Curveballs or Basics: What Hiring Managers Ask in Interviews

September 28, 2016

Survey: Managers’ Favourite Job Interview Questions Can Get Tricky, But Most Focus on the Opportunity

Toronto, ON – A job interview can be nerve-racking, but add curveball questions to the mix, and you have a formula for a challenging discussion. The good news for Canadian jobs seekers is that many employers prefer to stick with standard inquiries, according to a survey by staffing firm Accountemps. Questions about the applicants’ interest in the position and company were most frequently cited as senior managers’ favourites (45 per cent), followed by asking about candidates’ previous experience (20 per cent).

However, unique questions are never off the table. Some senior managers cited these questions as their go-tos:

  • “Use an ad slogan to describe yourself.”
  • “What kind of animal would you be?”
  • “If you could have all of the ice cream in the world, how many different flavours would you take to make a sundae and how many toppings would you pick?”
  • “Tell me something different about yourself that's not written on your resume.”
  • “What kind of magazines do you read?”
  • “What did you want to be when you grew up?”

Canadian senior managers were asked “When interviewing job candidates, what is your favourite question to ask?” Their responses fell into the categories below*:


Pertaining to the position or company


Previous or current experience


Personal attributes and characteristics


Personal goals and interests


Theoretical questions






*Responses do not equal 100 due to rounding.


“While specific interview questions will vary depending on the company or position, there are standard discussion points that candidates should prepare for to help lay the groundwork for a successful interview,” said Dianne Hunnam-Jones, Canadian president of Accountemps. “Thorough research into the company, including potential challenges, threats and opportunities, will help you to articulate how your skills can enhance business growth while also assisting you in evaluating how the role fits into your career goals.”


Senior managers reported the following interview questions among their favourites, and Accountemps offers the reasons they are commonly asked:



What the hiring manager is trying to learn

Company or position

  • “Why do you want to work here?”
  • “What do you know about this company?”
  • “Why are you interested in this position?”
  • If a candidates did their homework
  • Their level of enthusiasm
  • Whether they would be a good match for the corporate culture


  • “What did you like or dislike about your last job?”
  • “Tell me about your work experience.”
  • “Why did you leave your last job?”
  • The applicant’s fit for the position
  • Patterns in work history
  • Transferrable skills if candidates are changing roles

Personal attributes or characteristics

  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • “How do you interact with a team?”
  • “How do you handle stress at work?”
  • “What are your hobbies outside of work?”
  • If candidates have the right mix of technical and soft skills, such as communication and leadership
  • Applicants’ work style
  • How individuals manage various situations

Personal goals

  • “Why did you choose this career?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in the future?”
  • Whether the position would contribute to an applicant’s overall career goals
  • If those objectives align with the company’s
  • If their ambitions are a fit with the role


About the Research
The survey was created by Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in Canada.

About Accountemps
Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The staffing firm has more than 325 offices worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the company’s blog, can be found at Follow us at @RobertHalf_CAN on Twitter for additional workplace news and hiring trends.

For further information contact: Naz Araghian, (416) 865-2140, [email protected]