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Top 40 Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates (Answers & Tips Included)

Discover amazing strategic interview questions to ask candidates and improve your recruitment process. Sample answers and tips are included.

By 

Synkdup Editorial Team   

|  29 March 2024

Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

Job interviews hold great importance in the hiring process. They are pretty much a part and parcel of the hiring process for almost any job posting out there. Candidates ponder over many elements before it, like what to wear to an interview, what to say, what to ask after the interview, etc.

However, just like candidates, recruiters need to pay attention to job interviews as well to ensure they find the ideal fit for the job opening. Hence, it is important to find the right questions to put forward.

What Are Strategic Interview Questions?

Interview questions to ask candidates vary in terms of purpose and their benefits. Strategic interview questions are queries that examine the applicant's ability to fit the organization and the role. These are different from basic icebreaker-type questions asking one to describe themselves or talk about the hard and soft skills they possess.

Such questions tend to require a bit more deep thought from the applicant when responding. Most strategic interview questions to ask candidates are open-ended. Some of them may be a bit predictable, while others are a bit more thoughtful and better crafted.

Types Of Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

There are multiple categories of interview questions to ask candidates, which include strategic questions. Likewise, there are many subcategories within strategic interview questions themselves. They may be classified as such based on their purposes and what they reveal about the applicant.

Behavioral Questions

This is an important aspect of an individual that needs to be evaluated during the recruitment process. It typically involves questions regarding a candidate’s past experiences and how they cope with certain issues. It also helps the recruiter better understand and anticipate how a candidate is likely to act in certain scenarios and whether that would fit with the firm.

  1. Describe a time when you had to step up and demonstrate leadership skills.
  2. Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you go about doing so?
  3. When you’re working with a large number of customers, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. How do you go about prioritizing your customers’ needs?
  4. Tell me about settling into your last job. What did you do to learn the ropes?
  5. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone at work to see things your way.

Compatibility Questions

Recruitment is not just about finding applicants with the most qualifications but also those who will best fit in and adapt to the organization. Questions that analyze an applicant’s alignment with the values, visions, and policies of the company fall into this category. Employers should ask questions to determine how suitable a candidate is for the required role.

  1. What are your compensation expectations given what you’ve learned about the role so far?
  2. What piqued your interest in this opportunity?
  3. Can you walk me through your experience at a high level?
  4. What are you looking for in your next role, and what will you be assessing about our organization?
  5. What do you like about our company?

Questions About Self-Awareness

Understanding how a candidate views themselves and their abilities can be great for the hiring process. It helps employers understand applicant’s personality traits too. Recruiters can better know their candidate’s weaknesses and strengths to evaluate if they would integrate well with the company.

  1. What is your most significant achievement?
  2. How do you form new relationships with colleagues?
  3. What makes you the best applicant for this position?
  4. Tell me about a hobby you like to do outside of work. Can you teach me about it?
  5. What would your co-workers say is the most rewarding thing about working with you? What about the most challenging thing?

Situational Questions

Such types of questions help analyze an individual’s ability to solve problems and cope with turbulence in the workplace. Typically, an interviewer will throw a hypothetical scenario at the candidate and ask them for their opinions and solutions. This will likely be a scenario that has a good chance of occurring during the job. By assessing their response, the employer can guess how well they may cope with the role.

  1. How would you respond to a request to do a task you’ve never done before?
  2. How would you deal with an angry customer?
  3. How would you motivate your team?
  4. How would you handle conflict in the workplace between two workers?
  5. How do you handle stress in the office environment?

Best Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates With Sample Answers

There are a lot of strategic interview questions to ask candidates that are popular among recruiters and can be excellent at filtering out undeserving candidates. Below are some great interview questions you can bring forward.

1. Talk about a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you handle the experience?

This question helps test the humility of the individual. It is human nature to make mistakes, but what separates us is how we respond to them. The last thing an interviewer wants is applicants who merely shift the blame on others to cover their shortcomings. This creates disunity within the group and lowers team morale.

When asking this question during an interview, look for qualities like modesty in the respondent. Pay attention to how they reflect on their mistakes and learn from them. Showing resilience in the face of failure takes character. Many applicants become apprehensive and panic when answering. A candidate who shows calmness and assurance while answering this would be ideal.

