Interview Questions

Pre-Interview Preparation and Candidate Interview Guide

Directions: Click on the questions that you want to use. When you are done, click on Submit (located at the bottom of the screen) and your Interview Guide will be created.To save your Interview Guide for reuse, select all of the text on the screen and copy it into a word processing document, such as Microsoft Word.

Pre-Interview questions will be automatically entered when your custom Interview Guide is created.

If you have any questions or problems with this Pre-Interview Preparation and Candidate Interview Guide, please contact Human Resources at or ext. 7422.

The custom Interview Guide is divided into three sections, General Questions, Competencies and Job-Specific and Other Questions. Please use the links below to assist with completing this form.

To help you determine what questions to ask in the interview:

  • Use the competencies listed in the position description.
  • Think about what would make a successful candidate and what would make an unsuccessful candidate.  Why have people left this position before?  What is the most difficult part of this job?
(please select from menu below)
General Questions (top)
Please click in the box next to the question(s) that you wish to use.
Tell me about yourself.
Zero in on a couple of the candidate’s previous positions and responsibilities.
Why do you want to work here?
What interests you most about this position?
In what way are you a good fit for this position?
What are you known for? What is one of your chief gifts/talents that you have consistently called upon?
Choose 6-12 questions from the following list of competencies (skills and behaviors) that represent what a candidate must demonstrate to be successful in this position. (Maximum amount of questions is 12).
Analysis – Identifies and analyzes significant problems and opportunities; relates and compares data from different sources. (top)
Describe a situation or problem you approached where you were able to uncover meaningful patterns in the data.
Tell me about a time when you were able to discern all the factors impacting the situation.
Describe a good decision you made as a result of accurately weighing the costs, benefits and risks involved in all the possible options.
Assertiveness – Takes forceful stands on issues without being excessively abrasive; expresses own opinions even when adopting an unpopular position (top)
When have you expressed an unpopular opinion at work? What was the result?
Give me an example of a time when you took a forceful stand at work with finesse.
Tell me about a time when you were assertive and you didn’t get the reaction you intended.
Coaching – Uses a variety of methods such as feedback and personal example to help individuals attain higher levels of performance. (top)
What experience have you had in the past coaching others to attain higher levels of performance? What techniques worked and didn’t work with various individuals?
Tell me about specific individuals that you helped to develop and grow.
Collaboration – Models, encourages and facilitates open and effective communication, cooperation and teamwork within and outside of one’s own team. (top)
Tell me about when communication within your work group broke down and what you did to resolve the problem.
Give me an example in a recent position where you were good at keeping others informed.
Tell me about a time where you had to work with someone that wasn’t collaborative.
Describe a situation where you had to include someone in work that you might have felt could more easily be done on your own.
Communication-Oral and Written – Communicates effectively one-to-one, in small groups and in public speaking contexts; writes precise, well-organized emails, letters and proposals while using appropriate vocabulary and grammar. (top)
Tell me about a time you used your spoken communication skills to get a point across.
Tell me about a time where you had to write a difficult message. What was the situation? What did you write? What was the result?
Compliance – honoring Laboratory policies and regulatory requirements. (top)
Give me an example of a policy that you ended up having to go around in order to get your work done.
Give me an example of a policy you conformed to even though you did not agree with it.
Describe a situation where you held a confidence or maintained the confidentiality of information
Conflict Management – Exhibits understanding of natural sources of conflict and acts to prevent or soften them. (top)
Tell me a difficult situation you avoided by preventing a conflict.
Describe a situation where you were able to soften a conflict with another individual.
Tell me about a time where conflict in the workplace got in the way of you being able to do your work.
Continuous Improvement – thinking of better ways to do things (top)
Give me an example of a time when you suggested a better way to do a task to make work easier or save money. What was the usual way? What alternative did you suggest? How was your suggestion received? What was the impact?
Cooperation – Willing and able to work with others as a team member. Regularly supports goals of the work area. Promotes departmental and interdepartmental teamwork. (top)
Describe a situation where you where able to satisfactorily resolve a confrontation or disagreement among staff.
What have you done in the past to build a strong and productive team that worked well together.
Describe the process you put in place to ensure good communication among your staff.
Creativity – Generates new approaches to problems or modifications to established approaches; shows imagination. (top)
Describe a time where you used your creativity. Why was it creative or innovative? How was your creativity beneficial to your department/school/others?
Customer Focus – Dependable and responsive to requirements of internal and external customers. Gets positive results in adverse situations. Works with others to meet customer needs (top)
Have you ever had to go the extra mile to satisfy a customer? What did you do?
You may have heard the phrase “the customer is always right.” Describe a time when you felt the customer wasn’t right.
Tell me about a time when you did your best to resolve a customer concern and the individual still was not satisfied. What did you do next.
Decision Making – Follows and teaches others to follow a process/method for problem solving. (top)
