Three Categories of Interview Questions
An interview is only as good as the questions and answers that make it up. For an interviewer, the key is to ask questions that reveal a lot about the candidate in a short period of time. For an interviewee, the challenge lies in composing answers off-the-cuff that sound intelligent and compelling. Both sides of the equation can benefit from recognizing that interview questions typically fall into three categories. By preparing to ask or answer questions in these areas, both interviewer and interviewee will be better prepared to meet.
1. Informational Questions
Informational questions are used to gain insight into certain situations, like what the interviewee’s duties were at their last job. These questions require a narrative answer that explains the what and how of the candidate’s past experience.
The interviewer should review the candidate’s resume before the interview and identify what they need to know about their past, whether that be their experience in a certain degree program or their previous role as a supervisor.
The interviewee should analyze which of their past experiences will be most interesting to the interviewer, and prepare to discuss work history. They should think about key achievements or duties they want to make known to the interviewer, and make sure to mention them.
Open questions are used to evaluate the candidate’s more abstract qualities. They also require a narrative response, but it’s more hypothetical, not rooted in the interviewee’s past experience.
The interviewer may have a set of open questions they’re required to ask, such as “what are your strengths/weaknesses?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But it’s important to remember that the best interviews are conversations, not interrogations. Let questions arise naturally too.
The interviewee can prepare to answer some common open questions by reviewing lists like this one from Forbes. Otherwise, just be genuine in your responses. Don’t be afraid to pause to collect your thoughts before answering these questions—the interviewer will respect that you’re thinking through what you have to say.
3. Closed Questions
Closed questions are those that require a yes or no answer. They’re important to an interview, but too many can leave the meeting feeling flat. The only questions in the interview that should be phrased as closed questions are those that are very practical, such as “Are you willing to relocate?” and “Would you work weekends?”
The interviewer should consider carefully the timing of their closed questions. It’s advisable to ask these at the end of the interview so you don’t interrupt the flow of the more narrative answers. Being asked a rapid series of yes-or-no questions off the bat could be intimidating to a candidate.
The interviewee should not rush to answer these questions just because they’re more black and white. If you’re agreeing to something, make sure you’re truly agreeing. If you have any caveats or hesitations, make those known right away.
We hope thinking about interview questions in this way helps you organize your thoughts and be better prepared for a great conversation with a new connection. What’s the best interview question you’ve ever asked or been asked? Let us know in the comments!