Attributional Interviewing Questions

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We know it’s hard to come up with what to ask your candidates when you invite them to come in and interview. How do you learn enough about a person in the short time you’ve allotted to know if they’ll be a valuable member of your team? Attributional Interviewing is the best way we’ve found to ensure you’re selecting the right candidate. Here you’ll find our master list of the best interview questions you should be asking your candidates.

Attitude | Aptitude | Accomplishments | Adaptability | Appreciation | Amiable



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Tell me about the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced and how you dealt with that.

What to listen for:
Everyone encounters bad situations in their life from time to time. How they handle that is what separates the best from the good. You’re looking for someone who met the challenge head on and moved forward with a plan of action. If this person met the challenge instead by acting like a victim and that the world is out to get them, you may need to move on.

Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond to get an assignment completed.

What to listen for:
You’re going to hope they have an example for this question. Listen for what they say about the situation that was actually “above and beyond”. What was the situation they actually encountered? Were they picking up the slack for the rest of their team? How did they react when they knew they’d have to put in the extra work?

Tell me about a time you had to encourage someone else because you knew they weren’t doing their best.

What to listen for:
This question will not only give you insight into the candidate’s leadership potential but it will also show their attitude towards others. You’re looking for their nurturing qualities in this answer. Side note: It’s not just how they encourage the person that’s important here. What was the outcome? Did the person change?


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Tell me about a time you had to learn something brand new in order to accomplish a task.

What to listen for:
What about this new thing did they not know from the start? Are they starting from scratch or just learning a small amount before they can start the new task? How did they go about coming up to speed on this new task? What resources did they seek out? How long did this process take them?

Tell me your process for setting goals to improve yourself? What’s one example you’re working on now?

What to listen for:
How do they benchmark themselves? Are they comparing themselves to anyone else or do they focus on improving themselves regardless of the environment? What you’re looking for is someone who excels independent of the environment they are in. What sorts of processes and methods do they use to improve?

Tell me about a time you had to take over for someone else on a task or project mid-stream.

What to listen for:
What was the first thing they did? The best course of action is to find out what’s already been done before trying to take over the task on your own. You’ll be listening for the candidate’s tendency to reinvent the wheel or improve what’s already in place. Why did they choose to do what they did?


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What would you say is your biggest career highlight so far?

What to listen for:
Why do they consider this a highlight? What do they value about the accomplishment? Did it make their company better or did it make themselves look better? What impact did this have on their employer?

Tell me about a time you failed to complete a goal you set out to achieve.

What to listen for:
How did they react to the failure? Did they apply it to their career in order to never have that same thing happen again? Do they take ownership of the mistake or do they blame it on others?

Tell me about a time you were able to be creative with your work.

What to listen for:
Were they excited to be able to be creative or did they see it as difficult?
What about the assignment did they feel was creative? How did it differ from what they usually do? What did their creativity add to the organization or their skill set?


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Tell me about a time you completed an assignment or task that took you longer than you anticipated.

What to listen for: What setbacks did they encounter? Did they work to minimize the impact of those setbacks? Did the candidate change they way they approached the task given this new challenge or did they do things the same way and hope it never happened again?

Tell me about one of the biggest changes you’ve made in your life. How did it affect you?

What to listen for: You’re looking for intentionality here. You want to see that they identified an area of weakness or an area for improvement and made the choice to change it. How adaptable were they to the new situation? Did it take a long time for them to stabilize after the change or were they able to adapt quickly?

Tell me about a time at your last job where something surprised you or happened that was out of the ordinary.

What to listen for: What was it about the circumstance that surprised them? Was it a departure from their normal routine that derailed their plans or was something permanently changed about their environment. How long did it take them to get back on track?


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Can you walk me through your last two job changes and tell me the reasons for those moves?

What to listen for: We want to hear intentionality. The reasons behind the job changes need to have a purpose other than “they offered me more money”. Otherwise, this person is just after the next company who can do more for them and did not truly appreciate the new opportunity to expand their skill set and take on a new set of challenges.

What do you feel is the biggest career opportunity you’ve been given to date? Why?

What to listen for: What led to them being given this opportunity? Did they truly earn the chance or did they feel they deserved it? How did they react when they were given the role? What was the outcome?

Why are you interested in this opportunity?

What to listen for: This is a classic interview question that they should expect. You hope to hear that they’ve gone through the effort to truly research your organization and understand the opportunity you’re presenting them with. They should show genuine excitement and appreciation for the chance to grow and stretch their abilities.


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Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone to see your side of an issue.

What to listen for: How does this candidate choose to go about handling difficult conversations? Did they listen first or did they try to interject their opinion up front? Did the candidate focus on maintaining the relationship?

Tell me about a time you had to deal with a very upset or dissatisfied customer/client.

What to listen for: This will give you some insight into their interpersonal skills when they are challenged. How do they react under the pressure? What was the outcome?

Outside of work, what are some of your favorite activities that get you excited?

What to listen for: This question gives you more insight into the candidate to help round them out as a person. You also get to see if you have anything in common with this individual outside of the office.