Getting hired isn’t just about having the required job skills; it’s also about confidently answering any question you’re asked.

As a recruiter, I saw many candidates that I loved on paper, but who couldn't successfully manage the interview process. Most often this was due to one major issue: They did not prepare well enough for the recruiter interview questions they had to face.

This preparation begins by understanding the categories of interview questions and why they're asked.

Three categories of interview questions

Hiring manager and recruiter interview questions are generally grouped into three categories: behavioral questions, “what if” queries, and role-playing.

  • Behavioral questions: You'll be asked to describe in detail how you handled various workplace scenarios in past jobs, such as a solving a specific employee problem, creating a new management process, or winning a tough sale. Your answers will prove that you've successfully managed situations in this type of role and can continue doing that for a new employer.

  • “What If” queries (aka situational questions): Just like it sounds, you'll describe how you would handle different workplace scenarios if they arise. Most answers can and should be based on your past experiences. However, if you haven't dealt with the issue you're asked about, be ready to think of out-of-the-box solutions.

  • Role-playing: Interviewers do this to watch how candidates react in real time to a potentially challenging situation or issue. Usually, this is set up well in advance of the interview with all characters and dialogue ready when you arrive. Be your best self and work the role-play as if it were an actual scenario. Show them how lucky they'd be to have you!

Also, before the interview, learn as much as you can about the company, its culture, and its successes and failures, and keep this all in your mind as you prepare your answers.

Examples of recruiter interview questions — and answers

This first group of questions is asked in just about every interview. From my experience, there are three words to remember when giving your answers: examples, examples, examples.

Any time you can provide a concrete example of your experience, you go up another notch in eyes of the person interviewing you. Here are the questions you should be prepared for:

  • Why are you interested in this job/company?

Don't just talk about the responsibilities of the role. Share your passion for doing this type of work and mention how the company's values speak to you.

  • What are your strengths?

What do you excel at? What value do you potentially bring to this new company? Make sure you also keep your answers from sounding too overdone. Here's a great sample answer from Glassdoor: “Instead of just saying 'I'm a good listener,' tell a story about how you caught something important a client had said during a meeting that none of your other colleagues had heard.”

  • What are your weaknesses?

Don't beat up on yourself or share a deep issue. What the interviewer is looking for is your capacity to look inward and find ways to grow. Be genuine; talk about something you struggle with and how you plan on improving that weakness. Show your growth strategy.

  • How do you handle mistakes?

Share how your negative experiences have helped you grow. What was the mistake? How did you fix it? What did you learn from it? How will you apply what you learned to be successful in your next role?

  • Why are you leaving your present job?

NEVER answer with criticism of your present or former company, manager, or co-workers. Instead, discuss the growth potential this new position would offer. Share your goals and demonstrate how they tie into both this new role and the company's values.

  • Tell me about yourself.

Answering this means utilizing one of my favorite phrases: “Be brief, but brilliant.” Discuss your current role, how you got there, and where you want to go from here — always tying it to the job you're applying for. Tell how you got into your field and why you love it. Keep your answer focused on why you're the candidate they should hire.

  • What salary are you looking for?

Research the salary for this kind of job in your area. When asked this question, a good response is something along the lines of, “Actually, I was going to ask you about this. I'm sure there's a range for the position. Can you share it with me?” See what they say.

Next are some behavioral and situational questions that are among the many things recruiters ask candidates. Again, come up with examples and anecdotes to use in your specific interview. Stay positive and focus your answers to show off your experience and abilities.

  • Describe a conflict and how you resolved it.

  • Do you like to work in groups or alone?

  • What was your favorite/least favorite aspect of your most recent job role?

  • Tell me about the worst manager you've worked with. How did you handle him/her?

  • What steps would you take if you were unsatisfied by some part of your job?

  • How would you handle negative comments from a senior manager who's not your boss?

  • What would your current/former boss say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?  

  • If you and a colleague were collaborating on a project but couldn't agree on something, how would you handle it?

  • What would you do if you were completing a project with a tight deadline and realized you'd made a mistake early in the process, requiring you to start over?

Write down your answers and then practice them out loud either by yourself or with a friend. This will help you finesse your responses and make you more confident during the actual interview.

Questions candidates do not have to answer

It's also important to know what a recruiter CAN'T ask during an interview. Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Coalition, it's illegal to ask a candidate to provide information about:

  • Race, color, or national origin

  • Religion

  • Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation

  • Pregnancy status

  • Disability

  • Age or genetic information

  • Citizenship

  • Marital status or number of children

If asked any of these, a good non-confrontational answer is, “I'll be happy to provide that information if I am hired.”

Interviewing isn't an exact science. It's about making an impression. That's why taking time to research the company and prepare your answers before your interview with a recruiter will greatly increase your chances of success during the interview — and getting that coveted job offer.

Are you acing the interview? No? It might be time to call an expert TopInterview coach to help you prepare for your next big interview.

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