Sample interview questions
Interviews can take several forms: phone, video, one-on-one and panel interviews. There are a variety of different questioning techniques. See our sample interview questions grouped by category below. VCU core competency questions relate to specific skills that VCU values in employees. Questions from the core competency and leadership competency categories may help the hiring committee to better evaluate the candidate's alignment with VCU values.
These questions are general inquiries about the applicant’s background. They are based on information included in the application or resume and should focus on the most relevant jobs and experiences.
- What are or were your major responsibilities and duties? Has there been any recent change in responsibilities?
- Did you have supervisory or management responsibilities?
- What did you like best about this position?
- What equipment did you operate?
- How has your background prepared you for working with a diverse population?
These questions consider whether the candidate is willing to accept certain unusual requirements of the job.
- Are you willing to work overtime on a regular basis?
- Are you willing to travel extensively?
- Are you willing to work specific hours?
These questions assess the candidate's ability to be accountable for measurable high-quality, timely and cost-effective results; comply with established processes and rules; accept full responsibility for their actions and contributions as a team member; display honesty and truthfulness; display a strong commitment to organizational success and deliver on individual responsibilities as a university citizen. This is a core competency at VCU.
- Describe a situation when despite careful planning, things got out of hand or did not work out. How did you handle it?
- Tell us about a time your supervisor was absent and you had to make a leadership decision.
- What steps have you taken to enable you to become more effective in your team?
- What have you done to be more effective in your career?
- How have you handled special responsibilities or assignments that have been given to you that may not be a part of your routine?
- Give us an example demonstrating how you reacted to short deadlines or pressure situations.
- Tell us about a time when your performance did not live up to your expectations. What did you do?
- How do you motivate yourself to complete unpleasant assignments?
- Would you rather design/develop plans and procedures or implement/manage them? And why?
- Describe a time when you took personal accountability for a conflict and initiated contact with the individual(s) involved to explain your actions.
- How do you keep track of assignments delegated to you?
- Describe a time when you were asked to keep information confidential.
- On occasion we are confronted by dishonesty in the workplace. Please tell us about such an occurrence and how you handled it.
- Tell us about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem which challenged fairness or ethical issues.
- Tell us about a time when your work was criticized. How did you respond?
- When you have been made aware of, or have discovered for yourself, a problem in your work performance, what was your course of action? Can you give an example?
- Have you ever been asked to do something that you didn’t think was right? What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you took responsibility for a failure.
- Tell me about a time when you learned from a mistake. What did you do differently going forward?
- Provide a specific example that best illustrates your ability to be “counted on.”
These questions evaluate the ways in which a candidate demonstrates a commitment to the pursuit of excellence, high achievement and ongoing professional development. They also look at how a candidate acquires the skills needed to continually enhance contributions to the university and their respective profession. This is a core competency at VCU.
- Please provide an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.
- Describe a time when you performed effectively under pressure.
- Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it. Please also elaborate on why you made that decision.
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
- Have you ever gone above and beyond the scope of your job? If so, please elaborate on your approach and the outcome. If not, please talk about why you chose not to.
- Please provide an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or exceed it. As a follow up: What about a time when you were unable to meet or achieve a goal?
- What achievements would your manager note? Your peers? Your staff?
- What accomplishment(s) have provided you with the most personal satisfaction(s) and career
- Please give an example of an instance in which you anticipated problems and were able to influence a new direction.
- Tell me about something you accomplished that required discipline?
- Describe an ongoing problem that you had to overcome.
- Give me an example of a time you delivered more than was expected of you.
This category assesses how the candidate cooperates with others to accomplish goals; works with employees within and across their department to achieve shared goals; treats others with dignity and respect and maintains a friendly demeanor and values the contributions of others. This is a core competency at VCU.
- Tell me about a time when you were able to gain commitment from others to work as a team.
- Have you ever had to help a teammate find common ground to move forward with their work or project?
- Describe how you have worked effectively with teams or work groups outside of your work unit/team to accomplish organizational goals.
- What tools do you employ to help build cohesive teams and facilitate the completion of team goals?
- Tell us about a time you assisted others in comprehending written and oral information and directions so they could take appropriate action.
- Describe how your communication allows others to be open and engaged.
