Sample Interview Questions

The following interview questions can help you identify your strongest candidates. Remember that the overarching key to each category is to listen carefully, to probe to get beneath the surface, and to focus the questions or activities around the key traits that you are most interested in.

Probing prior experiences

  • Of your prior jobs, which do you think was the most significant?
  • What was the part of your role you spent the most time doing (or what was the most significant project)?
  • What were you trying to achieve?
  • How did you approach it?
  • Walk me through your process: What did you do first? Why? What did you do next? What happened after that? What was the result?
  • What was the biggest challenge there?
  • What was your biggest achievement? What was something you accomplished that you think someone else in your role might not have gotten done (or where you approached it differently from how others might have, or where you went above and beyond)?
  • It must have been hard to do Y. How did you approach that?
  • On your resume you mentioned that you accomplished ABC. How did that come about? What was your specific role in it?
  • Why did you leave X job?
  • Tell me about Z job. What led you to work there? What was your role?

Direct questions about specific qualities

Tell me about a time at X when _________________. What did you do? What did you do next? What happened after that? What was the result? Would you do anything differently? Did you ever face another similar situation? How did you handle that one?

  • you were faced with a really difficult challenge
  • you came up with a new approach for tackling a problem
  • you went above and beyond to get a result
  • you had to come up with a strategy for how to get to a particular outcome
  • you persisted despite obstacles
  • you had to move a group to action (within or outside the organization)
  • you gave up or almost gave up
  • you had to stay on top of a large volume of work/had to multi-task
  • you had to put your ideas into writing
  • you had to explain complex ideas in a simple way
  • you had to deliver an important speech
  • you had to motivate someone to do something
  • you had to navigate issues of identity, privilege, and inclusion

Personal goals/general fit

  • What makes you want to work here?
  • What leads to your interest in X issue?
  • Where does that desire to improve things come from?
  • What do you think is the most important problem facing our society today?
  • Where do you see X (our issue) fitting in?
  • What are you looking for in your next job? If you could design the perfect job, what would it look like? Why?
  • Some people are at a point in their career where work is their top priority and they’re dying to immerse themselves fully in their work. Others are at a point where they want to do interesting work but it may not be the most important thing for them. Both are legitimate – where would you put yourself on that spectrum right now?
  • What was your favorite job and why? What was your least favorite and why? How do those things compare to what you’re looking for now?
  • A number of the following can be followed-up by probing prior specific experiences. You can ask, “So tell me about a time when that happened/when you demonstrated that/when that came up? What did you do next/how did you handle that?”
  • What really frustrates you at work?
  • What do you think it is that makes you outstanding at what you do? What do you think you need to get better at?
  • If I were to talk to your colleagues – or your managers – what would they say are the things you’re best at? What would they say you need to improve in?
  • What works for you in a manager? What doesn’t work for you?