5 strategic interview questions to ask candidates (and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Recruitment is an important process that involves sourcing, selecting and placing job candidates into roles within an organisation. Getting the recruitment process right can improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace while offering staff high levels of job satisfaction. If you work in a role where you regularly interview candidates, you could benefit from asking strategic interview questions to gain insights into a candidate's suitability for a job. In this article, we discuss what strategic interview questions are, look at five popular strategic questions to ask candidates with example answers, alongside tips for running an effective interview.

What are strategic interview questions?

Strategic interview questions are questions that aim to gain insight into a job candidate's morals, values, goals and character traits. When a vacancy becomes available, recruiters actively look for the right candidate to fill the role and they do this by assessing the candidate's skills and character. Ideally, the right candidate aligns with the organisation's values, culture and role. As such, strategic interview questions can be a useful way to find out more about a candidate across multiple levels.

Related: The most common help desk interview questions with answers

5 popular strategic interview questions to ask candidates

Below are five popular strategic interview questions to ask candidates with sample answers:

1. Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake that impacted your work and how did you react?

This is a type of behavioural question that recruiters use to identify a candidate's personality, work ethic and core values. Asking a candidate to discuss a negative workplace situation can be a good way to find out how they'd react to a similar situation in their future role. This question, in particular, is a good way of determining how honest a candidate is and whether they learn from their own mistakes.

Example: 'While working as a team leader, I mistakenly gave a client a project deadline that was much sooner than it would take for our team to complete the work. Even with an excellent team who worked hard to reach the deadline, we fell short of the date I had given.

In this case, I was lucky that the client was flexible with the deadline date. This gave the team sufficient time to complete the work, but it was an experience that taught me to carefully consider deadlines and factor in all the worst-case scenarios so I'm not caught short like that again. Moving forward, I always strive to offer realistic time frames in an assertive way to clients and the team so that we can meet objectives as intended'.

Related: 10 recruiter interview questions (with answers and examples)

2. Can you discuss a specific task or project that you completed that you're proud of?

Asking this question is a great way to learn more about a candidate, as you can find out how they manage projects and their thoughts on teamwork. It's also a good way to learn about how the candidate views success and the approaches they take to handle challenges. It can even give context to their previous work experience, so it's a useful question to ask.

Example: 'When I worked for a tech consultancy, I worked on a particularly large project that involved maintaining client-side servers. None of my other colleagues wanted anything to do with it because it was a large project that required working long hours and completing repetitive tasks. Although the work was quite simple, assisting in the maintenance of the client-side servers was a lot of work.

I decided to do my best during every part of the project to show my employer how capable I was. I completed every task efficiently and met all my deadlines. Alongside this, I built up an excellent rapport with the on-site staff so that I could facilitate server updates easily. All my work resulted in a staff bonus and a commendation for exemplary service. As a result of my work, the client renewed their contract with us and I received more responsibilities moving forward'.

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3. What is your reason for leaving your current role?

Although you might already know the candidate's official reason for leaving their current role, asking this question allows them to frame it from their perspective. Hearing about their past experiences and why they're moving on from them can offer several insights into the candidate's values and can help the recruiter determine whether they're a suitable fit for the role. It's also a good question to assess what kind of role the candidate is searching for.

Example: 'I've worked in my current role for four years now and although I'm very glad to have had the chance to progress within the organisation and develop my skills, I feel as though it's time to move on. As it's a smaller company, there's no room for vertical growth, so my opportunities are incredibly limited. I feel that my skills can elevate me into more senior roles, like the one I'm currently applying for'.

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4. What are you hoping to achieve in your work over the next five years?

Recruiters normally look for candidates with drive, ambition and a clear outline for their careers, as these individuals tend to make effective employees. When interviewing candidates, it's important to show how the organisation can help elevate candidates towards their desired goals. It can also be useful to find candidates based on how similarly their goals align with the organisation's goals. This is beneficial for the candidate who gets to work towards their main career goals and for the organisation because they benefit from a satisfied, competent employee.

Example: 'I've been working towards roles in leadership for a few years now and I feel that working at this company can help get me closer to my goals. In the next five years, I want to develop my skills further so that I can become a competent team leader or project manager and my previous experience in facilitating projects towards success shows that I'm ready to take the next step.

Towards the end of the five-year mark, I'd like to progress into senior management positions. Provided that I have sufficient experience in project management, I feel that my time at this organisation would prepare me for a more advanced role. Ideally, the company would also be looking for individuals to fill these types of roles so that I can advance internally'.

Related: How to write an interview invitation email (plus samples)

5. Can you pitch me a service that our organisation offers as if I were a client?

This is a good way to test whether the candidate understands the organisation's products or services. If they've worked in the industry before, they may have a good handle on industry-specific terms and might understand the organisation better. Alongside this, if they've researched the organisation beforehand, the candidate has an opportunity to demonstrate what they know and it can help the recruiter decide if they'd make a good brand ambassador for the organisation.

Example: 'Our company has a global reach and caters to clients from all over the world. We have excellent resources and relationships with local businesses to make sure that the services we provide meet our customers' expectations every time. We're proud to go the extra mile for our customers to ensure that our reputation remains exceptional.

If you decide to sign up for our IT consultancy services, you can expect to have a dedicated team of professional IT specialists that are available to you when you need them the most. Whether that's for customer support or help with upgrading your systems, we strive to be there for you. We can even help you make plans for business strategies and new hardware rollouts to make your work a little bit easier'.

Tips to consider when interviewing

To help you conduct an effective interview, consider the following tips:

  • Stick to the same questions: To assess candidates effectively, it's important to use the same line of questioning for all of them. This gives you a shared set of criteria that you can use to grade and evaluate candidates.

  • Consider behavioural questions: These types of questions are useful because they demonstrate a candidate's core values and character traits. They also provide context to a candidate's experiences because these questions require examples.

  • Make the interview environment comfortable: Interviews are already stressful enough, so do what you can to make the environment comfortable for the candidate. This puts them more at ease and helps draw out the best responses.

  • Look out for non-verbal cues: Try to read into a candidate's non-verbal cues, such as their attire, posture or demeanour when answering questions. This can give you a better idea of their personality.

  • Ask if they have questions: An interview is a conversation, so invite the candidate to ask questions that they have about the role or the organisation. This can confirm whether they're the right person for the job.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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