Sample Answer:

“There was once a situation that occurred in my previous data entry job. I entered incorrect data quickly and did not check the information entered properly. I was in a rush to get back home due to some personal tasks I needed to attend to. As a result, the data went forward for further processing, and errors led to me being held responsible.

I was scolded by my boss later, but I knew I was at fault. I apologized and sincerely accepted my mistake. I learned that I should not have rushed things and done my work properly. Even if I had not completed my work that day, the consequences would not have been as bad as having done it incorrectly.

After that incident, I made sure to verify my work appropriately and carefully. I was also much more focused on the quality of my work and made sure not to let personal tasks affect what needed to be done in the office. This made me a better professional.”

2. Describe a difficult situation you had with a coworker. How did you overcome it?

This is to help you understand what kind of personality the applicant possesses. It helps predict how a candidate will blend in with their new co-workers. At every company, there are going to be colleagues who do not get along with each other.

What separates successful firms is ensuring these differences do not hinder progress toward organizational goals. Here, management plays a key role through the implementation of its conflict management systems. They need to instill a culture where employees always put collective objectives over individual differences.

Look for attributes like assertiveness and the ability to see the bigger picture among candidates when they answer this question. Candidates who show they have a cool head have a great advantage here. How they answer this question also showcases their teamwork and leadership skills.

Sample Answer:

“I once had a phase in my previous company where there was one individual who I did not seem to get along with. They were always negative in their behavior towards me. I did my best to ignore it, but it did not stop. Then I eventually confronted them alone in an assertive manner and told them that if their negative behavior did not stop, I would have taken the matter to management.

After that, the individual slowly began to change their behavior toward me, and eventually, the whole thing was resolved. We could both work properly within the company and never clash again. The experience taught me the importance of assertiveness and how to handle toxicity in the workplace better. ”

3. Tell me about a situation where you had a tight deadline. How did you manage your priorities and tasks?

Such situations are bound to arise in a professional setting multiple times throughout one’s career. Some companies tend to have a workaholic organizational culture where such scenarios arise more often than in other companies. Hence, having a good idea of how a candidate is likely to cope in such circumstances can be beneficial for a recruiter.

Look for how a candidate prioritizes tasks and how they manage to keep a good work-life balance in such scenarios. Applicants need to learn to navigate the high-speed work environment present in many companies. See how they manage stress in such scenarios and what they learned from their experiences.

Sample Answer:

“I’ve encountered multiple such instances throughout my career. Whenever such circumstances occur, the key is prioritizing well. Also, if in a senior position, one can delegate easy and less important tasks to juniors, so they have more time to focus on the more important tasks. In my case, I didn’t have that option as I have not held a senior role yet in my professional life.

In one of my former jobs, I was given an important assignment that emerged out of the blue. I broke it down into smaller parts and started the easy bit to get into the flow of it. I put all other tasks with a later deadline on hold and focused on this one until it was done. I also asked my boss for guidance on the task.

Whenever such instances emerge in the workplace, it is necessary to plan well. Take into consideration the duration of the task and its importance. One should not shy away from seeking advice from more qualified individuals if needed. I feel I did these things well here, and the boss accepted my work.”

4. Describe some of the setbacks you’ve had in your career. How did they shape your future in terms of aspirations and goals?

These types of questions examine the resilience and perseverance of an applicant. In any line of work, employees will inevitably face setbacks and adversity. What sets exceptional individuals apart is how well they cope with it and learn from these experiences. One can face all kinds of setbacks in the work environment.

Recruiters need to look for candidates who are mentally tough and handle them well. They want candidates who will swim rather than sink! The interviewer should look for applicants who keep a calm head under pressure and also take note of the steps they took to overcome adversity.

Sample Answer:

“I have had multiple setbacks in my professional life. A major one that I had just a couple or so years ago was when I lost my job. The company was facing losses, and the upper management decided they needed to shed excess weight as an organization. Hence, I was laid off along with a few other colleagues.

Initially, I was a bit disappointed and upset. I went through a short spell of depression as well. But eventually, my family helped pick me up. I began enhancing my skills while simultaneously looking for jobs. It took me a few months, but I was finally able to find one. It felt like a huge weight lifted off my back.

