5 Powerful Interview Questions and Why They Work

Hiring managers often struggle with determining whether a candidate is a solid fit for the position, their team, and the company.

How do you get your candidates to reveal who they truly are in one interview? What are the questions you should ask? What are the red flags you need to watch out for?

(Hiring internally? Check out our separate post on internal interview questions.)

We’ve compiled a list of five of the most powerful interview questions and, more importantly, the reasons why they work.

1. Describe a single project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career to date.

Candidates should impress you. So, chances are, accomplishment-related questions will give them the opportunity to highlight themselves.

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Did they spearhead a big project? What’s the award that they’re most proud of? Do they have a major achievement up their sleeve? Achievements are a great way to learn more about a candidate, their work ethic, and their ability to work with a team.

Plus, if a candidate can’t name a previous accomplishment, then they’re probably not a good fit for your company. After all, past experience is a good indicator of future success.

2. When was a time you messed up?

Most job seekers absolutely dread talking about their screw-ups. But that doesn’t change the fact that this question is an effective way to find out how an individual deals with their mistakes.

Do they have a tendency to blame others for what they did wrong? Do they admit their mistakes and learn from them? This specific question can reveal their level of self-awareness.

It’s also a great way to gauge whether they’re humble and mindful of their own flaws. For example, if a candidate gives a “fake” screw-up or blames a colleague for their mess up—that’s a sign that they have a habit of deflecting the blame from themselves.

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3. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you handle it?

This question is a popular one, and for good reason. Whether it’s a competition, a big project, or an exam, you’re bound to have failed at least once. And, even after you get the job, you’re bound to experience setbacks every now and then.

You might not meet your success metrics the first time around. A big project might fail, or you may face conflict with team members. These situations are inevitable when you’re starting a new job.

That’s why this question is so important. Getting a grasp on how that person tackles—and, more importantly, copes with—failure will help you determine whether they’re a good fit for the job.

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4. What did you like and dislike about your previous job?

You know most job seekers cringe after hearing this question. No applicant wants to slander their current or previous boss during a job interview.

However, posing this question will give you some greater insight about the tasks that they love and the tasks they weren’t very happy with. Will this candidate be happy with the tasks for the role, or would they be bored? Are they likely to stay in the role for the long term?

Insight into the tasks that candidates like and dislike will be invaluable in determining whether they’re a good match.

Plus, if they end up complaining endlessly or repeatedly about a task, that’s a red flag.

5. Do you have any questions for me?

This question usually marks the end of an interview. But you can determine what’s important to a candidate based on the questions they ask.

Questions to Ask As a Candidate!

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For example, if they ask about collaboration in teams, that’s an indicator that they value working with others and want to gauge whether your company is the right fit.

The questions they ask also reveal their personality and communication style.

Smart questions are an indicator of knowledge and level of preparation for the job. A question about your company’s achievements or past projects signifies that the candidate has done a lot of research on your company and is serious about taking on the role.


Job interviews are tough. You want to ask good questions and really zone in on the best candidate.

While there are plenty of questions you can ask, you’ll want to keep these questions in your back pocket to gain valuable insights out of a short interview. Remember these five interview questions, and try them out to help you find the perfect fit.

About the Author

Stephen Roe is the founder of Thoughtful Prose, a company dedicated to writing superior content that helps readers and businesses alike.