Additional Types of
A former student of mine recently sent me an e-mail. He had completed one of my courses on interviewing skills about three months before and was pleased to report that he was able to apply much of what he'd learned. He commented that, at the time, he'd thought I was making too big a deal about the importance of asking different types of questions; that, initially, he'd seen nothing wrong with simply asking, “Tell me about yourself.” I wrote back that I was delighted he'd found the class useful and asked him, “What's the most important thing you learned about asking questions during an employment interview?” His response came back immediately: “I learned that any thought can be expressed in a number of different ways. The wording you choose will determine how much information you receive and how useful that information is in making a hiring decision.”
I knew he was copying that statement from his notes, but I didn't care. His response demonstrated an understanding of the power of words during an interview, and how extensively the wording of a question impacts the end result. I was also thrilled that he no longer used the “Tell me about yourself” question, which I consider to be among the worst ever asked: It lacks direction and structure, and invites applicants to volunteer illegal information.
I wrote back, “Good for you, your organization, and all the applicants you interview! Can you impress me further by telling me the types of questions you ask?” I received his answer within minutes: “In addition to posing competency-based questions during most of the interview, I present open-ended, hypothetical, probing, and some close-ended questions. And even though you didn't ask, I'll tell you what questioning techniques I avoid: trait, multiple choice, and forced choice, because these types of questions usually result in meaningless or misleading information.”
Once again, I recognized my own words; and as before, it didn't matter. He'd walked into my class believing that the wording of questions was irrelevant, but he left appreciating the role well-worded questions play in the selection process. I was pleased.
By definition, open-ended questions require full, multiple-word responses. The answers generally lend themselves to discussion and result in information upon which