Looking back over the years, that phase was a blessing in disguise, as I grew a lot personally and professionally. I acquired a lot of new skills and learned many new things, which benefit me even to this day. ”

5. Tell me how you’ve propelled your career forward outside of the office. What do you do to make yourself a better employee or candidate?

By asking this, employers can better identify candidates who are willing to go the extra mile. It helps them see whether an applicant is genuinely interested in the growth of the company or is merely in it just for a paycheck. The former are types that should be given preference when hiring.

Look for applicants who like to undertake online courses or obtain professional certifications to add to their resumes. An individual who does extra reading in subjects related to their line of work from credible sources can also be considered worthy of hiring. Seek out traits like willingness to learn on the job and improve oneself.

Sample Answer:

“I am a strong believer in consistency and self-improvement. Many employees make the mistake of assuming their education is over once they finish school and college. I am not one of them, and I feel one never stops learning. I would like to enroll myself in online courses from reputed sites if I feel their certifications will benefit my career.

I also like reading self-help books and other books related to my line of work. Learning from more knowledgeable and experienced individuals can help us grow as people and professionals. These habits have greatly helped me elevate my career.”

6. Tell me about how you go about using new software or technology. What steps do you take to master it?

Technology is fast evolving, and its influence in the workplace is evident for all to see. So it is understandable why questions regarding technology and its use occur during interviews. Many jobs will require employees to learn how to use either new software or other online tools to perform tasks. Hence, knowing how they are likely to go about adapting will help greatly.

Look for qualities like a willingness to research and learn from mistakes, which will likely occur initially. Attributes like active listening and the ability to follow instructions well to achieve desired results. If they have any technology-related certifications, or skills listed in their resume or cover letter, that can also be considered while hiring them.

Sample Answer:

“I’ve had to adapt and learn new skills throughout my time in this industry. I have used software to perform certain functions in my role on many occasions during many of my previous jobs. It seems intimidating at first, but with practice, all things can be learned.

I make sure to listen well to my supervisor’s instructions and also ask for clarification if I struggle with any of the concepts. It helps to note down important points somewhere if needed, as they often do come in handy. If there are still any issues, one can always use websites like Google to obtain answers.

It is also important to be introduced to new features of the software gradually. If you try to learn it all at once, it becomes overwhelming and creates unnecessary stress. There will also be lots of mistakes initially, so one needs to remain patient. ”

7. You have a project that requires you to do work that you have no formal training in. How do you develop the skills necessary to complete the project and add them to your professional repertoire?

Queries like these help interviewers assess how a candidate responds to challenges in the workplace. This makes them good strategic interview questions to ask candidates. It tests the willingness of an applicant to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills in their field.

Recruiters must look for candidates who show responsibility and a willingness to learn. They must be mentally strong and able to handle the inevitable stress likely to arise in such a situation. Pay attention to their problem-solving abilities and decision-making.

Sample Answer:

“I will let them know that I don’t have the qualifications required to take on the assignment. If they still insist I take on the assignment, I shall gladly oblige and resolve to give my best efforts.

I will do my best research online from multiple sources, seek out the opinions of others who may possess knowledge on the subject, if possible, even read books related to it, and so on to get the best idea. Then the next step would be to come up with an action plan and start with simple tasks to get into the flow.

It is also good to keep your supervisor updated on the progress of your work and, if possible, have them review it so you know you are at least on the right track. It helps to make sure you do not put it off and complete it on time, as failure to do so will only lead to more stress as time progresses.”

8. Imagine you receive feedback from a client, and they’re unhappy with the results of a project. How would you rectify the situation and address the concerns of the client?

How one handles criticism in their line of work is extremely important to their professional advancement. The best interview questions put the qualities of an applicant to the test. The question puts one’s humility and honesty to the test. Customer service and the ability to keep a calm head are important when dealing with such incidents.

Usually, it comes from managers or co-workers but sometimes it can come from clients too. Dealing with criticism from clients is different from dealing with it from bosses. One needs to be more tactful, as they are the main source of earnings for the business.

As an employer, seek out applicants who display modesty and a willingness to accept mistakes rather than make excuses to protect their image. Good manners and tranquility help, as customers can sometimes get rude and disrespectful. Look for how they correct the issues, along with their aptitude as problem solvers.

