It was updated to reflect new information in October 2023.
A resume outlines who your candidates are, but job interviews are your chance to fill in the details. Interviews are the time to dig deeper into a candidate's qualifications, skills, and personality to see if they’re the best person for the role. Asking the right interview questions can transform your hiring process and lead you to the talent your organization truly needs.
Need some inspiration beyond common interview questions? Here are 19 of the best practical interview questions to help you get to know your candidates and improve the hiring process.Practical interviews are your chance to ensure candidates have the concrete skills they listed on their resumes. Find out the 19 questions to ask to help you make better hiring decisions:
What is a Practical Interview?
A practical interview is when you can test candidates on practical skills, problem-solving abilities, and how well they can perform tasks required in the role they’re interviewing for. It often involves an assessment or aptitude test that allows candidates to elaborate on their skills and experience. In this interview, hiring managers can learn how the candidate handles a variety of situations and how they perform under pressure.
Usually, a practical interview means that applicants made it past the candidate screening, their resume meets the job requirements, and the salary and benefits you’re offering are in line with their expectations. It’s an opportunity for the interviewer and the candidate to get to know each other and establish whether or not the candidate is a good fit for the job.
19 Examples of Practical Interview Questions
Employers can get to know a candidate's background and skills by asking practical interview questions. It also gives them a sneak peek into how the candidate might fare in the job they're applying for. Take the time to create a structured interview process with high-quality questions so you can learn more about your candidates and make better hiring decisions.
Read on for 19 top practical interview questions you can adapt to use for a variety of roles. While these questions work as written, tailor them to fit the job description to get the most illuminating answers possible.
1. "Can you explain how you would tackle a relevant work-related problem step by step?"
When you ask this practical interview question, you can use an example of a recent issue your team has run into. That tells you if you can expect the candidate to bring out-of-the-box solutions to the table.
2. "Tell me about a situation where you had to think on your feet to resolve an unexpected issue. How did you handle it?"
This question provides insight into both how candidates problem-solve and how they react in high-pressure situations. Are they the type to take charge and jump in to help, or are they better suited for a role unlikely to require quick reactions?
Prioritization and Time Management
3. "How do you prioritize and organize your work when you have varying deadlines?”
You need self-motivated, organized employees if you’re hiring for a deadline-driven or highly autonomous role. Candidates’ answers to this question tell you if they need to be closely managed or if you can rely on them to get the job done.
4. "Can you give an example of a project where you had to manage your time effectively to meet a tight deadline?"
This question can be useful even if the role doesn’t involve frequent deadlines. Can the candidate rise to the occasion when timely projects pop up? How did they communicate obstacles or use their resources to meet the deadline? Agility tells you a lot about candidates’ potential for long-term success.
Teamwork and Collaboration
5. "Describe a project where you had to work closely with a team. How did you help the team succeed?"
This interview question helps you understand how candidates see themselves on a team. Do they take charge and project manage? Do they have excellent communication skills that helped the team secure additional budget or snag a top client? Even if you know their individual strengths, different proficiencies may shine when they work in a group.
6. "How do you handle conflicts on a team, and can you share an example of a conflict you resolved?"
A conflict-free workplace is unheard of, but not everyone is good at dealing with them. This question helps you determine if candidates can determine when to settle disagreements without escalation and when to involve their managers or HR.
7. "Pretend you need to explain a complex concept to someone who doesn't know much about it. How would you do it?"
Some candidates have a knack for teaching, a trait that might indicate they’re suited for roles where they can be leaders or mentors. It also helps you verify they really understand the concepts related to the position.
8. "Tell us about a time when your good communication skills made a difference."
If you find candidates who can demonstrate excellent communication skills, their impact can be much more significant than you might think. According to the research, ineffective communication at work costs $1.2 trillion annually.Did you know ineffective communication costs companies $1.2 trillion every year? Find out the right questions to ask to ensure your candidates have the communication skills you need:
Attention to Detail
9. "Please review this document or data set and identify any errors or inconsistencies you find."
