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21 Interview Questions that Work (and Why)

21 Interview Questions that Work

It’s job-hunting season! This blog shares favorite questions and techniques (with the reasoning behind these questions) that our employees have used or encountered for a variety of roles in medical device development. An interesting mix of classics and new twists, we hope they provide inspiration for future interviews and insights into StarFish culture. 

When interviewing candidates, it’s important to ask questions that explore inside the veneer. This will help you understand how the candidate may react in non-core circumstances. For example, we react differently when in stressful circumstances. We are also more passionate when story telling a recalled event.   

Give Me an Example  

Please tell us about your most difficult situation with a client/team member/peer (depending on the hiring position). It is easy to add additional exploring questions depending on the story told. I also like to ask a scenario question that is linked to the hiring position that cannot easily be anticipated by the candidate. This will test original thought and/or the ability to think on your feet. 

What’s the best and worst decision you’ve made in the last year or two? This question requires the candidate to create a topical example of their personal experience and what worked or didn’t work in their own words. It always leads to some interesting stuff.  

Everyone has a story from their previous work experience. Tell me one of your stories. This draws the interviewee out to talk about a challenge that they surmounted, its context and how they came through that challenge. Challenges surmounted make memorable stories in people’s narrative of themselves.  

Self Assessments 

How have you changed over recent years? I love to get a sense of an individual’s self-awareness of how they show up and how that’s changed with experience. 

Tell me a little about yourself. How they answer that question will say a lot about the kind of person they are and how they think and organize their thoughts. It also typically leads to a candid conversation and it’s a very open-ended question. I tend to favor soft skills over hard skills and expertise when I’m hiring. This question generates the type of conversation I’m seeking.   

Tell me about your biggest failure, and what you learned from it. Whether someone answers with a thoughtful lesson, or a humblebragging attempt at humour or self-reverence, it tells a lot about them.   

What would you like to improve about yourself? It makes the candidate vulnerable, but also allows me to see where their values are and how they want to improve.   

What is one thing that you need to improve and why? As a hiring manager or as a candidate I like this question because as a candidate you get an opportunity to show that you are aware of where you need to improve. Most people in an interview like to show what they can do but they are afraid to talk about flaws or areas of improvement. I think it shows a different part of yourself. 

I like to see if the candidate has the “show off/I don’t need to improve” aura or is humble at recognizing areas of improvements. It’s also good to see if the areas of improvements are red flags or things that can be worked on.  

Curiosity and Learning 

What was the last really neat thing you learned? I enjoy seeing how excited people get when they share something they are passionate about, whether it has anything to do with the role they are interviewing for, or not. 

Interest in the job and organization 

Let’s say we got in an elevator, give me a 32 second pitch about why you want to be here and the job. It’s sort of an elevator pitch strategy, but it’s more about convincing me why you want to be here.   

What questions do you have for me? I enjoy hearing what a candidate cares about, as that’s usually shown in what areas they focus on for their questions.  

Why do you want to work at the company or why are you interested in this position? This is an easy, positive probe for whether a candidate has done any research to figure out what the position is. It’s surprising how few people do research. To me, that’s a big disqualifier. 

Who was your best boss and why? When the interviewee creates a profile and describes somebody that they worked for successfully, the interviewer understands what kind of managers the candidate likes, what previous successful relationships might have been like, and what they will likely depend on for their manager to provide them.  

What’s your worst quality? Candidates have an opportunity to be creative and spin that into a good quality somehow.  

Career Alignment and Goals 

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?  The answer is a good gauge of the candidate’s understanding of the company structure, career ambitions and what motivates them.  

Personal Interests 

Tell us a little something about yourself on a personal level. It lets me know who I may potentially be working with and helps take down barriers in the interview. It opens a lot of discussion. If you’re about to get into some deep technical issue, having that framework of where someone is coming from and what motivates them on a personal level is helpful to dig a little deeper and get to the root of developing something important.   

No Set Questions  

I don’t have specific questions and will just explore their passions. For me it’s really important to make sure that what the candidate is looking for from their next position and whether that aligns with what we are looking for. I also feel that skills and knowledge can be taught so I look for general attitude towards work and area of expertise. 

Help me solve this problem. My favorite interview questions are sort of in the theme of demonstration, running through not just what did you do, but how as well? With this question I can see how someone works. That to me is back to the mantra of show versus tell. 

Questions From Candidates 

What is one thing you would change about this organization, or about your role? This shows the candidate is aware that no organization is perfect and is interested in what the interviewers see as areas for improvements. 

What opportunities will be available for growth and development? I value learning and curiosity, so I appreciate seeing interest in these areas from candidates. 

What is your dream job? I was asked this question when I was being interviewed at StarFish, and I immediately answered “That’s easy! Dive Master on a boat in Hawaii.” The thing about this question is that it can give you insights into a candidate’s creativity, the things they are passionate about, their enthusiasm or their ability to be introspective. Not everyone finds this question easy to answer but I’ve had some great responses from candidates over the years. 

What do you like about StarFish? I appreciate when candidates ask this question because it shows a real interest in the company and help allows me to showcase what I love about working here. 

Questions As Candidates 

One of my favorite questions to ask the hiring manager is their personal experience working at the company and their favorite aspects of their role. This helps me gain insight into the manager’s personality and work style, allowing me to better assess how I would fit into the team and report to them. 

What is special about the company that motivates you to work here? This question helps me understand the culture of the company, the dynamics of the team, and the company’s growth, etc. How many of these questions and techniques do you use in your interviews? We’d love to hear other questions or techniques that have helped you land the perfect candidate or job. If you like the thinking behind the suggestions in this blog, check out our careers page for openings in Toronto, Victoria, or Marseille.  

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