Sample Interview Questions

Applicant                                             

Date and time                      

Interviewer                                            

This position serves as ____________________.

Describe previous positions that you have had working as ______.

Professional Office Skills

  1. What do you think is the most important factor in managing an office effectively and efficiently? Explain how you have done this in the past.
  2. What is your approach to problem-solving? Give an example of where your approach has been effective.
  3. What experience do you have with interpreting policy and disseminating guidelines and developing procedures for others?
  4. Give examples of when and how you have maintained files and records, both paper and electronic.
  5. Give us an example of your experience with computer and typing proficiency.
  6. Describe any experience you have had with clerical research and the compilment of findings into an organized formant and how you would approach this task in this position?
  7. Describe your knowledge in the area of financial transactions such as order office equipment and supplies and monitoring the office budget.
  8. Describe your experience with composing correspondence on your own initiative or with very little instruction.

The following sample questions were taken from the Society for Human Resource Management website: www.shrm.org, August 2004:

Interpersonal Skills

  1. What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?
  2. Describe experience supervising other employees. How do you measure your effectiveness in this area?
  3. What would your last boss say about you?
  4. Describe how you like to be managed, and the best relationship you’ve had with a previous boss.
  5. What do you do when you know you are right and your boss disagrees with you?  Give me an example.
  6. If your colleagues had an opportunity to tell us your primary strength-what would that be? And, your primary weakness-what would that be?
  7. Describe your experience working with highly confidential information. How would you handle an employee who requests “confidential” information from you?
  8. As a component of this position, you may have to work on a team on certain projects. Describe when you’ve worked on a team before and what, in your opinion, constitutes an effective team? What do you expect from others on the team and what do you need from others on the team?
  9. What do you do when others resist of reject your ideas or actions?
  10. Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult colleague.  How did you handle this?
  11. Explain the phrase “work ethic” and describe yours.
  12. What goals did you set for yourself during your last position? Did you achieve your goals?
  13. What methods do you use to make decisions? When do you find it most difficult to make a decision?
  14. Under what kinds of conditions do you learn best?
  15. To you, which is more desirable: A business that is run in an efficient business-like manner OR a business that is run in a personal and friendly way?

Behavioral

  1. Describe what you would say if asked to talk about yourself in a group of 15 people.
  2. If someone told you that you had made an error, describe how you would react and what you would say in your defense.
  3. If someone asked you for assistance with a matter that is outside the parameters of your  job description, what would you do?
  4. You are a committee member and disagree with a point or decision. How will you respond?
  5. Describe what you would classify as a crisis.
  6. You are angry about an unfair decision. How do you react?
  7. Suppose you are in a situation where deadlines and priorities change frequently and rapidly. How would you handle it?
  8. How do you know when you are stressed? What do you do to de-stress?
  9. Tell me about a time when you were a part of a great team. What was your part in making the team effective?
  10. Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. How did you handle the situation?
  11. How do you think your co-workers would respond if you were absent from work?
  12. Can you tell me about a time during your previous employment when you suggested a better way to perform a process?
  13. Tell me about a personal or career goal that you have accomplished and why that was important to you.
  14. Give an example of a time when you were trying to meet a deadline, you were interrupted, and did not make the deadline. How did you respond?
  15. What strengths did you rely on in your last position to make you successful in your work?
  16. What do you do when you know you are right and your boss disagrees with you? Give me an example of when this has happened in your career.
  17. Tell me about a situation you wish that you had handled differently based on the outcome.  What was the situation?  What would you change (or will you change) when faced with a similar situation?
  18. Suppose your supervisor asked you to get information for them that you know is confidential and he/she should not have access to. What would you do?
  19. Describe a time when you performed a task outside your perceived responsibilities. What was the task? Why did you perceive it to be outside your responsibilities? What was the outcome?
  20. It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Your supervisor gives you an assignment that needs to be finished by 8:00 Monday morning. You have already made plans to be away the entire weekend. What would you do?
  21. If you observed a co-worker who made inappropriate sexual or racial remarks to another employee, and it was obvious to you that the situation was creating an uncomfortable environment, what would you do.

Creative Thinking

  1. What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year? Please take a minute and tell us what you liked about it.
  2. What was the most creative thing you did in your last job?
  3. What is your interpretation of “success?”
  4. Describe an ideal work environment or “the perfect job.”
  5. In what way(s) do you express your personality in the workplace?