Many resumes say that the candidate is detail-oriented, but during a practical interview, you can ask them to prove it with a skills test. A short assessment quickly reveals if candidates have the skills they claim to.
10. "Describe a project where your attention to detail prevented a costly mistake or resulted in a better outcome."
This question allows candidates to highlight their accomplishments and demonstrate the direct impact of their attention to detail in a past role.
Adaptability and Learning
11. "Tell us about a time when you had to quickly learn and apply new skills or knowledge to succeed in a project or role."
Do you need employees who are fast learners? During a practical interview, you can ask this question for a concrete example of a line commonly included on resumes.
12. "How do you keep up with changes in your field, and can you share something new you learned recently?"
A candidate who is enthusiastic about staying at the top of their game with continual learning points to even more positive traits, including curiosity, drive, and initiative.
Customer Service and Problem Resolution
13. "Share an example of a particularly challenging customer issue you resolved to their satisfaction."
Customer service roles nearly always involve working with disgruntled or hard-to-please customers at some point. Your ideal candidate can adeptly handle these situations.
14. "Demonstrate your proficiency with [specific software or tool] by performing a task related to the role."
Many roles require employees to be skilled at using complex software or job-specific tools. If they won’t receive on-the-job training to use it, it’s important to ensure they’re proficient before you bring them on board.
4 Rules for Task Evaluations
- Base tasks on real-world scenarios the candidate is likely to face in the role.
- Tasks shouldn’t require too much preparation from candidates.
- Give clear instructions.
- Assign the same tasks to every applicant.
15. "Discuss a technical challenge you encountered in a previous job and how you overcame it."
When hiring for highly technical roles, some candidates might inflate their abilities with the intention to learn as they go. If you ask this question, you’ll quickly see if candidates have the depth of experience they need to be great employees.
Attitude and Values
16. “What was your best day at work in the last few years? What was your worst?”
Asking candidates to describe a recent “best day” at work is another way to discover what they find rewarding or fulfilling. Maybe they value teamwork, solving problems, hitting challenging targets, or positively impacting their colleagues. You’ll learn more about whether candidates’ motivations and values align with your company culture.
If you also ask about their “worst day,” their answer can shine a light on how they handle adversity. It speaks to what kinds of situations they find difficult and whether they stay calm under pressure. Answers can also demonstrate their problem-solving abilities, resilience, and emotional intelligence and give you a glimpse into their potential areas for growth.
17. “Tell me about something you failed at and what you learned from it.”
Asking this question gives interviewers the opportunity to see if a candidate learns from their mistakes or avoids taking responsibility. Great candidates recognize failures as great opportunities to grow and make a point to apply their knowledge in the future.
If the candidate resorts to blaming others for their mistakes or making negative remarks about their previous employers, that’s a red flag. The employee may be difficult to train or reluctant to come clean when they mess up.
Leadership and Decision-Making
18. “Tell me about a time when you took a calculated risk, and it was successful.”
Interviewers can use this question to gauge how confident the candidate is in making hard decisions and if those decisions paid off for them in the past. It’s also a great practical interview question for gauging potential leadership skills.
19. "Discuss a decision you made that significantly impacted your organization or team. What factors did you consider?"
Understanding how your candidates make decisions tells you if they’re familiar with proven strategies or use a different approach that could benefit your company. It also demonstrates their level of consideration for the people they lead.
The best interview questions to ask candidates don’t need to be complex or deceptive. When you ask these practical interview questions, you can improve your hiring process and choose new employees with confidence.
Did You Know?
86% of employers manage their job interview process with technology.
Implement Tech-Powered Practical Interviews
Design interviews that help you get to the heart of what makes candidates a great fit with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Get a demo of ClearCompany ATS and ask about:
- Interview Guides that ensure you ask every candidate the same practical questions.
- Interview Scorecards that enable easy comparisons between candidates’ answers and feedback from the hiring team.
- How to use your hiring data to refine recruiting processes.