Types of Interview Questions

Types of Interview Questions

Asking and answering questions make up an integral part of an interview. Questions are the instruments that drive the interview process; they help govern the flow of information exchange. The efficiency of that process depends, in large measure, on the types of questions used in the interview.

Research and experts have concluded that a question could be typed by its traits. Basically, the questions are:

Open and closed questions

Open questions permit freedom in terms of the length and nature of the response, whereas closed questions restrict the response, often asking for specific information or supplying answer options from which the respondent chooses.

A subcategory of the closed question is a bipolar question, which is a question that limits answer options to two choices. The following examples illustrate how differently you can word questions about a single topic:

  • Open question: What do you know about our company?
  • Closed question: In your opinion, what word best describes our company?
  • Bipolar question: Do you know anything about our company?

Primary and Secondary questions

Primary questions are used to introduce areas of inquiry and are coherent in themselves. Whereas secondary questions are used to pursue the trail of information discovered in response to a previous primary question.

Think of a secondary question as a device to probe for further information or to clarify what has been said. The value of a secondary question lies in the fact that, by using follow-up questions, the interviewer is less likely to form false conclusions about a topic and is more apt to find useful, accurate information.

The types of secondary questions that can assist an interviewer are the;

  1. clearinghouse question,
  2. nudging question,
  3. reflective question, and
  4. Informational question.

The clearinghouse question is used to assure an interviewer that all essential information is provided. The nudging question is used to motivate further interaction.

The reflective question is used to verify information when there is a concern that it may be inaccurate, and the informational question is used to clarify an answer that appears to be vague or superficial.

Some additional tactics that can assist an interviewer in getting information are rephrasing the question in slightly different words, restating the question, and using what is known as a silent probe.

To use a silent probe simply means to refrain from saying anything for a brief time, letting the respondent fill in the silence. These tactics and the four types of secondary questions should prove useful to interviewers in many interview contexts.

Examples:

  • Clearinghouse question: What else do you want me to know?
  • Nudging question: And then what did you do?
  • Reflective question: So, you think you will go to the party after all?
  • Informational question: Tell me a little about that.

Neutral and Leading Questions

Neutral questions permit respondents to provide an answer consistent with their position on an issue, with their beliefs, with their attitudes and values, or with the facts as they know them. Leading questions are often used when the interviewer seeks to elicit a particular response.

The wording of a question usually suggests the direction of the answer.

Obviously, a leading question can be intentional or unintentional, but interviewers and respondents should know that the content of the question has the potential for bias. Example:

Neutral QuestionsLeading questions
What do you think about the new policy?Don’t you think senior officers will be harmed by the new organizational policy?
What are your attitudes toward the union?Do you oppose the union like most workers I have talked to?
Did you cheat on your last exam?Have you stopped cheating on your exams?

Loaded Question

Loaded questions are questions that stack the deck by implying the desired answer. This form of the closed question is sometimes used to back the respondent into a corner.

In effect, the interviewer poses and answers his or her own questions. Such questions are emotionally charged, and they immediately put the respondent on his or her guard.

Undoubtedly, loaded questions are sometimes used to advantage, especially in the news media. The loaded question is a doubtful technique if we are interested in getting information.

Examples:

  • Isn’t it true that violence can only make matters worse?
  • Hasn’t your new policy been tried in the past with no success?