Sample Answers:

“This is a scenario that I feel is inevitable in a professional environment, as each of us must deal with negative comments. When dealing with such comments from a client, it is important to keep a calm head and take it professionally and constructively. I try to be an active listener to better understand their needs.

I will be modest and accept our mistakes while also apologizing to the client for the inconvenience. Lastly, I will try to resolve the issue as per the needs of the client. It helps to draw upon my technical knowledge to help and may require the application of one’s creativity. This should help fix the matter so all parties can happily move forward.”

9. Tell Me About A Time When You Managed Multiple Priorities. How Did You Determine Their Importance?

Often, workers have multiple priorities at work that they need to juggle. This is even more the case the higher you go up the corporate ladder. Great interview questions should put the applicant’s ability to prioritize different commitments to the test. This is highly applicable in companies with a workaholic organizational culture.

Recruiters should view what areas are considered important by the candidates. An employee who prioritizes tasks incorrectly will underachieve in their role. There will be busy periods in the company's business cycle where employees will be required to handle multiple assignments simultaneously. Hence, determining how applicants handle this kind of pressure is important.

Sample Answer:

“There were many such occurrences in my previous jobs. These occurred, especially during the peak phases of our business cycle. I prioritize my assignments based on a combination of factors, like the ranking of the reporting manager for the task, the deadlines, my skills, the difficulty level of the task, etc. This helps me better handle the pressure.”

10. What Leadership Style Are You Looking For In An Employer?

This is a good one to use among the list of applicant interview questions. It helps the employer evaluate what brings the best out of an applicant. They can analyze the leadership style of the current boss and see if it fits the candidate's style of work. It also tells a lot about the candidate’s personality.

Recruiters should look for applicants who possess adaptability. It is not always possible to find a boss with your preferred leadership style. Hence, employees need to be flexible in their approach to work. Seeking applicants looking for mentorship from their bosses is also a huge plus.

Sample Answer:

“I believe in being adaptable, as one cannot always get the type of boss they prefer. However, if given a choice, I strongly prefer the Laissez-Faire style, as it gives me more freedom to express myself and utilize my creative potential. I am the type that takes the initiative with my job and prefers not to have much supervision unless needed. However, I am always willing to change my approach as the circumstances require.”

11. What is something unique about you that’s not on your resume?

Good strategic interview questions to ask candidates should attempt to learn details about the individual that go beyond their resume and cover letter. Asking things like these helps understand the general interests of the applicant and what gets stimulated intellectually or creatively.

Look for candidates who have constructive interests and attributes that can help them go far in their careers. Applicants who have accomplished certain feats in their lives that may not be connected to their line should still be appreciated.

Sample Answer:

“I am a person with a lot of primarily intellectual interests. One of them is my fascination with languages. I love learning foreign languages. In my spare time, I am currently studying French. I mainly use online resources and applications to carry out my learning. I didn’t mention it on my resume or cover letter, as I did not feel it connected with the job description. However, it engrosses me, and I enjoy it.”

12. Are there any skills you’re interested in learning during the coming year?

Good interview questions to ask candidates should examine the individual’s desire for learning and growth. An employee who is more motivated by acquiring knowledge and enhancing their skill set than by money is a massive asset for any company. It also helps determine what kind of goals they have for the future.

As an employer, one should seek out a desire to learn and advance in professional settings within the applicant. They should see whether the skills the candidate aspires to acquire are in line with their role.

Sample Answer:

“I am someone who firmly believes in self-education and being a life-long learner. I always look to take on more responsibility to grow as a professional and take on higher responsibilities in the future. This year, I am particularly eager to undertake Project Management courses and attain their certifications. Adding them to my resume can help me take on bigger positions in the future.”

13. How do you stay up to date on the latest trends and technology?

How candidates use emerging trends in technology related to their line of work is important for an employer. Technology is taking over the professional environment in many fields, so knowing how employees deal with its influence is important.

Look for a candidate who embraces the prospect of learning to use new technology. They should possess basic computer skills and not be intimidated by learning new things. If they have any technology-related certification, then that can act as a positive for their case. Habits like reading articles along with reviews about the industry and technology can help greatly.

