Just as you research possible questions that will come your way in an interview, a hiring manager/recruiter must research the best questions to ask. Their goal is to determine, within a relatively short period of time, enough of the right type of information to determine whether you are the best fit for a given position. With so many interview preparation resources available online, it is easy for candidates to be over-prepared and come to an interview with canned responses to those all-too-common interview questions. It is to the hiring manager’s and recruiter’s benefit to find those harder questions that will give real insight into a candidate.

As a recruiter with years of experience, I developed questions that would give me useful insight into a candidate’s suitability for the job. I often have a list of qualities I want the new hire to possess and will ask questions that will elicit responses that illustrate the candidate’s experience, conversational and problem-solving skills, and ability to think quickly.

Here are hints on how to prepare for any unusual, out-of-the box questions with pertinent information and well thought out responses that will make you the company’s new hire.

Applicable skills and experience

Begin by studying the job description and making a list of the pertinent skills that the new hire should have and a comprehensive description of your skills and experience.  Whenever you can, communicate your strengths for the role.

Problem-solving skills

No matter the type of business or your role within that business, problems will arise. Whether a significant issue or a minor situation, problems provide opportunities for improvement, and a company will benefit from employees who can rise to the occasion. Be prepared to describe your approach to identifying problems, how you would assess the situation, and reach possible solutions.

Questions such as, “Tell me about a situation in which you had to solve a problem. What did you do, and what was the outcome?” allows you to show how you took initiative, analyzed the situation, and acted mindfully to propose and implement a solution.

Ability to learn and adapt

Change is inevitable, and all roles evolve over time. Candidates that can adapt to change can ultimately help companies grow by avoiding higher turnover in the future. Show your adaptability and learning mindset by providing info on

  • Times you have taken on new tasks, assignments, and ideas.
  • Experiences with learning new tools, technology, and processes.
  • Examples of managing unpredictable situations and adapting to changing circumstances.

Behavior-based questions

Interview questions that reveal a candidate’s emotional intelligence are your opportunity to show your high level of self-awareness, situational awareness, and propensity to respond appropriately in the workplace. Behavioral interview questions such as, “Think of a time when you received feedback from someone else that surprised you,” and “Describe a situation when you had to deliver the same bad news to more than one person,” will allow you to illustrate your ability to step up in difficult situations.

These are a few of my favorite interviewing questions that I use while interviewing candidates that helped me make productive and successful hires. Be sure to consider how you would respond.

Q: What is your ideal position and why? This is my go-to question that gives me the most insight into a candidate’s suitability for the position. There have been many times when a candidate will describe their best-fit position only for me to realize that it does not align with the available position. The candidate appears unprepared with little attention to detail and lack of research. Be sure to not only research the company but study the details of the job description to make sure your answer is appropriate.

Q: Tell me something about yourself that others may be surprised to know about you. 

Can you think on your feet? The objective is to move you away from canned, rehearsed answers and get a glimpse of the real you.

Think back to the value you bring to an organization. Now, think of a personal story that shows one or more of those values. Answer this question with a story. Your interviewer is looking for something personal.

Q: If there were something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be? 

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to head up a major group project. I felt unprepared in terms of my management skills and declined. I wish I would have been open to challenging myself. To ensure I never felt that way again, I have taken management training courses and also built mentoring relationships. That has given me confidence in my managerial skills and given me a group of people I can consult about opportunities. This type of answers show how I proactively changed my future response to a challenge.

Q: Tell me about a time you had a difficult working relationship with a colleague. What was the challenge? How did you solve it?

The key to a strong response is to make sure the overall answer reflects positively on you. That means you will want to focus on what you did after the negative event and not on the event itself. 


I was able to sit down with my colleague and hear her side of the problem. I used my negotiation skills and together we solved our challenge.

With over 25 years experience as an Executive Recruiter, I have coached hundreds of candidates through the entire hiring process. This has made me qualified to help you come up with dynamic, unexpected answers to questions that may occur during the interview. You can be confident from the very beginning of the interview process and land your dream job.