- Describe a time you misunderstood what someone was telling you. How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time you were able to build a successful relationship with a difficult person.
- Describe a situation when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- Tell me about one of the toughest groups you’ve had to work with. What made it difficult? What did you do?
These questions assess whether the candidate demonstrates an open-minded approach to understanding people from all backgrounds, identities, abilities, perspectives and experiences; effectively works with colleagues and consistently treats all people fairly, with dignity and respect. This is a core competency at VCU.
- Give a specific example of how you have helped create an environment where differences are valued, encouraged and supported.
- Tell us about a time when you had to adapt to a wide variety of people by accepting/understanding their perspective.
- What have you done to further your knowledge/understanding about diversity? How have you demonstrated your learning?
- What have you done to support diversity in your unit? (Leadership)
- How do you encourage people to honor the uniqueness of each individual? How do you challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion? (Leadership)
- Describe a situation in which you encountered a conflict with a person from a different cultural background than yours. How did you handle the situation?
- Describe a time when you needed to work cooperatively with someone that did not share the same ideas as you.
- What opportunities have you had working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural and inclusive settings.
- Describe your understanding of Diversity and why it is important in the workplace?
- How has your background and experience prepared you for working with a diverse population?
- In what ways have you demonstrated commitment and sensitivity to the importance of diversity in your previous experience?
- What is the most challenging situation dealing with diversity that you have faced and how did you handle it?
- What kinds of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than your own?
- Have you ever realized that you had said or done something that may have been offensive to a colleague/co-worker/student? How did you respond to that realization?
These questions show how candidates apply creative problem-solving skills to develop solutions to problems, recognize and demonstrate the value in taking responsible risks and learning from mistakes, develop multiple alternatives and understands the feasibility of each and effectively implements ideas. This is a core competency at VCU.
- What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you? Describe one?
- Describe a situation when you demonstrated initiative and took action without waiting for direction. What was the outcome?
- Describe something that you have implemented at work. What were the steps used to implement this?
- Give me an example of when you took a risk to achieve a goal. What was the outcome?
- Tell us about a problem that you solved in a unique or unusual way. Were you satisfied with the results?
- What new or unusual ideas have you developed on your job? What was the result and did you implement them?
- Give a specific example of something you have done at work that you consider innovative.
- What type of challenge or problem is the most or least rewarding?
- Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?
- What do you consider your best innovation?
- How have you adapted your work to changes in your industry/field?
- What was the most innovative decision you’ve made?
- Tell me about a time you inspired creativity in others.
These questions allow the candidate to demonstrate a commitment to the highest quality service to internal and external communities as well as ensure that actions meet community needs and are aligned with university objectives, practices and core values. This is a core competency at VCU.
- Tell me about a time when you had to address the concerns of an upset stakeholder.
- How do you react when your patience is really tested?
- What are your strategies to ensure stakeholder satisfaction? Give an example of a time when you demonstrated this?
- Tell me about a time when listening kept you out of trouble.
- Tell me about a time when you had to say no to a request. How did you resolve the situation?
- Describe a situation when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures.
- Tell me about a time when you had to manage a crisis situation.
- Tell us about a time when you took responsibility for an error and were held personally accountable.
- In your opinion, what are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful relationships? Give examples of how you made these work for you.
- Has someone ever misunderstood the meaning of your statements and taken offense? How did you find out and what did you do?
- How do you allot your work time?
- What lessons have you learned about keeping customers/stakeholders satisfied? How did you learn them? Share an example that illustrates how you’ve used that lesson.
- What steps do you take to maximize customer/stakeholder satisfaction?
- Describe a situation in which you chose/had to involve/enlist others to help solve a customer/stakeholder problem. What was the problem? How did this approach help?
These questions evaluate the ways in which a candidate demonstrates the ability to lead employees toward meeting or exceeding organizational goals. They also evaluate how a candidate provides an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork and supports constructive resolution of conflicts. This is a core competency at VCU.
- Please give an example when you led your team members in a project. What tools did you use to engage them to accomplish the project? What tools were used to specifically identify each members needs and engage them? How do you assess and adapt to other's learning styles?
