Strategic interview questions to ask candidates

Are you interviewing potential candidates to join your company, but aren’t sure what strategic interview questions to ask?

In this blog post, we are going over critical questions to find out your candidate's strategic abilities.

Types of interview questions?

Interviewers should take care of three things:

  • to evaluate the candidate's skills and experience
  • to understand their personality and style
  • and to see what kind of potential they have

Some interviewers use a list of questions that help them accomplish these goals. Interviewers can also create their own set of questions as long as they're relevant and follow a logical progression. The most important aspect is that the interviewer needs to take advantage of every opportunity for conversation, listen closely, and probe where appropriate.

The most common interview questions are the competencies and skills questions. These questions generally focus on skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, and others. However, the best interviewers know that there is a lot more to hiring someone than just their skillset.

Reworking Colleague Interview Collaboration

What is a strategic interview question?

A strategic interview question is designed to elicit information about a candidate’s personality and values and the way they will fit within your company culture. These types of questions can help you discover who would be a good fit for your company.

Why ask strategic interview questions?

Why ask strategic interview questions?

The goal is not only to assess the candidate’s skills, experience, knowledge but also to see what kind of potential they have.

Strategic thinking adds value to companies in 4 ways:

  1. Strategic thinking enables individuals to be forward-looking. This makes them especially useful in preparing for an unpredictable future.
  2. Their broad perspective allows them to spot potential problems and avert conflicts, seeing the interconnectedness between business elements.
  3. External focus allows them to keep you up-to-date with industry trends and economy-related events.
  4. Global perspective helps them stay up to date in this interconnected world.


Getting the most out of your interview questions:

1.   Ask behavioural-based or competency-based interview questions

If you want to know whether a candidate is a good fit, you must ask behavioural-based or competency-based interview questions. Many companies have switched to this methodology because it offers many benefits including the elimination of selection bias and can reduce the chance of making hiring mistakes.

Moreover, behavioural-based interviews provide insight into what the candidate is like as a person. This knowledge will help you in doing better workplace culture matches and predicting how well they will perform on the job.

2.   Ask cognitive interview questions

How can you assess someone’s cognitive abilities?

Cognitive ability is a mental power to understand and use knowledge, especially in solving problems.

Cognitive interview questions are designed to assess a person’s ability to think.

Researchers believe they are more accurate in predicting performance than traditional interview questions. Research has also shown that these questions can make it easier for employers to identify the best employees.

The importance of cognitive interview techniques is to make sure that the interviewer does not miss out on any information or details about a candidate's background or skills. In order to do this, the interviewer has to ask a series of structured questions in a specific order.

The cognitive interview is an alternative to the conventional job interview. The focus is on how well an individual can think through problems and articulate thoughts.

It asks the candidate for an example of when they had been faced with a certain task and what they did.

The purpose of this technique is to help employers gauge how candidates think about problems and solve them. Rather than how well they might be able to articulate their thoughts on paper or verbally.

An example of this is, “Tell me about a time when you were faced with competing deadlines and needed to prioritize your tasks?”


3.   Have structured interviews

Structured interviews are asking the same questions in the same order to each candidate. This interviewing approach is used to reduce hiring bias.

As well as this, the interview experience is the same for each candidate.

The interviewer is also able to compare candidate answers more easily. Also, the interviewer and candidate typically won’t take the conversation off into a new tangent which can influence other questions and answers.

Reworking Video Interview Across Multiple Devices

Reworking Video Interview Across Multiple Devices

Examples of strategic interview questions to ask candidates

The workplace can be a competitive and dynamic environment. One of the ways to set yourself apart in the job market is by hiring and retaining top talent.

Some of the questions that you ask will be related to what is expected from future performance. While others will give you an insight into their personality traits and what they value most.

So, how do we interview strategically? The answer is: with a purpose.

Here are some examples of strategic questions that could be asked in an interview:


1. When have you made a mistake at work? How did you try to rectify the situation?

The best way to judge a candidate's work is by examining what they've done when something has gone wrong. Do they take responsibility for the mistake, or do they point fingers?

Making mistakes should be viewed as your opportunity to learn. The person you should hire will take the time to try and understand what happened and make use of their experience to avoid repeating the same mistake.


2. What goals have you set yourself that you accomplished in the past? Or even, goals you did not accomplish and why?

This question allows you to analyse the candidate’s ability to self motivate and reach their goals. You can evaluate how committed and goal-driven the candidate is. It can also help you assess their organizational skills, as an effective organisation is necessary to achieve most goals.

A competent candidate is able to set self-goals and achieve them with minimal supervision. If they're interviewing for a managerial role, this becomes an even more valuable characteristic to have.


3. Describe how you handle stress, and how you’re able to overcome the stress. Did it impact your colleagues? How did you help rectify your current job situation? 

Stress is something that we all experience. Though the amount will vary considerably depending on what profession you're in. Some jobs are less stressful than others while some are highly demanding (policemen, surgeons, doctors etc).

For high-stress jobs, an indicator of whether a candidate can handle pressure well is how they answer this question. Hiring someone who has already proven that they will be able to remain calm in tough situations can help reduce your hiring risk. Listen carefully to learn how they deal with difficulties so you can understand their strategy.


4. How do you inform people about your strategic decisions?

This question assesses the candidate's ability to communicate effectively their ideas and planning with their team.

It can also be used as an effective way to see if the candidates consider and value their team members' ideas and input.


5. Live problem solving

During your interview, you can get your candidates to solve issues in real-time. In their answer, you should look to see how they approach the problem, how they tackle and how they solve it.

Harvard Business Review suggests you look for the following in their answers:

  • A list compiled of the potential problems
  • A strategic plan
  • Forecasts
  • Environmental and economic factors
  • Communicating and consulting with stakeholders and other departments.


How prepared are you for your interviews?

Discovering the right candidate for your role is essential for the success of your company.

When you need great leaders, strategic thinkers can help propel your company in the right direction.

For more great interview questions see a past post of ours on problem solving competency questions.  A successful interview will have a healthy mix of different types of interview questions. Be sure to read our other types of questions and work them into your interview questions.


Good luck with your strategic interview questions to ask candidates.

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