Federal Careers

Let’s consider some good interview questions from both sides of the table: What are some of the questions that you should ask a candidate for a position you are looking to fill? What if you’re the candidate – what should you be asking the hiring official?

Good Interview Questions for Managers to Ask

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The best interview questions that managers can ask a candidate are job related; they can be behaviorally-based, or situational.

Behavioral questions are based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. These are recognizable because they start with, “Tell me about a time…” or “Give me an example when…”

Situational questions are similar but focus on how the applicant would handle a specific situation that he or she is likely to encounter. These kinds of questions typically open with, “What would you do if…”

Here are 10 questions that fit both categories and can be easily adapted, if needed, to specific jobs:

1. Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?

2. Tell me about a time when you had to use your oral communication skills in order to get a point across that was important to you.

3. Tell me about a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy even though you did not agree with it.

4. Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to gain information needed to solve a problem and then tell me how you analyzed the information and came to a decision.

5. Describe a situation in which you were able to read another person effectively and guide your actions by your understanding of his/her individual needs or values.

6. Describe the worst customer you have ever had and tell me how you dealt with him or her

7. What would you do if you were asked to perform a task you had never done before?

8. What would you do if you were committed to a particular project but your boss canceled it halfway through?

9. Give me an example of a project you were a part of failed, despite your best efforts.

10. What would you do if you were given a timeframe that you knew at the outset was totally unrealistic?

These kinds of questions allow you to ask job related questions AND find out a little bit about the candidate’s though process, experience, and skills—in other words, see the person behind the resume! And do so in a way that minimizes the risk of making a bad selection and avoids potential legal pitfalls.

Questions to Ask During Your Interview

Now, let’s think about this from the perspective of a job candidate (and managers consider how you’d answer).

During most interviews, you will have an opportunity to ask the interviewers some questions. When offered the opportunity, do not tell your interviewers that you do not have any questions—that is a big mistake.

Nor should you ask about pay, benefits, or training you might receive; instead, use this opportunity to get some insight about the culture of the organization and determine how you might “fit.” In addition, good questions can help you stand out as an applicant. And it turns the table on the interviewer; instead of interviewer being the “buyer” of your services, asking questions makes them a “seller” of the organization.

So, what are some good questions to ask? Here are some ideas:

What would you like the person who fills this position to accomplish in their first 90 days? First year?

How would you describe the culture of the organization?

What concerns or hesitations do you have about me as a potential employee?

What do you value most in a team member?

What challenges do you expect the program [or company / organization] to face over the next year or so?

What is your least favorite part about working here?

What does success look like in this position—and how do you measure it?

What is your favorite thing about working here?

What did the person who held this job before do that you would like to see continued?

What issues are you hoping that the person who gets this job can fix—or at least improve?

What are the next steps in this process?

Is there anything else I can share about my experience?

The above ideas will help get you thinking—and of course, you don’t want to ask all of them! Two or three questions is enough. Your questions should demonstrate that you’ve thought about the job, that you’re interested, and you’re a serious person who wants to ensure that the job will be a good fit. What more could an employer want?

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