- Share an example when you led a diverse team. Describe the team. How were you able to identify each member's skill set and how did you lead them to success? How do you capitalize on variations in strengths?
- Provide an example where you experienced conflict with an individual a time where you had to address a faction on a team. What caused it? What steps did you take to resolve the issues, so that each team member felt included?
- Please provide a list of characteristics of an effective mentor/mentee. Explain why each characteristic is important.
- Provide an example where you experienced conflict with an individual based on difference of opinions/values. What was the conflict? What steps did you take to resolve it?
- List the characteristics of the most effective leader you have experienced.
- How do you evaluate the productivity/effectiveness of your subordinates?
- How do you get data for performance reviews?
- How do you keep track of what your subordinates are doing?
These questions evaluate the ways in which a candidate demonstrates the ability to bring about strategic change to exceed organizational goals. They also evaluate how a candidate establishes and implements a vision in a continuously changing environment. This is a core competency at VCU.
- What steps have you used to identify/define a vision in your current workplace? Describe how you inspired your colleagues/staff to work toward your vision.
- Describe a time when you initiated policy or procedure change. How were you a catalyst for that change? Long-form question/case: You become aware of the emergence of a “best practice” in your field which is rapidly becoming the “industry standard” but has received little attention in your organization. Describe how you would bring said practice to the attention of your superiors while simultaneously laying the groundwork for buy-in at the level of your colleagues whose effort will be central to successful implementation.
- Describe how and what methods you used to communicate your vision so that others will share it.
- Describe your experience establishing objectives and priorities for your organization.
- Describe how you operationalize the long-term interests of your organization in your current role.
- What methods would you implement to analyze and assess risk versus reward?
- How do you stay current on trends in [your field/discipline]? How do you reach outside your field to expand the scope of your understanding and generate fresh perspectives?
- Provide an example of a time when you convinced others to change an existing approach to a problem. How did you change their mind? How well did your approach work?
- Describe how you would encourage/solicit new ideas from your team.
- What are some ways you have created a climate for change and encourage risk taking among your colleagues/staff? Describe a time when you had to introduce a new program or progress. How did you do it?
- In situations where you have experienced resistance to change, how have you created buy in? What is your philosophy about “small wins” in change leadership? In your experience, what role have “small wins” played in creating a climate of change? Long-form question/case: Your position is such that you are charged with adopting a new system for conducting a self-review by the individual offices you are leading. An expert in the design and implementation of the new system has been hired to guide the process. Along with other managers, you attend an introductory session describing the new system and find that the jargon used by the expert is wholly confusing. The value of the self-review is not clear. Recognizing that there is no alternative to the adoption of the new system, what approach(es) will you take to guide your offices to an effective implementation?
- Long-form question/case: You have been charged with providing comment on the adoption of a new software package to improve the data management essential to the function of the various offices in your unit. The performance of the system in place has been limited by what is generally recognized as an acquisition guided more by low cost than performance and implementation by an individual whose effectiveness was limited. You are about to meet with your office leaders to solicit their feedback on the new alternatives. How will you guide to meeting to achieve the objective and not dwell on the past?
These questions help determine whether the candidate has the technical expertise to perform the job. Answers to these questions confirm that the applicant possesses the technical expertise he/she has described on the application form.
- What software applications have you used? Describe the most difficult/complex assignment you’ve ever undertaken with this software.
- What are the steps you would take to complete [technical] process?
- Tell me about a project you are most proud of and your specific contribution.
These questions describe a situation to the applicant that he/she may encounter in a real-life work situation in the position and ask how he/she would react in that situation. In the absence of real experience in the area, this is a good way to determine technical knowledge and problem-solving abilities.
- What would be your first steps in establishing yourself as a manager of this section?
- You’re in charge of inventory and you discover that a large amount of inventory is missing since your last count. What do you do?
These questions allow the candidate to expand on his or her background and go more in-depth than other types of questions. These questions help determine if the applicant has the qualities needed for the position.
- Why should you be chosen for this position?
- Describe the biggest challenge on the job where you succeeded and the biggest challenge where you failed.
- What additional strengths do you have that we haven’t talked about?
- Describe the three most important events of your education and career.
- Tell me about the three most important people in your education and career.
- Describe your most satisfying work experience.