Give me an example of a time when you have to make a decision quickly with limited information.
Tell me about a time when you held off making a decision because you didn’t have enough information.
Describe a decision you made that did not turn out very well. What was the decision, its impact and what did you do once the result was noticed?
Dependability – Consistently matches commitments with appropriate follow-through. (top)
Give me an example when you earned the trust of others by being dependable.
Tell me about a time when it was very difficult to follow through on a task or project and you followed through anyway.
Development – Makes efforts to build challenges into current job responsibilities and apply new skills on the job, recognizes one’s own strengths and areas for improvement. (top)
What did you do in your last job to improve your skills and performance?
Give me an example of a new task or responsibility you took on and how you went about it.
Give me an example of steps you have taken to develop yourself over the past year.
Tell me about a time when you experienced a failure. What was the impact, how did you react to it, and what did you learn from the experience?
Implementing EEO Policy – Actively promotes diversity and non-discrimination in work group and trains staff in related areas. Reports on interviewed candidates and reviews applications to insure minorities and women are given full opportunities for equal employment, transfers, and promotions. Shows leadership by actively participating in minority and women’s professional development and initiatives. Creates an environment of understanding and acceptance. (top)
Tell me about steps you have taken to contribute to an environment that valued and helped people who are diverse to work together cooperatively.
How have you participated in diversity events and organizations at other colleges and universities (other workplaces)?
How have you integrated multicultural issues as part of your professional development?
Give me some examples of efforts you have lead to develop your workplace as a multicultural environment.
How have you worked with people to foster the creation of climates receptive to diversity in the workplace, in the curriculum, in faculty/staff meetings?
Efficiency – Effectively performs duties and responsibilities; displays attention to detail. (top)
Describe a project or situation where you created order out of chaos.
Tell me about a time when you were not able to meet a deadline.
Give me an example of a time when the details of a task or project were particularly important. How did you ensure accuracy on a consistent basis?
Ethics and Integrity – Follows through on commitments; incorporates honesty, respect and fairness in daily actions. (top)
Tell me about a time where you demonstrated integrity.
Tell me about a time when you did the right thing, even when it was going against the crowd.
Financial Management – Manages financial assets responsibly with a focus on cost effectiveness and productivity (top)
What opportunities have you had to estimate and monitor expenditures?
Give me an example of a typical budget you managed and a time when you met the budget, went over budget and were under budget. What were the circumstances of each?
Tell me about your financial management responsibilities and successes in this area.
Health and Safety Responsibility – Observes health and safety rules and regulations; follows proper procedures on accident reporting; ensures a safe work environment; recognizes and reports any unsafe work practices and/or hazardous conditions. (top)
Give me an example of a time where you adhered to health/safety requirements even when it wasn’t expedient or practical to do so.
Independence – While committed to team efforts, exhibits a willingness to take an independent stand. (top)
Describe a time when you were able to accomplish something on your own even when it you might have been more comfortable working with others.
Tell me about a time where being independent in your thinking or the way you work that caused a problem.
Describe a time where you held a different viewpoint than others and stood your ground in defending that point of view.
Influencing – motivates others to buy into ideas, able to engage others in looking at a situation in a new way (top)
What is the toughest group that you have had to get cooperation from?
Tell me about a time where you had to get others to accept your idea.
Initiative – Works independently. Seeks out ways to work more effectively. Shows an interest in improving own knowledge and skill level. (top)
Describe a slow time at your work and what you did to fill the down time.
Describe a situation where you achieved more than what was required.
What projects have you started on your own this year?
Innovation – Explores opportunities for doing things in new ways; improving processes, initiates and/or supports improvements in work processes to reduce cycle time and increase first-pass yield. (top)
Give me an example of an opportunity you had or created to accomplish something new or in a new way.
Tell me about a time when you suggested a better way to do a task to make work easier or save money.
Judgment – Demonstrates consistent logic, rationality and objectivity. (top)
Give me an example where using good judgment was key to accomplishing a task or completing a project.
Leadership qualities – Fosters understanding and support from department and others to accomplish objectives, follow procedures, and accept suggestions. Inspires confidence and respect in departmental personnel. Motivates employees to achieve goals and objectives. Promotes respect, honesty, integrity, and fairness to all. (top)
Tell me about a time you included others in the decision-making process even when it would have been easier in the short term not to.
Tell me about a time when you made an unpopular decision that affected others.
Tell me about a difficult change that you had to lead others to implement.
Describe a situation where you were able to have a positive influence on the actions of others.
Managing people – Promotes teamwork and cooperation. Trains, coaches and develops employees. Delegates responsibility and authority appropriately. Establishes goals and objectives for subordinates. Able to communicate with subordinates and management. (top)
Give me an example of a time when you successfully managed a group.

