Interview questions that reveal character and work ethic
Asking the right interview questions uncover hidden traits of the candidate.

Getting to know someone is important for a job.

In fact, studies have shown that people are more productive when they are more engaged with their co-workers. That’s why it’s so important to ask the right questions during an interview. Most of us already know this, but it’s easy to forget when you’re rushing through questions or feeling pressure from external sources. The right interview questions can reveal the character of an applicant.

Questions that hit the spot help you make a hiring decision that doesn’t feel forced or cringey (no regrets!). You won’t get a deep look into someone by asking generic questions. Go more than what they like to do outside of work, where they are from and their hobbies. Instead, focus on the things that are common among all applicants to distinguish individuals with qualities you value as well as work ethic necessary for success in your company. These types of questions offer insight into how a person thinks, what motivates them and how they react under stress and pressure.

What did you do last summer?

This question is an easy way to get a conversation going yet reveal the person's character. People love talking about what they do in their free time. Their summer vacations, holidays and where they went during their annual leave are all topics to talk about. Who they spent their time with is also important - with family and friends, schoolmates, people from work, and more. By asking this question, you can quickly learn the person’s values and what they prioritize in their lives.

You can also use it as a way of gauging how people react under pressure. The type of projects they worked on during the summer will be another insight into their work ethic.

Did they work on something that would require a lot of attention? Were they working on something that was hard or complicated? Did they have to manage a team or clients? You won’t know a complete picture, but by asking this question you can get an idea about how people think and how well they handle stress.

What do you like to do for fun?

This question will reveal much about an applicant's personality. People with a work-life balance are more likely to have a better work ethic and be happier in their job. They are also less likely to burn out, which is necessary for staying productive in long-term jobs.

People with good time management skills are also more likely to be successful because they can get things done on time. They are less likely to have other interjecting activities that ruin deadlines. People who value relationships are also more likely to have a higher work ethic because it's important for them to do well for those around them. It is a show for them too.

Why do you want to work for company?

This question is a great way to show how an applicant thinks about their work. How they answer it can indicate their motivation and if they have the qualities you’re looking for. If they say, “I want to work for company because I like ___,” this tells you that the person wants to be around people who are inspiring or that they feel good about themselves when they are around them.

The next time you find yourself feeling unmotivated at work, try taking a walk outside of your office building with someone who motivates you.

Why are you leaving your current job?

It’s important to ask this question in an interview because it reveals a person’s work ethic and motivation. This question is simple, but it can give you a glimpse into how they think, which will help you decide if they have the necessary skills and experience for your company. If someone is leaving their current job because of poor management or a lack of respect, it will be easy to see in their answer.

How would you handle this situation or fix this?

This question allows interviewees to show their analytical side. Give them an unfixable problem or give them so many constraints that it wouldn't be practical for the problem to be fixed. In stress, whether their morals keep them grounded will determine how ethical they will be in the longer run.

Final thoughts

The right questions to ask during an interview can reveal the character of a candidate and help you make a hiring decision. Question selection is key to uncover a potential hire's worth in terms of work ethic and their character.

As an employer, asking quality interview questions traps the candidate and helps you know what kind of person you are paying for. Flip side, employees need to align their answers to their internal bearing (i.e. who they are) and also to their external beliefs (i.e. the interviewing company's values.)

What are your chances of getting a job offer after a second or third round interview?
Percentage chances of getting a job offer | Companies behaving oddly without offering or rejecting you | You are second best but there’s only one vacancy | Too many alternative choices