Interview questions for in-demand roles
Interviewing isn’t always easy, especially in a crowded talent landscape. But the right interview questions can help you decide how well a candidate’s skills and personality align with your needs and company culture.
And whether you’re hiring for customer services, project manager, sales, business analyst, or data scientist roles—some of the most searched for roles in Europe—these are the questions you need to ask, and the answers you really want to hear.
Interviewing for the following roles:
Interviewing for customer service roles.
Your customer service representatives are often in direct contact with your customers helping them problem solve or answer questions. These interactions can shape how your company is perceived. So it’s important to have candidates who are both passionate about helping customers find answers and able to maintain a positive attitude even in challenging situations.
Why do you love working in customer services?
The reason for asking this question is because you want to hear from a candidate who relishes helping people. It is important that candidates for this role can see the long-term benefit of what they do, even in challenging situations.
How would you respond if you didn’t know the answer to a question?
Knowing that you can’t have all the answers is a key trait in a customer service representative. Listen out for candidates who are willing to ask the customer further questions and admit when they need to speak to someone else to get the required answer.
Can you give me an example of a time when you’ve turned an unhappy customer into a happy customer?
Interviewers ask this question to understand if candidates can take a holistic view of the role. A great answer will involve a candidate providing examples of how they took the time to understand the situation, brought in additional support, and followed up to ensure everything went as communicated.
Recommended interview formats for customer services roles.
While it’s great to hear about a time a candidate turned an unhappy customer into a happy one, it can prove much more beneficial to see their skills in action.
When hiring a customer service representative, you may learn much more from watching them roleplay some calls, which can happen before or after a traditional interview. The main benefit of this approach is that you can see first hand how the candidate’s style fits with the rest of your team.
Interviewing for project manager roles.
From planning to procurement and scoping to execution, a project manager role requires a range of financial, communication, and management skills. Sometimes your role will also require very specialised knowledge. But while that may reduce your pool of candidates, testing for that knowledge can lead to a more efficient hiring process.
Describe a situation where the budget and expectations on a project were not aligned?
Interviewers ask this question to seek out project managers who have demonstrated an ability to prioritise and manage expectations. Look for an answer that concludes with the project being completed on time and on budget. Because, while an ability to negotiate for more time or budget can be a strength, it sometimes won’t be possible.
Why are you the best person for this job?
Strong communication skills are a must for a project manager who must manage multiple stakeholders. Listen out for candidates who don’t boast or turn their answer into a sales pitch, but who use tangible examples of their previous successes to put the decision back in your hands.
Tell me about a time you managed an unhappy employee on your team?
With the cost of replacing an employee at between 50–200% of their annual salary, it’s important to hire a project manager who is aware of the importance of talent retention. Great candidates will have sought to understand the cause of their team member’s unhappiness, as well as attempted to rectify the situation.
Recommended interview formats for project manager roles.
Hearing about a candidate’s previous success in a traditional interview, whether over the phone, via video link, or in person, is a great way to understand how well they match your open role.
A work simulation, where you ask the candidate to perform some job-related functions such as building a timeline for a project in advance of the interview itself not only lets you see their work in action, but can provide you with interview questions to gain an even better understanding of how they work.
Interviewing for sales roles.
Though they’re difficult to screen for, soft skills such as adaptability are central to any sales role. But with the right interview questions, identifying those skills—including adaptability, integrity, and ambition—can help you identify the best candidates.
Tell me about a time when the policy, price structure, or product changed at the last minute and you already had a deal in place. How did you handle the situation?
This question is often asked to understand if a candidate can keep a positive attitude even under high pressure. Look for an answer that reveals a candidate who can think on their feet, was transparent with their customer, and demonstrated creativity in relation to problem-solving.
Tell me about a time when you had to handle an ethical dilemma in the course of your work. What did you do?
A lot of sales roles involve creating and fostering client relationships. No candidate will be perfect, but if their answer demonstrates truthfulness, it should highlight them as someone who values a long-term client relationship over a short-term sale.