Sample Answer:

“I like to do a lot of research and keep myself up to date with the latest developments and trends. I firmly believe in embracing the influence of technology, as it helps execute many functions more effectively. I read reputed blogs and follow the opinions of experts in the field so I do not miss anything and can stay ahead in the industry.”

14. What are your most important values and ethics as a leader?

The best interview questions to ask candidates should assess their leadership capacity. This can help employers determine whether or not the individual can fit into management roles in the future. A leader must be a good communicator, knowledgeable about his field, empathic with his subordinates, etc.

Look for good and confident communication abilities while responding. The values they emphasize should align with those of the organization. Integrity, responsibility, strength of character, confidence, adaptability, etc. are all crucial.

Sample Answer:

“I believe good leadership helps improve the synergy of the group and can enhance their output. As a leader, I would love to instill a culture of accountability within the group and also trust and support my subordinates. It is important to ensure that collective goals are placed above individual objectives.

Taking time to study the organizational culture, along with its mission and vision, is important. It helps to align the values of the leader with those of the company. This creates a better sense of direction among the group and helps carry them forward.”

15. What are your strengths?

This displays their self-awareness and how they rate their abilities. Strategic interview questions to ask candidates should target these areas. How they answer this can help you evaluate ways in which the candidate can be utilized in the workplace. It helps if the strengths are connected to the role.

Employers should look for how well the qualities listed by the applicant match up with the job description. They should also evaluate if current employees in the company possess these traits and whether the candidate is bringing something new to the table. If they have certifications related to their strengths, then that helps.

Sample Answers:

“I feel I am a good communicator, both in written and spoken forms. I have good research abilities and am comfortable working individually or with a group. Apart from these, I am also a quick typer. All of these traits are useful to have in my profession as a content writer. I also am a responsible individual who possesses great empathy towards their coworkers and other people.”

16. What are your weaknesses?

Every individual is bound to have weak points, as nobody out there is perfect. Out of the many strategic interview questions to ask candidates, some, like this one, put their modesty to the test. The ability to accept and strive to improve one’s weaknesses is a sign of tough character.

When assessing the applicant's responses, look for humility, along with whether or not those weaknesses will impact their ability to perform the job. Applicants willing to learn and work on their shortcomings are a green flag.

Sample Answer:

“I know nobody is perfect and everybody has weaknesses. I’ve had mine over the years. In my previous job as a customer service representative, multiple vacancies needed to be filled. They gave preferences to candidates who were bilingual or, in general, fluent in multiple languages. This was so that we could interact with customers from different nationalities.

I did not meet the criteria but still somehow got the job as I was an immediate joiner. However, even while on the job, I did my best to learn basic phrases from other languages to help out in whatever way I could. I always try to improve on my weak points if possible.”

17. Can you talk about a time when you had to motivate a team to work together?

This is one of the best interview questions to ask candidates who are applying for leadership positions. However, it can be asked of just about anyone who applies. It aims to discover more about an individual and their ability to guide people and lift their spirits. Apart from this, it shows how a candidate functions in a team environment.

Seek out a respondent's ability to connect with people and bring others together towards a common cause. Analyze their aptitude for leadership and general personality traits. Their conflict-resolution abilities are really important, as often there will be co-workers who do not get along well in every group. The candidate must also be knowledgeable about their field so they can provide direction to the group.

Sample Answer:

“ Yes, there was a time in one of my previous companies when a few members of the department did not see eye to eye, and their views on how the assignment should progress forward differed. However, I stepped in and tried to make everyone look past it. I did this even though I did not officially hold a management position but wanted the welfare of the group.

Somehow, all members were able to cooperate, and we completed the assignment successfully. My boss was impressed by how I stepped in and got the team working together and felt I had the potential to hold a leadership role in the future.”

18. Have you ever had to work on a project with someone you don’t get along with? How did you handle that situation?

Many great interview questions to ask candidates involve those that examine an applicant's ability to work with others. An individual’s ability to work with others who they may not like or connect with is an important aspect of teamwork. Good teamwork builds synergy and is a valuable soft skill to possess.

