5 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates | Thomas.co

Strategic interview questions should yield answers that reveal two things: Firstly, how successful the candidate will be in the role based on skills and experience, and secondly, how the candidate’s goals, interests, and values line up with your organisation. Strategic interview questions are designed to assess candidates' critical thinking abilities, problem-solving skills, and cultural alignment with the organisation.

Understanding the significance of strategic interview questions

Strategic interview questions go beyond basic fact-finding inquiries, technical skills and what is on a resume. They go into the candidates’ abilities, thought processes, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, decision-making, and overall suitability for the job to get an understanding of their fit for the position.

An example may be scenario questioning where a problem is presented and the candidate is challenged to solve or discuss solutions to the problem. It means interviewers can evaluate their ability to analyse complex situations, generate innovative solutions, and communicate their thought processes effectively.

When you align your strategic interview questions with the requirements of the job and organisational goals, you are boosting their effectiveness. The answers provided will give you clear and demonstrable insights into a candidate’s suitability and potential contributions to the organisation more accurately.

Key elements of strategic interview questions

The key components of strategic interview questions include; 


These focus on past experiences and actions. How did the candidate handle specific situations in a previous role? Specific questions may include a candidate’s approach to a stressful situation or how they may handle a new leadership position. 


This is where candidates are given hypothetical scenarios to work through. These questions present problem-solving solutions through a theoretical work or real-life case study. Here you are trying to ascertain how their skills and prior work experience to resolve a problem will manifest. 


This is, as the title would suggest. What are the specific skills or abilities relevant to the role that they can bring? For example, someone who has 10 years as an office manager will have good people management skills and be highly organised.

In any interview style, the last thing you want to do is create a scenario or environment which closes the candidate off. So, resolve this by implementing open-ended questions that encourage candidates to provide detailed responses and uncover valuable insights. 

Here you want the candidate to open up about experiences, achievements, and problem-solving approaches, providing interviewers with a more comprehensive understanding of their qualifications and fit for the role.

Don’t forget that you have opportunities to use follow-up questions so that you can clear up any responses and clarify any ambiguities. As an interviewer you can use these follow-up questions to seek additional details, examples or explanations from candidates, ensuring that you have a clear understanding of their capabilities and experiences.

5 strategic interview questions to ask candidates for a role

  1. How much time per week or month do you invest in strategic planning? What do you do?
  2. In the past, how have you informed your teams or other departments about your strategic decisions? What methods worked and what didn’t?
  3. Can you tell me about a time when you proactively identified and addressed an issue at your company? What did you take from the experience?
  4. What methods do you use to set long-term goals for your team? How often do you check and review these goals?
  5. Talk about a time you failed to achieve your goals, what happened and what have you learnt from the experience? 

Benefits of using strategic interview questions

Firstly, you get an understanding of the candidates’ thought processes and decision-making abilities. You have an opportunity to test the candidate in different ways in using either of the behavioural, situational or competency-based questions. You get a clearer insight into their cognitive abilities and evaluate their suitability for the role more effectively. 

If you want to understand who is the best fit for your organisation both in skills and attitude/culture, then this is one of the clear advantages of strategic interview questions. What skills do they have? What do they value? What personality traits do they exhibit and where do these present best? Are they introverted or extroverted? Are they good leaders? Do they have efficient communication skills? How will they contribute to the overall success of the business? 

These are the questions that they need to ask. 

Best practices for crafting strategic interview questions

Crafting these questions requires careful preparation and consideration. Here are some of our top tips to give you the best chance to succeed. 

1. Align the questions with the job requirements AND candidates’ backgrounds

For example, a candidate may have years of experience managing a warehouse and have lived and worked in a foreign country, and the new role is ideal for them. Test their knowledge with situational questions to show skills and experience.

2. Cover a range of competencies relevant to the role

Back to our example of a warehouse manager. You don’t want to discover after hiring that they haven’t driven a forklift in 5 years or not be certified in handling specific materials you stock. You want to understand from questioning what they can, and can’t do.  Interviewers should design questions that address key job requirements, such as technical skills, soft skills, and cultural fit, to ensure a well-rounded evaluation.

3. Actively listen and be flexible to adapt your questions

Don’t just go off a script. Let the questions guide you. Actively listen to the answers, and pick up on things the candidate says. Ask follow-up questions based on these answers and be flexible to probe deeper into an answer. If something of interest pops up, explore further, you are getting insights you may not have otherwise had if you weren’t paying attention. 

Elevating hiring success through strategic interview questions

Strategic interview questions must be part of the whole recruitment experience, as they are essential to identifying top talent and enhancing hiring outcomes. By using best practices, targeted questions and good research, strategic interview questions can contribute to long-term growth and success.

It’s not just the candidate that needs to be prepared, the interviewer does as well. That’s why ongoing learning and support are so needed as the better the interviewer, the better the candidate and the overall success the business achieves. Investing in the right tools, resources, and support needed to craft and pose strategic interview questions, organisations can ensure that they conduct thorough and insightful interviews that lead to better hiring decisions and positive outcomes for the business.