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Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates (2023 Updated)

As an interviewer, it is very important that you ask the right questions!

Those questions help to identify top candidates for job positions open at your company. So, how can you get these questions right? Obviously, for a candidate to get an interview, their portfolio and resume must’ve been impressive. Asking strategic questions helps interviewers discover ideas and understand what a candidate can bring to the table.

If you’re not sure of what to ask, here’s a breakdown of strategic interview questions to ask candidates. So, let’s go through them…

Why Ask Strategic Questions?

Why Ask Strategic Questions

Truth be told, asking a candidate what their favorite color is won’t help the company’s growth or objectives. Casual questions are for small talk and to create rapport.

 Strategic questions help interviewers assess candidates and how they can fit into a new work culture. Imagine getting a candidate who can forge fresh strategies to help a company grow because the right questions were asked.

How a company can grow…

Before we get to the strategic questions and how to construct them, let’s look at why these questions are important. They open both the interviewer and candidate to a different point of view. They also take into account new information and possibilities on how a company can grow.

 So, here are some pointers to help you construct strategic questions. 

Read more: Best “Most Likely To” Questions

Shaping Strategic Questions

Shaping Strategic Questions

A strategic question creates motion. Don’t restrict yourself by asking questions that focus on theories and administrative work alone. Questions should give a candidate a chance to show how dynamic they are. 

These create options and avenues for candidates to express themselves. For example, the question, “Do you see yourself still working here in five years?” is limiting. Whereas the question, “How do you plan on elevating your career in the next five years?” gives a candidate options. It allows them to creatively think of all the possibilities they could explore. 


Strategic questions avoid the “Whys” because these do not create a more active and forward motion for the interview. “Why” questions can easily create the effect of creating resistance to change. The candidate ends up forming an answer they think you want to hear.

True, a “Why” question is powerful when it comes to focusing on values and meaning. However, in general, these don’t create a more active motion on the issue presented. Also, avoid constructing questions that require a simple “Yes” or “No” answer. They make your candidates passive and puts them in an uncreative state.

Different Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates 

We’ve covered how to form interview questions. Now it’s time to list a few general ones that you can use to get a clear idea of how candidates will fit in at your company. Here we go!

1 General Interview Questions

General Interview Questions

Based on the position being applied for, interviewers should ask specific questions about the job vacancy. These questions can focus on how a candidate’s skills can benefit the company. You should have all your questions listed before the interview. This way, you’ll ask all candidates the same questions. This is a fair approach in helping you assess fairly.

Invest in an LCD Writing Tablet and take down notes to help you evaluate candidates when all interviews are done. The tablet has a stylus attached to the built-in pen dock. It only comes in the color black, which is a good fashionable look in business. 

2 Ask Open-Ended Questions

This goes back to avoiding asking questions that are limited to “Yes” and “No” answers. Instead, ask questions that may require a step-by-step narration. It could even be about a previous project highlighted in the candidate’s portfolio. 

This is a more valuable way of assessing what type of results a candidate can produce. You’ll not only understand a candidate’s potential in the workplace but what they’re like as a person. Their behavior and social norms will be integrated into the work environment and culture.

3 Circumstantial Interview Questions To Ask 

As the title suggests, circumstantial questions are based on a specific situation. A candidate’s analytical and problem-solving skills are put to the test. You get to assess a candidate’s decision-making skills.

Before we go over a few top circumstantial questions, here’s a tip as an interviewer. When a candidate responds, look out for this structure. Their answer should reflect on a problem faced, the solution, and the benefit it has for the company. This is called the problem-solution-benefit formula.

Here are a few questions you can ask in the interview…

Tell me about a time you had to work with an important client or a difficult colleague?

Tell me about a time you had to work with an important client or a difficult colleague

Let’s face it, not everyone who’s already part of your team is easy to work with. Asking this question will help you identify whether a candidate would have a good rapport with others. The way they speak of others says a great deal about their character, even when describing a difficult colleague. 

Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for work. What impact did that make?

This open-ended question allows the candidate to show you how they’ve made an impact. Perhaps it was an impact on their colleagues, employers, or customers. This reveals how a candidate works either as an individual or in a team, if not both. 

Describe a situation where you weren’t satisfied with your job? What could’ve made it better?

