Preparing interview questions

The interview questions that you ask candidates should explore past job performance and cover all essential job functions, skills, and competencies. You should use various approaches to open up conversation topics and/or confirm information. Ask open-ended questions that will require the candidates to provide detailed answers.

Also, prepare follow-up questions and probes so that each candidate can elaborate on their answers.

Types of interview questions include situational, behavioural, and probing.

Situational interview questions

These questions describe a hypothetical scenario or situation relevant to the job and ask the candidate how they would respond to that particular situation. These questions are useful to gauge a candidate's ability to handle specific situations on the job. Examples include:

  • The phones are ringing, you have urgent emails in your inbox and you need to complete a complex report for your manager by the end of the day. How would you prioritize these tasks to ensure everything is completed?
  • You have been supervising an employee that has not been performing well recently. How would you handle this situation?
  • Your manager assigns you and your team member a project to be completed by the end of the week. When you meet with your teammate mid-week you find that they have not started their part of the project. What do you do?
  • You have been working on a large project and are almost complete when your manager informs you that the goals/priorities of the project have changed and you will need to start again. How do you respond?
  • What would you do if an important client asked you a question that you did not know the answer to?

Behavioural interview questions

These questions gauge the candidate’s ability to do the job based on their past behaviour. Past behaviour is a predictor of how a candidate will react to similar circumstances in your organization. Examples include:

  • Tell us about a time when you were required to analyze and solve a complex problem.
  • Provide an example of when you had to make a critical decision in your supervisor's absence.
  • Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker.
  • Tell us about the biggest change that you have had to deal with at work. How did you adapt to that change?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way.

Probing questions

These questions are useful to use as follow-up questions to the main interview questions. They allow candidates to elaborate and clarify their previous answers so that you have more insight into their skills and ability to perform the job.

Important: If you do choose to use probing questions, be sure that you are using them consistently with all candidates to ensure a fair process.

Examples include:

  • Who was involved in the situation?
  • What was your role?
  • What part did you play in decision making?
  • What steps did you take to ensure you met your goal?
  • What was the result?
  • What did you learn?
  • Why was this situation a challenge?
  • Why did you take that approach?
  • How did your actions help your organization?
  • How did you prepare?
  • How did you convince others to follow your idea?

Consider including some questions about equity, diversity, and inclusion. This will give you a good sense of how open and inclusive this individual is in nature and how they will fit into the organizational culture that you are trying to foster within your organization.

Sample questions could include:

  • Please tell us in your own words what Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) mean to you?
  • How do you see these terms impacting your day to day work at the office?

Prohibited questions

Canadian human rights legislationopens in new tab states that no employer should discriminate against a candidate based on any of the protected grounds. Therefore, do not ask prohibited questions such as those regarding the candidate’s age, gender, race, religion, or family status.

If a candidate mentions any of these grounds in their interview, do not make note of it or use it in your evaluation of the candidate.

Examples of questions to avoid in interviews include:

  • What year did you graduate from high school or post-secondary school?
  • Where were you born?
  • Where did you learn a foreign language?
  • What are your child care arrangements?
  • What are your religious practices?
  • How many days did you miss because of illness last year?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Are you planning to have children anytime soon?
  • Are you responsible for parental care?
  • Do you have senior parents or another family member that depends on you?
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