1. What do you like to do for fun?
Job interviews — particularly panel interviews — can be a stressful
experience for candidates, so at the beginning of the interview,
focus on putting the interviewee at ease. Candidates who are more
comfortable will be more open and expressive with their answers.
Use this question to establish rapport with the candidate and make
them feel like a part of the group rather than a subject being
interrogated. Showing interest and curiosity about the candidate
outside of the office encourages them to open up. Additionally, you
can catch a glimpse of your potential new hire's personality and how
they might relate to others in the organization.
A word of caution: Make sure your interviewers are aware that this
question could cause certain biases, such as similarity
bias, to arise. Teams should work together to identify biases when
they occur, and implement structured safeguards to ensure they don’t
impact the hiring process.
Follow-up: How did you get interested in that?
2. Why do you want to work for our company?
A candidate's answer to this question can tell you a lot of things:
why they want the job, how enthusiastic they are about joining your
team, and whether they have a good understanding of the values and
goals of your company. It can reveal how well they comprehend
company structures and how mature and advanced they are in their
development as professionals.
It can also showcase their skills at reading their audience.
Assuming they did their research on who would be interviewing them
(and assuming you gave them all of the relevant information in the
interview-confirmation email), they should be
able to address and engage different team members in the room with
an idea of how they are professionally connected.
Follow-up: Why are those attributes important to you? Why do you
think you’ll be able to succeed at our company?
3. In five minutes, explain something that is complicated but that you know well.
This is a great question to ask during a panel interview because
answering properly means understanding your audience, not just the
topic you’re explaining. It's a test of a candidate's communication
skills, and their ability to break down complex subjects and convey
only the essential pieces of information. Those are crucial skills
for anyone applying for a job that involves speaking, teaching, or
writing for an audience.
Ideally, the candidate should be able to explain their chosen
subject (it doesn't really matter what they choose to talk about)
well enough that everyone on the panel understands. They should also
be able to answer follow-up questions in an easy manner.
Follow-up: How did you decide what information to tell us, and what to leave out?
4. What three important attributes or skills would you bring to our company?
On the surface, the candidate's answer will reflect what they view
as their best qualities. By drilling deeper, you can get some
insight into how they see themselves fitting into your company.
This is also a productive group-interview question because you have
people present from different departments, who may place greater or
lesser value on the same attributes. In follow-up discussion, this
also gives the hiring manager an opportunity to discuss the role in
greater detail, and how those traits align with the job description
and day-to-day tasks.
Follow-up: Why do you see each attribute as a strength? How will they benefit the company?
5. Describe a mistake you made at your last job and how you resolved it.
When a candidate describes a real-life situation, it gives you a
window into concrete actions they took and the reasoning behind
those steps, often making it more revealing than a hypothetical
question. Sofia Quintero from EnjoyHQ says
that during a group interview, they “mostly ask for stories from
previous jobs. We try to understand what the candidate likes and
dislikes from his/her previous working environment.”
The response to this particular question reveals a lot about the
candidate's pride or humility and their ability to own up to
mistakes, make them right, and prevent similar mistakes in the
If the candidate can't name a mistake or can only come up with a
very minor, incidental one, that's a sign they may have trouble
admitting when they've done something wrong. Most everyone would
agree that it's ok to make mistakes, as long as you take the steps
to fix and learn from them.
Follow-up: If you could do things again, what would you do
differently? How have you changed your work habits in response to
6. Describe a time you experienced a conflict while working on a team project.
The answer to this question can reveal a lot about a candidate's
conflict-resolution skills, capacity for teamwork, and attitude
Even the most high-functioning teams run into conflicts, and you
want your hire to be able to handle these conflicts in stride,
articulate a path forward, and treat others with respect. How did
they handle themselves (and others) during the conflict? Do they
take sides? Do they know when to keep their cool and not intervene
if doing so will only aggravate others? Do they intuit the right
time to loop in leadership? Are they a team player, or do they just
look out for themselves?
Follow-up: How do you think your stance helped bring the conflict to
a resolution? (Ask this if they weren't directly involved.) What do
you think those involved could have done to resolve the conflict
7. Tell me about a time you identified a problem with a process and the steps you took to improve it.
The purpose of this question is to glean some insight into the
candidate’s approach to problem solving, as well as their initiative
in the workplace.
Use the candidate's response to assess their work ethic and culture
fit. Is the candidate proactive about improving company policies and
functions? Will they work to change the company for the better, or
are they happy to coast along with the status quo? Do they take
risks? This question also helps evaluate the candidate’s ability to
influence other teams to make decisions and commit resources. Likely
there were teams that were resistant to changing a particular
process — look for ways in which the candidate was able to advocate
for the desired changes and make compromises when needed.
Follow-up: What do you wish you had done differently? What would
you have done if [XYZ] wasn't available to you?
8. Tell us about a time you disagreed with the rules. How did you handle the situation, and how did it turn out?
These are additional culture-fit questions that can reveal the
candidate's attitudes toward authority. If a candidate has a hard
time thinking of an example, ask them for one that is unrelated to
Is your candidate a rule follower or a risk taker? Both could have a
place at your company, but it's important that they have the good
judgment to understand when it's okay to bend the rules and when
rules should be respected. You don't want someone who is blatantly
defiant anymore than you want someone who blindly follows the status
quo. Use the group setting to probe their decision with follow-up
questions that flesh out their thought process.
Follow-up: What do you wish you'd done differently? What did you
learn from this experience?