According to research, one of the reasons an employee leaves their workplace is due to their mental health. This can be a result of their workload, conflict, or other factors. Asking this question is more beneficial for the interviewer and their company. It also shows what initiatives a company can take to avoid hostility in the workplace. 

4 Social And Behavioral Questions To Ask

Each workplace has its own culture, dynamics, and routines. Asking strategic questions helps to identify if a candidate can positively contribute to a work environment. 

That’s not all! Strategic social and behavioral questions show you how a candidate handles work-related situations, their work ethic, and interactive skills. A guide on Creating a Healthy Work Environment will help you develop a harmonizing work environment. 

Tell me about a time there was any form of misunderstanding at work. How did you contribute to the resolution?

This question eliminates the need for candidates to present themselves as being perfect. It shows that mistakes and conflict are inevitable in a workplace. 

However, being able to professionally handle and solve issues is an important skill in any workplace. It’s also an opportunity for the candidate to show their problem-solving skills. Are they able to find solutions in uncomfortable situations? Do they add confusion or clarity to a conflicting scenario? How they respond will tell you more about their work experience as well. 

Which goals did you set for yourself, and how did you achieve them?

Which goals did you set for yourself, and how did you achieve them

This is an open-ended question. It doesn’t specify whether these are personal or professional goals. It does, however, allow the candidate to showcase and outline their strengths.

Make sure you have a copy of the candidate’s documents as hard copies. This will come in handy when the candidate focuses on their professional achievements, and you have any follow-up questions. Keep the candidate’s portfolio and resume in a heavy-duty plastic two-pocket folder. It’s moisture and tear-resistant. Perfect for use during all interviews.

Which stressful situation did you face at work? How did you handle it?

Regardless of how amazing a job can be, it comes with a level of stress. This depends on a situation or even responsibilities. Other jobs are categorized as high-stress jobs, and those in these professions face a lot of pressure. 

Even if a job isn’t a high-stress job, there’s always a scenario where an employee implements their management skills. Ideally, you want a team player who can manage their workload when things aren’t rosy within the workplace. 

How To Be A Good Interviewer

How To Be A Good Interviewer

Apart from asking strategic questions, other qualities will make you a good interviewer. You should have a friendly demeanor even when conducting formal interviews. Have an ability to recognize talent and be detail-oriented. 

These are great skills to have, so what about physical presentation?

Dress appropriately and avoid sandals and shorts. Be prepared to take down notes and comments. If you prefer taking down handwritten notes, get yourself a Five Star Spiral Notebook. It comes in different colors, and it’s made with SFI-certified paper. 

Helpful Guides On Working As A Recruiter

If you’d like to work on your skills as a hiring manager, then check out Ready Set Recruit: The Hiring Manager’s Guide to Recruiting with Confidence, as well as the informative Hiring & Interview Process: Guide To Finding And Attracting Suitable Employee For Your System: Interviewing Dos And Don Ts For Hiring Managers, and The Effective Hiring Manager, to begin with.

Furthermore, I also recommend The Manager’s Book of Questions: 1001 Great Interview Questions for Hiring the Best Person, or if you work remotely, The Virtual Manager: Cutting-Edge Solutions for Hiring, Managing, Motivating, and Engaging Mobile Employees, and finally, The Manager’s Guide to HR: Hiring, Firing, Performance Evaluations, Documentation, Benefits, & Everything Else You Need to Know.

Perhaps you’re contemplating working as a recruiter, for that, we have our in-depth Recruiter Job Description to look at, or you might want to know what it’s like Working As A Recruiter Pros And Cons in 2023.

Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates – Final Thoughts

Strategic interview questions are a combination of general, circumstantial, and behavioral questions. This lets the interviewer assess a candidate as both an individual and a team member.

 You’ll be able to assess their managerial, analytical, and problem-solving skills. As an interviewer, you should have strategic questioning skills and interpersonal skills. This helps candidates ease their way into openly expressing themselves.

Now you know what to ask candidates; good luck finding the right person for the job!

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About Linda Shepard

Linda is employed by one of the biggest employment agencies in San Francisco and has over 15 years of experience in finding her clients their dream job. She prides herself on being able to match the right person to the right position, which inevitably creates a great working relationship for the employee and the company moving forward.

When she isn't writing articles or working, she enjoys gardening, socializing, and going for long walks on the beach and in nature.

She lives with her boyfriend Carl and their cat, Fluffy.

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