Universally High-Signal Interview Questions
2 min read

Universally High-Signal Interview Questions

Every role/company combination will rely on a unique set of questions to predict candidate fit, but when you really get down to the essence of it, there are a few qualities that are virtues for every employee, no matter what corner of the organization they'll be working from:

  • Are they good?
  • Do they care?
  • Do they work well with others?

Here are some good (and tested) interview questions to get the conversation started.

As you ask them, I'd encourage you to dig in on non-work experience and interests, too. It will give you an even better sense of how transferable these qualities are. And plus, it’ll probably make the conversation more fun and interesting for everyone.

Are they good?

In other words: Do they know what good looks like? Do they have taste? Will they go deep? Have they embraced a spirit of craft and taste in their work? How do they evaluate it in other’s work?

  • Tell me about something you did or created that you were proud of. What made you proud?
  • Tell me about a time you shipped something you weren’t totally proud of. What weren’t you proud of? Why did it ship? Are you glad it did?
  • Who is doing work you admire in a field you care about? What do you admire about it?
  • You've been granted the ability to make one change in a product or service of your choosing. What is it? Why?
  • What term or concept in a field you care about is a misnomer? (For example, George Saunders doesn’t like the word plot; he prefers “meaningful action.” Patio11 doesn’t like TL;DR because it assumes the reader is lazy; he prefers “summary”.  I don't like the word eyeballs (as in, impressions); there's a brain behind those we care about a whole lot more!

Do they care?

In other words: Are they willing to really invest in their work and community? Will they take ownership over it? Do they give a shit?

  • You are now the CEO of your current company. What would you change and how would you change it?
  • Who is your favorite user of something you worked on? Why?
  • What was a recent thing you felt justified in being a total pain in the butt about? Why?
  • What was the last thing that caused you to drop everything and get to work? (No example too small!)
  • Tell me about a time you fought for something you believed in at work. Where did things land? Were you happy with the outcome?
  • What was the last thing that got you really “in the zone”?

Do they work well with others?

In other words: Do better than the "no assholes" rule. Are they self-aware and/or aware of how others perceive them? Do others enjoy working with them? How do they communicate? Are they happy in groups, generally speaking?

  • Who have you worked with who you choose as your co-founder? Why?
  • Who would ask you to join a company they were starting? Why?
  • What's the best thing about working at a startup?
  • How have you changed in the last 2-3 years?
  • Describe a group you were a part of that was successful. What do you think made it so?
  • What was the last thing you learned from somebody else? What made their teaching effective?
  • What would your colleagues say they’ve learned from you?
  • Thinking about a recent cross-functional project you worked on, what wouldn’t have gotten done if you weren’t part of it?
  • When was the last time you changed your mind about something? What made you change your mind?