Leadership

  1. How would you describe an ideal supervisor?
  2. What strengths did you rely on in your last position to make you successful in your work?
  3. As a supervisor, it is essential to motivate employees in your area.  Sometimes this must be done using non-monetary means.  Please describe some creative ways you have motivated and recognized employees in the past non-monetarily.
  4. Explain, step by step, how you have coached an employee who had performance problems.
  5. If we were able to interview a few of your past employees, how would they describe your supervisory style? Explain why.
  6. If you had to describe your own leadership style as directive, delegating, or coaching, which would you choose? Please explain why giving examples.

Management

  1. Define professional behavior and/or conduct appropriate in the workplace.
  2. Why do you think a team of people – sports team, work team, may not work well together?
  3. Tell us about your management style – people, teamwork, direction?
  4. Describe an ideal supervisor.
  5. What is your own philosophy of management?
  6. How have you participated in planning processes?
  7. What was the most challenging personnel issue you’ve had to deal with and how did you handle it?
  8. Describe for me a time when you have come across questionable business practices; how did you handle the situation?
  9. A new policy is to be implemented organization-wide. You do not agree with this new policy. How do you discuss this policy with your staff?
  10. Describe for me a decision you made which would normally have been made by your supervisor?  What was the outcome?
  11. Discuss and differentiate between remediation, corrective action, and discipline.
  12. Explain, step by step, how you have handled an employee who had performance problems.
  13. Why should employees seek to improve their knowledge and skill base?  How would you motivate them to do so?
  14. What coaching or mentoring experience have you had? With groups or one-on-one? How did you determine the appropriate way to coach/mentor and what were the results?
  15. Management requires both good writing and verbal skills for good communication. When it comes to giving information to employees that can be done either way, do you prefer to write a memo OR talk to the employee?
  16. When making a decision to fire an employee, do you find it easy because of the company’s needs OR difficult because of the employee’s needs?
  17. Managing requires motivating employees as well as accomplishing tasks. Do you find it more natural to point out what’s wrong so employees can accomplish tasks competently OR to praise employees for their work and then point out what may need correcting?
  18. Managers need good information and managers need to make good decisions. Do you tend to gather information up to a deadline in order to make a better-informed decision OR gather just enough information to make a good decision quickly?
  19. What is the largest number of employees you have supervised and what were their job functions?
  20. Are you best at dealing with details and day-to-day operations OR with concepts, envisioning and future planning? Give me an example.
  21. Organization and time management are essential when supervising others.  Give specific examples of large projects or assignments you have been given and then explain how you went about prioritizing and organizing the task completion through your staff.
  22. Suppose you are in a situation where deadlines and priorities change frequently and rapidly. How would you handle this?
  23. What methods do you use to make decisions? When do you find it most difficult to make a decision?
  24. A new policy is to be implemented organization-wide.  You do not agree with this new policy.  How do you discuss this policy with your staff?
  25. Overall, please tell us what you have found to be the most rewarding aspect of supervising others.  What about the most challenging?

Executive

  1. Would you please describe your interest in becoming (title of position).
  2. Tell me about your current position or most recent position and how you helped the organization accomplish its goals and mission.
  3. What did you do for that company that made a difference and for which you believe you will be remembered?
  4. Tell me about your experience in leading and managing an organization similar to ours.
  5. Do you have a personal philosophy of management?
  6. Tell me about your fiscal management experience: budgeting, reporting, cutting costs, building and maintaining reserves.
  7. Have you ever had to champion an unpopular change? How did you handle it?
  8. Have you ever faced a significant ethical problem at work? How did you handle it?
  9. Tell me about your experience working with a board of directors. What approach and philosophy did you follow in working with boards?
  10. What do you think is the role of the President/CEO in strategic planning for the organization?
  11. Give me some example of how and when you were the spokesperson for your current or most recent company.
  12. As our President/CEO, how would you proceed if the board of directors adopted a policy or program that you felt was inconsistent with the goals and mission of our company?
  13. Tell me about your experiences with staff development. How do you think your current or most recent staff would describe you?
  14. How do you stay informed of current ideas on management and the (industry field for the company/organization)?
  15. Based upon what you have read and heard, what ideas do you have about continuing and increasing the success of this company?
  16. Are there any programs, policies, or actions of (name of company/organization) that you have heard of with which you have concerns or differences?
  17. If you are hired for this position and are still with (name of company/organization) five years from now, how do you think the organization will be different?

