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58 interview topics that will help you find the best candidates

One mistake people make when interviewing candidates is asking only about skills and experience. And while yes, those are important, they’re just one aspect to consider. To predict employee workplace behavior and on-the-job success, rethink the way you choose your interview topics.

Ask a few questions from each of the following categories: functional expertise, executive function skills, behaviors and drives, leadership capabilities, and whole person.

Here’s a list of 58 interview topics for you to choose from:

Functional expertise

Functional expertise covers the qualifications, experience, and knowledge your candidate needs to succeed at their role. Without these, your candidates may take longer to onboard, or worse, never hit their full stride. Examples of functional expertise include:

1. Technical skills

2. Capability

3. Depth of knowledge in areas of expertise

4. Certifications

5. Education

HR leader discusses interview topics with job candidate

Executive function skills

Imagine your ideal candidate. Do you think of someone who takes notes, puts in discretionary effort, and plans ahead? Or someone who doesn’t? While functional expertise is useful, without the executive function skills to back it up, even the most knowledgeable employees will fall short. Questions around executive function skills should focus on topics like:

6. Short-term planning

7. Long-term planning

8. Effective communication

9. Work ethic

10. Coachability

11. Strategic planning

12. Goal setting

13. Delegating authority and details

14. Decision making (quantitative and qualitative)

15. Critical thinking

Behaviors and drives

Behavior is one of the most important parts of a candidate’s background. After all, a salesperson might have 10 years of experience, but if they don’t like working with people, how effective do you think they’ll be? Behavior isn’t just about competency, though. When an employee’s personality matches the job, they’re less likely to suffer from employee disengagement. You can analyze an employee’s behavior and drives by combining a talent assessment with some of the topics below:

16. Attention to detail

17. Process orientation

18. Tenacity

19. Resourcefulness

20. Grit

21. Resilience

22. Drive

23. Competitive spirit

24. Commitment to excellence

25. Risk management

26. Taking initiative

27. Collaboration

28. Decision making

If you’re looking for a more thorough understanding of an employee’s behavior and drives, consider using a scientifically validated tool, like the PI Behavioral Assessment.

Join 10,000 companies solving the most complex people problems with PI.

Hire the right people, inspire their best work, design dream teams, and sustain engagement for the long haul.

Leadership capabilities

As every first-time manager knows, leadership isn’t as easy as it looks. When your organization hires a strong leader, though, the results can be immediate. Projects get done faster, morale tends to rise, and you reap the full benefits of employee engagement. That said, it’s difficult to evaluate leadership in an interview setting. To get the full perspective on an candidate’s leadership capabilities, ask them about topics like:

29. Preferred management style

30. Receiving feedback

31. Giving feedback

32. Providing coaching

33. Managing people effectively

34. Inspiring followership

35. Managing up, down, and across the organization

36. Adjusting management style based on employee feedback

37. Managing high-performing teams

38. Ability to transform a mediocre team into a high-performing team

To learn more about the effect of leadership on retention, check out our 2021 People Management Report.

manager interviewing candidate

Understanding the whole person

While it’s easy to get lost in the data, you also need to remember: You’re not hiring a resume. You’re hiring a person. If a candidate’s values don’t align with your business goals, they might cause a headache, no matter how good their skills are on paper. You should always make sure to ask candidates about at least some of the questions below, to evaluate their fit with your company:

39. Growth areas

40. Blind spots

41. Defining candidate traits

42. Cultural fit/add

43. Role models and mentors

44. Learning style

45. Stress management

46. Energy/passion

47. Character

48. Personal communication style

49. Career trajectory

50. Career goals

51. Major accomplishments

52. Adaptability

53. Work-life balance/integration


Some interview topics are important, but don’t fit neatly into the boxes above. These include:

54. Preparation/research

55. Comfort with conflict

56. Conflict resolution

57. Negotiation

58. Ability to disagree and commit

Divide interview topics and conquer.

Once you’ve chosen your topics, meet beforehand to divide them among the interview team members. This ensures you cover the right topics and people aren’t asking redundant questions.

Finally, remember the two main goals of an interview: Find out what you need to know and offer the candidate an excellent experience. That way, if you do make an offer, they’ll be more inclined to accept!


Kristen is the people operations manager at PI. She sang the national anthem for the Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, and Harlem Globetrotters.

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