What types of questions should you ask in onsite interviews?

Orla Hodnett
Orla Hodnett

Onsite interviews are one of the most useful parts of the recruiting process. So how do you make the most of interviews with potential candidates?

The interview stage of your recruiting project is extremely valuable and may be your only opportunity for face-to-face discussion with candidates. Interviews offer you far greater insight on your candidates, so you need to make the most of the opportunity. You need to have a varied line of questioning, so here are a few areas to consider:

Practical questions

If you are interviewing, you are likely to be coming into the final phases of your recruiting project. You may even have a good idea of the candidate you are going to hire. You need to start thinking about the practicalities of onboarding and training already.

At the interview stage you should ask a candidate about their current status. Ask them about their salary expectations, so that you and the candidate are on the same page. Another significant question is their notice period. Your company has a requirement for one extra team member, so if they have to give 6 to 8 weeks notice, you need to know about it.


Any interview will give you great insight into how someone perceives themselves. They will be able to tell you their strengths and weaknesses. They will also be able to identify past successes easily and be able to describe their approach to work with you. But how are they perceived by others?

To get a candidate to give a more comprehensive profile of themselves, perhaps ask them how their manager might describe them. The value they place on larger achievements may not represent their performance or attitude as a whole.

Understanding how they work

You will want to know how to get the best out of your new hire and how best to integrate them with your team, so you will need to establish what makes them tick. Their approach to work may be at odds with the rest of your organisation, so despite experience, a candidate may not be a suitable hire.  

A face-to-face interview offers the opportunity to find out what motivates or frustrates your candidate. Establishing if they have a competitive streak or a strong sense of teamwork will also indicate how they deal in a group dynamic.

Career goals

Understanding a candidate’s goals will certainly help with retention. If you understand what a candidate wants from the role, you will know if they are right for your organisation.  If you determine that a candidate only perceives your role as a stepping stone to something else, they are not good for your company in the long term.

The classic question is “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” which often can be somewhat of a challenge for candidates. A more direct approach might yield better answers from candidates. Maybe ask them about what they want to achieve in the role.

Successes and failures

If you are seriously considering a candidate and they have reached the interview stage, you will want to know how they might perform. It can be difficult to determine this outside of the interview environment.

Asking candidates about specific successes in the workplace will give an enormous insight into a candidate’s capabilities. It is also a good idea to ask a candidate to detail how exactly they made these successes happen and ask them if they overcame any difficulties.

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