Where do you see yourself within our organisation in five years?
This may seem like a standard interview question, but it is particularly important in a sales role where the top candidates will use it to highlight how they align with your organisation’s goals. Great candidates will also answer by showing how they meet your job description.
Recommended interview formats for sales roles.
With 65% of hiring managers agreeing that a lack of soft skills among candidates for sales roles limits their company’s productivity, it’s important to find talent who can demonstrate adaptability, integrity, and ambition.
One of the best ways to identify these skills is through the use of behavioural questions in a phone, video, or in-person interview format.
Interviewing for business analyst roles.
A business analyst is tasked with using data to understand the areas of opportunity where a business can change and optimise. They must also develop solutions to tough business problems and present insights in a compelling way that influences action. Candidates for this role need high levels of engagement, are very resourceful, and demonstrate a keen attention to detail.
Have you any questions for us?
A business analysts needs to be highly engaged to ensure all aspects of a situation are considered. A candidate who uses this opportunity to ask pertinent questions about your organisation shows that they have done their research, demonstrating a high level of interest in the role.
If there is too much work to be completed in one week, how would you prioritise your tasks?
(Critical thinking question)
This question is used to discover if a candidate understands the importance of a more efficient and effective work flow. But while it’s crucial that a candidate demonstrates an ability to focus on the important tasks, the top candidates’ answers will also show an interest in discovering why there is so much work.
What methods do you use to check for quality, especially close to tight deadlines?
As business analyst can be a high-pressure role, this question is asked to gain an insight into a candidate’s attention to detail under time constraints. Good candidates should outline not just the tools they use, but the processes they have in place to assess their own work.
Recommended interview formats for business analyst roles.
Keep the setting and format casual, at least at the beginning, as it lets you see a more authentic side of a business analyst candidate—who will need to be comfortable dealing with all levels of stakeholders—in a low-pressure environment.
This has been a long-established approach in Denmark where it lets candidates feel more at ease, giving you a more realistic impression of their personality and how they will fit into your organisation’s culture. A later, more formal interview, can help you assess their fit for skills and experience.
Interviewing for data scientist roles.
As the recent Emerging Jobs report showed, data scientist is one of the fastest growing jobs across Europe. Their main role is to analyse data and bring real insights to your organisation. You should use the interview process to ascertain their technical communication skills, understand how they interpret data, and assess their business expertise.
How would you explain a linear regression to a business executive?
Interviewers use technical questions such as this for data science roles to get a sense of how well a candidate can distill complex messages for a non-tech audience. Look for a clear, concise answer, alongside a simple example, that explains a complex topic clearly.
Here is performance data from our Q1 campaign - what insights do you take away?
This question creates space for a thoughtful answer as a strong data scientist should be able to take any set of graphs and explain what is happening within the data and what it means. A candidate who struggles with this question is probably stronger at creating graphs than having to interpret them.
Tell me about a time you used data to develop or support a successful project?
(Case study question)
A case study question is a great way to understand if a data scientist understands the importance of the role to the whole organisation. Listen for an answer that demonstrates that the candidate understood the problem, used data science to solve it, and was able to uncover an insight that everyone in the organisation could use.
Recommended interview formats for data scientist roles.
A technical interview, where the candidate is asked to take an abstract problem and solve it using their technical skills is one approach to take with data scientists.
However, a panel interview featuring representatives from both the tech and business teams could also work. This is because the candidate will ultimately have to demonstrate an ability to work across a number of teams.
How to apply these techniques to other roles
The role of any interview is not just to determine the most qualified candidate, but the one that is the best fit with your company culture.
Regardless of the role you’re hiring for, traditional interviews—phone screens, structured and panel interviews, and work assignments—are a great way to assess both hard and soft skills, as well as culture fit. But only if you ask the right questions.
While some of the questions above may seem suitable to the specific roles, many could easily be adapted to suit your industry and open roles.
The key is to include questions that give candidates an opportunity to highlight how they have reacted to challenges in the past, which can help you predict how they will perform in the role.