The 10 best questions to ask in an interview

10 best questions to ask in an interview

We generally recommend ‘competency-based’ interview questions when recruiting, not only because it helps to remove any bias (conscious or subconscious), but its been shown that using examples from a candidate’s past behaviour in situations can help to predict their future behaviour in the workplace. It also means that questions are based around the competencies needed for the role.

We recommend asking the same questions to all candidates to help you filter out the right people for the job.

Ideally, Candidates will give you plenty of examples and answer using the STAR technique below, helping you to structure your interview notes and it remember the who said what if you are meeting with multiple candidates!

  • S – Situation, Candidates describe the context of the example
  • T – Task, Candidates identify what needed to be done to resolve the issue
  • A – Action, who did the task and took the action (it can be interesting to establish if this was the candidate or actually another member of the team.
  • R – Result, what happened at the end of the example, was it resolved?

Here are our top ten:

1. Action orientation: helps to determine how the candidate takes responsibility for actions, projects and people.


“Tell me about a time when you have been required to make a decision without having all the relevant facts available.”

Encourage them to discuss their considerations, the downside of their decision, the outcome and ultimately what they learned from the event.

2. Dealing with change: determines how the candidate adapts to changing circumstances, accepts new ideas and initiatives and works in different situations. This is particularly useful in a fast-growing start-up where change will be constant.


“Tell me about a time when you felt it was particularly important that you adapted your behaviour to suit the situation.”

Encourage them to assess whether this change was effective, whether any differences in culture or religion were considered and what they learned from adapting their behaviour.

3. Commercial awareness: this is a good way to judge how they keep up to date with competitor information and market trends, identify business opportunities and demonstrate financial awareness.


“Tell me about a time when you used an idea from outside the organisation to resolve a particular issue.”

Discuss how they came up with the idea, and why it was relevant in the situation. How was it used in practice and how well it worked?

4. Customer service: assessing how high their standards are and how they achieve project goals.


“Give an example of a time when you had to satisfy a particular customer or client need (this could be an internal or external customer).”

Talk about how they assessed whether the client was fully satisfied with the work, how timescales and delivery was agreed and set, what the outcome was.

5. Following instructions and procedures: determines how well they follow instructions from others without unnecessarily challenging authority, commitment to the organisation and awareness of legal obligations.


“Describe a situation when you felt that you had to disregard certain policies and procedures.”

Ask about the background, how they felt about disregarding the policies and procedures and what the outcome was.

6. Learning and researching: understand how well they learn new tasks to inform decision making and how they manage knowledge.


“Tell me about an occasion when you needed to seek information to support a decision.”

Seek how they chose the sources of information, how they decided what was relevant and what they would do differently next time.

7. Persuading and influencing: used to determine whether they make a strong impression on others, negotiating skills and manages conflict.


“Give an example when you successfully built a collaborative relationship with a customer which started off in a difficult place.”

Understand how they approached the customer, how they anticipated how they would encounter resistance, what steps were taken and how they moved the relationship to the next level.

8. Project management: demonstrates their awareness and maintenance of control over processes, people and tasks to ensure the effective delivery of a project.


“Describe a time when you have been given a new project to design and implement.”

Understand how they approached this, and what actions did you take and what was the outcome.

9. Team focus: demonstrates an interest in and understanding of others, how well they adapt to the team and recognise / reward the contribution of others.


“Describe a situation where you had to communicate proactively with others.”

Understand what their approach was, how they sought input from others and how effective they were.

10. General: to get an idea of how they feel in general about the role and their thoughts for the future.


“If we were to offer you this position, what would be the biggest challenge for you in taking this on?”

Seek to understand if there are any barriers to them undertaking the role, where their skills / development needs lie and whether they are serious about what the role could bring.

It’s important to avoid discrimination in an interview and to be aware of Protected Characteristics.

For support with your hiring processes from our team of HR consultants, you can find out about how to work with Bespoke HR here. 

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    Written by:

    Marketing Team
    Marketing Team - We are a team of HR and business consultants based in Guildford, Surrey and work with hundreds of clients across a range of industries ranging from healthcare, hospitality and finance to media, manufacturing and IT.