How to gain positive interview results with successful questions


Preparation is important for successful interviews. As an employer, you want to create a good impression of your organisation, persuade candidates that you are where they want to work.

To ensure you are getting the most out of the interview its important to ensure you are using appropriate, well written questions.

I am going to be outlining some guidance for writing questions that will get your candidates to open up and provide you with quality evidence to make an informed selection decision. But I am not going to give you a list of questions to ask.


Make sure you understand the different question types and when it is appropriate to use them.

Closed questions are good to confirm information (do you have the correct phone number) and to check understanding but the majority of your questions should be open questions. You want to encourage your candidates to tell you about their experiences etc, so you want to ask open questions that pull out the candidate. Effective active listening skills should allow you to ask additional probing questions to dig deeper in response to what your candidates are telling you.

Ideally you want to ask experiential questions so the candidate can tell you about how they carried out their duties in the past; sharing their experiences in dealing with customers, how they handle conflict for example. It is better to ask the candidate to tell you about how they have handled situations rather than relying on hypothetical questions.


A hypothetical question asks candidates what they would do in a given situation rather than what they have done. The risk as an interviewer with this type of question is the candidate may tell you either the textbook answer, if there is one, or will tell you what they think you want to hear. Also, there is no guarantee that they will do what they say they would. Taking a simple example, we all know what the procedure is in the workplace if the fire alarm sounds but how many of us follow the rules 100% all of the time?

Avoid using leading questions. You are trying to get your candidate to share experiences and offer honest answers. There is a risk with leading questions that you are influencing the answers you will get.

Equally try to avoid asking multiple questions as these can confuse candidates as they may not know which question to answer first and possibly forget what all your questions were and as such, may then not answer them all.


Your questions should relate to the role being interviewed for and should only ask about information contained in the candidate’s application. All candidates should be asked the same questions and you should avoid questions that could be discriminatory.

The questions should reflect the information contained in your Role Profile/specification. Do you have essential and desirable criteria identified? Your questions should seek evidence of where the candidate meets the essential criteria. You should focus on the essentials as all your candidates should cover these rather than the desirables.

If you and I were both being interviewed for the same position, we need to be assessed fairly and against the same criteria. We should both match the essential criteria so when we are asked questions on these we can both be scored. However we may have different strengths and match different desirable criteria. It would not be fair to ask questions that you can answer, but I cannot.

Image shows two men sitting beside each other at a table for an interview.  They are shaking hands and smiling.  There is a file of papers on the table in front of them

The interview is an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate they are the most suitable person for the job, but you need to devise questions that are going to allow them to shine.

What have been your experiences of interviewing? Does the guidance above help? Candidates would also benefit from thinking about what questions they might be asked and how they would answer them. Please share your experiences in the comments and subscribe to my blog for notification of future blogs.


  1. I had so many interview over the last decade. My personal experience, this post is not that true. Theoretically it’s true, in reality is never like that!

      • An interviewee. I had to answer the same stupid question and, once i get the job, i found out that the questions were not related to my job at all. Right now job interviews are a huge waste of time.

      • Thats bad. I agree, the questions should relate directly to the job. Hopefully as I train HR and managers of the future, they will improve but you’re right, so many people have bad experiences because the interviewing managers don’t understand what they’re doing. I once saw a manager go into an interview with the intention of just winging it … no plan of what she was going to ask.

        It’s unprofessional and it’s not fair on the candidates, who deserve to be treated with respect.

      • Also, evidentially, interviews are the least reliable selection method we can use, but people prefer them to the alternatives

    • I have. I would like to start posting there, but I dont feel ready for it yet. I want to build up a bit more first

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