The recruiter must seek out respondents who are tactful and know how to get around such situations well. Look for good social skills and conflict management abilities. A calm temperament and the ability to deal with the situation in a civilized manner will help keep the workplace less toxic.

Sample Answer:

“I have had multiple such scenarios in the past in many of my former jobs. I always believe in being assertive and civilized in how one responds to these situations. I normally try to ignore it at first. However, if that does not work, then I peacefully confront the coworkers and let them know I have nothing against them and want us to work together for the welfare of the company.

Even if we do not get along, it will only benefit both of us if we keep it professional and put our differences aside to help achieve the objectives of the organization. If all this does not work, I will let my supervisor know about it rather than get aggressive with them. This ensures that the work environment remains civilized.”

19. How do you handle criticism?

Negative comments are bound to arise at one point or another during an individual’s career. It is important to take it as part of one’s growth and not be reduced by it. Questions like this also test an applicant's mindset and self-esteem. Candidates with higher self-esteem tend to learn from the criticism.

As an employer, one should look at the candidate’s self-confidence and resilience when they answer such questions. The applicant should be able to keep a cool head when dealing with negative feedback. They must be willing to learn from it and improve in those areas. This will also require a degree of introspection.

Sample Answer:

“My view is that facing negative feedback is an inevitable event in the workplace. It may come from co-workers, clients, or even bosses. The key is to review it objectively and not take it to heart. I make sure I learn from my mistakes and the criticism I receive to avoid repeating previous errors. I try to keep a calm and strong head and not be reduced by the criticism I receive.”

20. Do you have any questions for me?

This is one of the best interview questions to ask candidates towards the end. It allows them to express themselves and better understand the role they are applying for by putting forth queries to the recruiter. It helps us better understand the applicant, which helps in determining how well they fit the company.

Recruiters should pay attention to detail when it comes to this particular question. One can tell a lot about an individual’s intellect by the types of questions they ask. It also reflects on how much research they have done on the company and the role, along with their level of interest in the opportunity.

Sample Answers:

“Yes, thanks for allowing me to present my queries to you. I would like to know what kind of scope for growth this job presents. How likely am I to get a promotion in this role? What are the opportunities for learning and acquiring new skills in this role? On what basis is my performance going to be evaluated if I am hired?”

Tips To Compose Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

There are tons of applicant interview questions to ask candidates that one can research and find. However, sometimes one needs to apply themselves and devise their queries for candidates. This can better help determine whether they fit the company’s needs.

Tailor Them Based On The Candidate’s Resume

It is important to at least go through a candidate’s resume and cover letter before conducting the interview. You can draft more specific questions this way and, therefore, get a better idea of where the applicant stands when it comes to their compatibility with the role and company.

For example, the recruiter can ask something like, “Your resume states that you have great research abilities. Can you describe instances when you’ve had to draw upon them?” This is an effective method to test out the applicant.

Knowing how to write an effective resume is important and increases the applicant’s odds of landing the job. A cover letter is great too if they feel they need it, but it is not a must. Asking questions related to their resume and cover letter also helps check that they are not bluffing on these documents.

For example, one can ask, “You’ve mentioned in your resume that you are proficient in MS Excel. Do you know the shortcuts and functions? Can you tell me how to highlight a row or column in an MS Excel sheet?” This helps confirm the credibility of their cover letters and CVs.

Active Listening

Questions do not always have to be pre-planned sometimes they can be formed spontaneously if an individual keeps their ears open. Listening well and carefully can help employers better grasp the words of the applicant. A lot of good questions can be composed on the spot by doing this.

Being a good communicator is not just about speaking but also listening. The latter is often neglected by most. Hence, recruiters should pay special attention to this aspect during interviews to improve the quality of their hiring processes.

Consider Their Daily Duties

Too many interviews today prove to be ineffective because they focus on what a candidate has done in their previous companies or schools, and colleges if they are trying to get a job with no experience. They do not bother to base their questions on the type of regular duties a candidate may need to perform.

For example, let’s assume an applicant is trying to land a job as a construction worker, and their role requires the use of machines and tools. The interviewer can ask, “Would you be willing to learn how to operate machines and tools as part of your role? This will require on-the-job training. How do you feel about that?” This better analyses whether they will be able to work in the role regularly.

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