Questions to ask when interviewing job candidates, based on Appreciative Inquiry principles. These are designed to create storytelling experiences for the candidate that produce more in-depth understanding for the candidate and you.

Set-up each time for yourself and the candidate

  • There are no right or wrong answers.
  • We’re together to discuss the position that’s open, and whether it’s the right one for you. So this is a discovery process for us both.
  • Encourage the candidate to ask questions throughout the interviews. “I’ll ask some questions, and feel free to ask any questions you might have as we go along.”
  • What do you hope to find out today?
    [both answer] or What are your expectations about our conversation today?

Probing questions

  • Can you tell me in more detail what you mean?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What do you have in mind?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • Can you give me some examples?
  • From what context do you ask?

Closing at end of each conversation

Is there any question you wish I had asked but didn’t?

[you and candidate both answering these questions, reviewing the process]
  • How does where we are at this moment compare to where we intended to be?
  • How did we have ____ [fun] in our conversation today?
  • What worked today?
  • What would we do differently next time we talk?

Your reflection after each conversation

Record your impressions immediately after the conversation. Consider asking the candidate to answer these questions as well now, and share them after the candidate has joined the staff as a way to deepen the understanding of each other and clarify any assumptions.

  • List the things that stood out for you about the candidate. What stood out most strongly?
  • What do you consider the essence of this candidate’s success? What is this candidate’s source of commitment? What images, stories, or metaphors capture that essence?
  • What did you notice about yourself and your own system?
  • What potential new opportunities for yourself and your system occurred to you?
  • What are the most important insights you took away from the call/visit?
  • What questions or puzzles arose in your mind during the call/visit?
  • How are your observations about the candidate similar to your values, beliefs and behavior? How are your observations similar to behaviors that you do not appreciate? How do you know your observations are about the candidate and not about you?

First phone conversation

  • How did you learn about our organization?
  • Why are you interested in the position? or Why would you like to work here? or What are some of the reasons you’re interested in this position? Stay with this question awhile — it will give you a sense of what is motivating the interviewee.
  • What do you already know about our organization? [clarify assumptions]
  • What attracted you to [your company’s product i.e. “cancer care”]?
  • What attracted you to working in [your company’s business i.e. “medicine”]?
  • How can we have the most fun in these conversations? [both answer]

Second phone conversation

Outstanding achievement. Ask the candidate to “Take a minute and think about your most outstanding, significant professional achievement.”

  • Invite the candidate to share their story. “What is a story from your own life that describes a time when you glimpsed your own highest potential?”
  • What about you made this achievement possible?
  • What did you see and how did you feel about what you saw?

Be patient; honor the time it takes the candidate to be comfortable with sharing their story. The candidate may need some quiet time. Encourage confidence, even boldness about how they describe themselves and, above all, actively listen.

Your calling, your contribution

  • What called you to [the skill/work] initially?
  • What contribution did you envision making and how have you succeeded in making that contribution?

Peak moments

  • Can you identify any “peak moments” in __________ [the skill/work]? i.e., moments that embody what you feel __________ [the skill/work] is all about?
  • What make these moments “peak moments” for you?

Your week

  • Tell me about a week in your present job.
  • What’s appealing to you?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What are the pressures in your current job?

Expectations and feedback

  • In your current position, what are the “indicators of success” that tell you that you are doing your job the way you’d most like to do it?
  • How do you know when you’re doing things right?

In the flow. Think of a time when you were so engaged and alive in your work you lost all track of time.

  • What was happening?
  • What were you doing, feeling?
  • What circumstances allowed for such an incredible experience?
  • What gave such meaning to that moment?

Service to others. Think about the most memorable experience you have had as a customer.

  • Can you tell me where it was?
  • What were you doing, and what about this experience made it so special?
  • Now, can you share with me the most satisfying experience that you had serving someone else?
  • Where were you working?
  • Who was the customer?
  • What were they wanting?
  • How did you help them?

In-person interview

These questions are often adapted to the comfort level of the candidate after 2–3 interviews. Meaning, you can frame similar questions that are easier. When you ask these questions, give the candidate sufficient time to formulate an answer.

Collaboration. Tell me about a time when you were a member of a group who collaborated to achieve amazing results perhaps even in the face of many challenges.

  • What allowed you to work together so elegantly even in the difficult times?
  • What were you doing? What were others doing?
  • What methods did you use to make decisions?
  • What did the organization provide that created such an important outcome? (tools, resources, people)

Trust and hope. Describe successful experiences you have had in which trust and hope were essential elements.

  • What does trust mean to you?
  • How do you demonstrate it?

Your passions

  • If you could create any work environment you wished, an environment that would be incredibly meaningful for you, what would you wish for?
  • What would your ideal look and feel like?
  • What kind of people would you be working with?
  • What do you value deeply? or What are the essential values and purposes that make you who you are, without which you would cease to be?
  • How are these values reflected in your work?
  • Which of these values are most important to your future?

Relationships: your managers. Think about the [managers] you’ve worked with and select the one you found to be the most enjoyable or exciting in your work together.

  • What makes it enjoyable and exciting to work with this person? What’s happening when things are great?
  • How has this person contributed to your success?
  • What are some of the ways that this person has enabled you to do your best work?
  • What did you learn from this person?
  • How did you know you were doing good work? [feedback]

Relationships with colleagues

  • What do you think are the challenges in working with [various departments]?
  • What different personalities have you observed in the organizations you’ve worked with?
  • What are the different ways you receive feedback from your current employer?

Lessons learned. Think about the events in your life that turned you in a new positive direction. Sometimes they are the things that make me go “a ha!”.

  • What was one of the most memorable experiences for you? or What is a story of a turning point in your life that brought you here?
  • What were you doing, and what about this experience made it so special?
  • As a result of that experience, what would you bring to our organization?

Challenges. Think about some of the challenges facing [your industry] today.

  • Which institutions and/or individuals are in the best position to deal with these challenges and why?
  • What lessons could we learn from them?

Change. Think about a time when you were involved in an organization that was going through lots of change.

  • How did you cope with that?
  • Tell me about how your job changed through that process?

Our company

  • From what I’ve told you and what you’ve read about our company, what are you expecting to find at our organization?
  • What do you find most exciting about our [product i.e. “cancer care”]?
  • What do you think will be the challenges?
  • What do you hope to accomplish at [organization]?
  • What will success look like? Why will it be important to you?

Your future

  • How do you see this job fitting in with your plans for the future?
  • Why do you think we should hire you?

Your reflection before hiring

If possible, share these answers with the candidate after they have joined your staff.

  • What qualities and skills are needed for a person to succeed in this position?
  • How has this list changed for you since the interviews began?
  • What have you learned from others about how the candidate would fit in?
  • What concerns do you have about the candidate fitting in? Or the change the candidate would bring?
  • How do you see the business differently because of our [you and candidate] time together?
  • What do you believe the candidate will learn from this experience?
  • How do you see the company impacting the candidate?
  • What do you believe the candidate will learn from you personally?