Functional

The following questions are function-specific.

Accounting

  1. Describe some recent projects you were involved in to improve Accounting’s efficiency/effectiveness. What did you do?
  2. Describe for me a time when you have come across questionable accounting practices. How did you handle the situation?
  3. Have you completed month end/year end closing? How much experience do you have with this?
  4. Describe your most challenging encounter with month end/year end closing. How did you resolve the problem?
  5. Describe your PL (profit/loss) experience.
  6. What type of inventory audits have you been involved in? Describe challenges you’ve faced.
  7. Tell me about your knowledge of commissions accounting.
  8. What experience have you had with tax accounting?

Customer Service

  1. What do you like about being in Customer Service?  What do you find is the most difficult part of being in Customer Service?
  2. What do you think is fundamental to effective Customer Service?
  3. Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to give great service to a customer?
  4. Describe a process or system that you improved so customers would be better served.
  5. Tell me about a time when you asked for feedback on your customer service skills from your manager or co-worker and then used that response to improve your work.
  6. Tell me about a time when you knew that your customer might not get what he or she needed on time.  How did you handle this?
  7. Tell me about a time when you had to say “No” to a customer because it was against company policy.
  8. Tell me about a time when you had trouble working with a difficult or demanding customer.  How did you handle this?

Information Technology

  1. In your experience, what are the essential elements of an IT disaster recovery plan?
  2. Describe the types of network security features you have implemented or maintained in the past.
  3. When you have several users experiencing computer problems, how do you determine which users get help first?
  4. Describe your decision-making process when selecting which IT certifications to pursue.
  5. Of your certifications, which one(s) have you found most helpful when you encounter technical problems on the job?
  6. In your opinion, how does managing a staff of technical workers differ from managing other kinds of workers?
  7. What brands of hardware do you feel most comfortable dealing with?
  8. What software have you had the most success supporting?
  9. What characteristics do you feel are necessary for success as a technical support worker?
  10. Describe a past situation in which you provided excellent customer service to a user.

Optional Situational Questions:

Please explain how you would handle the following situations:

  1. You observe two of your employees arguing in a central location in the office.
  2. One of your employees comes to you complaining about another employee and insisting they should no longer work together.
  3. One of your employees comes to you to complain that he/she has a more demanding work load than another employee and wants the workload to be shifted.

General

  1. Could you share with us a recent accomplishment of which you are most proud?
  2. What would you have liked to do more of in your last position? What held you back?
  3. Tell us a bit about your work background, and then give us a description of how you think it relates to our current opening.
  4. What are your qualifications in your area of expertise, i.e., what skills do you have that make you the best candidate for this position? Include any special training you have had (on-the-job, college, continuing education, seminars, reading, etc.) and related work experience.
  5. Why have you applied for this position?
  6. What skill set do you think you would bring to this position?
  7. Tell me about your present or last job. Why did you choose it? Why did you/do you want to leave?
  8. What was your primary contribution/achievement? Biggest challenge?
  9. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  10. In what areas would you like to develop further? What are your plans to do that?
  11. What are some positive aspects of your last employment/employer? What are some negative aspects?
  12. What do you think about SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)?
  13. What are your career path interests?
  14. What do you know about our company?
  15. Why should we hire YOU?
  16. If the position required it, would you be willing to travel?
  17. If the position required it, would you be willing to relocate?
  18. If you were offered this position, when would you be available to start?
  19. After learning about this opportunity, what made you take the next step and apply for the job?
  20. If you are the successful applicant, how would you expect to be different after a year in this position?
  21. Now that you have learned about our company and the position you are applying for, what hesitation or reluctance would you have in accepting this job if we offer it to you?
  22. Tell me anything else you would like us to know about you that will aid us in making our decision.
  23. What questions would you like to ask me?

These questions are used and were submitted by SHRM members. If you have additional questions that you would like to contribute to the database, please send them to infocen@shrm.org with the words “Sample Interview Questions” in the subject line. We are particularly interested in expanding our offering of function-specific questions in areas such as Information Technology, Sales/Marketing, Administrative, etc.

Additional SHRM Online Sources for interview questions: