look to assess whether the candidate has soft skills like communication and the ability to adapt to situations; important qualities in any graduate hire.

When interviewing a graduate developer, it’s a good idea to run through their CV in depth – plus find out if they have any other skills to add to it.

After understanding their education, experiences and skills, move onto more detailed questions to find out about their motives, successful previous projects, and their methods of working.

These are some of the interview questions for a candidate looking to pursue a career in IT.

  1. Can you list all frameworks/programming languages that you have worked with previously?
  2. Which are you most comfortable with?
  3. What is your ideal developing environment?
  4. Tell us about a previous successful project
  5. Tell us about a previous project which did not go so well. What would you do differently?
  6. Why do you want to be a web/software developer?
  7. Imagine that I know nothing about technology. Can you explain what ___ is to me?
  8. How do you test the quality of your codes?
  9. Do you prefer working with other technical people, non-technical team members, or a combination of the two?
  10. What are some of your other interests?

‣‣‣ Top 10 marketing interview questions to ask candidates

  1. In your own words, what’s the goal of marketing? OR how would you convince someone of the value of marketing?
  2. What social media channels are you familiar with?
  3. What channels do you think we should be focusing on and why?
  4. Are there any we’re currently not using that you think we should be?
  5. Are you familiar with our target market?
  6. How would you manage a new product launch?
  7. How do you stay up-to-date with digital marketing trends?
  8. What blogs and publications do you read?
  9. Who’s your favourite marketer or marketing blogger and why?
  10. Which marketing tools or software platforms do you have experience using?
  11. Are you comfortable using data to guide decision-making?

‣‣‣ Top 10 interview questions for creatives

  1. What projects are you working on right now?
  2. What creative tech tools do you use on a daily basis?
  3. What do you think of our existing creative materials? What would you do differently?
  4. What sets you apart from other candidates that we’re interviewing for this position?
  5. How would you describe your design style? Why do you think this contributes to our company’s needs?
  6. What is your favourite font and why?
  7. What sources do you use for industry news? Can you tell us what are the latest trends you’ve noticed in the creative and design industry?
  8. Who is your favourite artist or industry creative?
  9. How would you feel about working towards a tight project deadline or within a strict brief?
  10. What, in your opinion, makes a good picture or photograph?

Alternatives to classic interview questions

‘What are your weaknesses?’, ‘What motivates you to succeed?’, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ – these are the standard tried-and-tested questions that crop up in nearly every job interview.

The problem with these questions is that your candidates will have likely heard them a hundred times.

This can result in the same tired answers that have either been rehearsed meticulously or copied from the internet.

The catch-22 is that these questions are classics for reason – they are solid, good interview questions!

As an employer, you need to know the info that these questions should reveal e.g. where your potential employee sees themselves in five years, and whether their weaknesses are likely to affect their performance in your job etc.

By tweaking classic interview questions you’ll be able to obtain the information you need, whilst keeping candidates on their toes and avoiding clichéd answers!

We have some examples of good alternative interview questions below.

  • Ask

    What three professional achievements do you want to accomplish in the next five years?’



    ‘Where do you see yourself in the next five years?’ is often greeted with a vague answer about how the candidate just wants to be successful in whatever they’re doing.

    This alternate question encourages them to be specific.

    Asking for professional achievements will enable you to bring to light what really matters to your candidate.

    If all of their accomplishments focus on training, you can be sure that this is a very important aspect for them.

    If they focus on leading a department or getting promoted, you can be certain this is where their motivation lies.

    Encouraging the candidate to define just three things also gives the answer a finite end-point which prevents it from becoming too convoluted.

  • Ask

    ‘What attracts you to our company over ‘competitor x’?’



    This question requires the candidate to really think, rather than just reeling off reasons they’ve read on the ‘company culture’ section of your website.

    They will need to make a comparison, which demands some genuine thoughtfulness about your business.

    This should also reveal if your interviewee is passionate about your sector.

    If they are, they’ve probably considered applying to some of your competitors, so should have both a basic knowledge of them and how you differ.

  • Ask

    “What do you struggle with/feel you are least competent at in your current/previous job?”



    ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ will commonly be greeted with clichés like, ‘I’m such a perfectionist – I like things to be just-so’, or the classic, ‘I find it really difficult to switch off from work’.

    Asking people for a specific flaw cuts through the waffle and encourages candidates to give a concrete example of something they’re not great at, meaning you’ll get a more honest and relevant answer.

  • Ask:

    “Tell me about a time in which you succeeded, what motivated you?”



    In at number four is the age-old interview question ‘What motivates you?’.

    The majority of candidates will respond with a short sentence like ‘I’m motivated by success’, or, ‘I’m motivated by seeing the results of my hard work’.

    Asking interviewees for a specific example of how they’ve been motivated in the past requires them to dig a little deeper, and will stop these one-sentence answers in their tracks.

  • Ask:

    “How would colleagues describe you, and what has shaped their opinions?”



    Most people in an interview situation will describe themselves as a hard-working perfectionist. No one is ever going to say that they are a mediocre candidate!

    And asking your interviewee what other people think of them won’t single-handedly deliver a more candid answer.

    Candidates can just as easily lie about what others say about them e.g. ‘My boss used to say I was the best employee he’s ever had the pleasure of working with!’

    So, asking what shaped their colleagues’ opinions will help provide more detail to their answer.

    The candidate has to back up their answers with evidence, which is more difficult to improvise on the spot – e.g. rather than just stating that people think they are articulate, they have to say why people think that

    i.e. ‘My line manager thought that I was articulate; I had to deliver weekly presentations to senior members of staff who complimented him about how I communicated complex business ideas’.

In graduate recruitment, it’s important for employers to know the best interview questions to ask candidates.

It’s crucial to get a mix of creative questions, classic ones, role/sector-specific interview questions, and professionally direct ones. This way, you get the answers you need.

For more of our interview and recruitment insights, check out our graduate employment statistics UK page.

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