What strategies have you used to get the individuals of a group to work well together to achieve the same goal.

Tell me about a time when you had difficulty managing an individual.
Walk me through your approach to ensuring that you hire, develop and retain great staff. Give me some examples.
Tell me about a time where you positively influenced a morale problem.
Tell me about your most difficult management challenge.
What do you like about managing?
Meet Deadlines – Displays consistency and success in adhering to deadlines (top)
Give me an example of a time where you met a particularly tight deadline.
Tell me about a time where you were unable to meet a deadline. What were the circumstances? How did you recover? What would you do differently next time?
Organization & Multi-Tasking – Plans, organizes and schedules in an efficient and productive manner, demonstrates ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously (top)
Tell me about a time where you created order out of chaos.
Give me an example of a time when your scheduled in suddenly interrupted. What did you do?
Give me an example of a time where you had to work on multiple projects simultaneously , how did you manage it?
Explain a situation you’ve been in where multiple demands have been placed on you. How did you handle it?
Problem Solving – Formulates realistic solutions in a timely manner in both routine work and difficult situations. Offers suggestions to solve problems or improve operations. (top)
Tell me about a time when you had a complex problem to solve. What options did you generate? How did you choose the best one?
Project Planning – Devises and implements clearly defined strategies to achieve project objectives. (top)
When working on a project, how do you decide what gets top priority? Give me an example.
Results Driven – Sets clear, challenging objectives and regularly monitors progress. (top)
Describe a situation where you and/or your team were able to achieve a particularly challenging goal.
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
Strategic Thinking – Works on initiatives that have the greatest strategic impact for the organization; anticipates changes that may impact department or school (top)
Give me some examples that demonstrate your ability to see the big picture and foresee the impact of potential changes on your department/school.
Stress Management – Recognizes stress triggers and works to mitigate them, maintains work/life balance, responds appropriately to stressors outside of one’s control (top)
As your manager, how would I know if you were under stress? What would be the signs?
Tell me about a time in the past year when you felt you were under pressure.
Tell me about a recent workflow or production problem, such as a co-worker calling in sick. How did you respond?
Team Player – Seeks to build collaboration by encouraging trust, mutual respect and shared purpose among the various participants in an engagement. (top)
What did you do in your last position to contribute toward a teamwork environment?
Describe a time when you helped someone on your team at their request when it wasn’t convenient for you to do so.
Describe an ineffective teamwork situation in which you were involved.
Describe a team you were on where communication was strong. What made it strong? How did you achieve and maintain that level of communication?
Job-Specific and Other Questions (top)
(i.e. projects led, workshops facilitated, budgets managed, effort reporting, events planned, databases created) Please enter several brief, job-specific or any other additional questions. (one per box)

Thanks to Northwestern University for providing format guidelines.