When you search for a job and subsequently interview, you’re supposed to ask questions. Although increasingly, I find that people have a reluctance to do so and they somehow imagine a good resume is all that is necessary and somehow everything else will fall into place and take care of itself.
There are five basic types of questions: Factual, Convergent, Divergent, Evaluative and Combination. But let’s keep things simple, for our purposes I’m only concerned with open-ended and close-ended questions. Consciously knowing the difference and learning when to use one or another can help you, regardless of whether you are being asked, or you are the one asking the questions.
Open-ended questions require an explanation. Open-ended questions are like the name says: they are open-ended requiring explanation that will help to gain more insight or better understanding. Let’s say for example, I want to engage a person in conversation that has no real reason to speak with me, and I ask, “Are you interested in considering a new job opportunity?” Their reply is possibly going to be “no”. That was a close-ended question. If I wanted to learn more about him, I might have instead inquired, “Tell me what kind of job would appeal to you?” That was an open-ended question requiring a more thoughtful response resulting in more information.
A close-ended question is one that elicits a simple yes or no answer. If you ask a lot of close-ended questions you will not get a lot of information and the conversation will not go far. By the very nature of this kind of question, it’s not meant to. When you watch television and see a courtroom drama, you will notice a lawyer will ask someone on the witness stand a close-ended question when they might say “Did you or did you not see who killed your neighbor?” The intention is to limit the witness’ response to a yes or no and cutting off and preventing any discussion. He doesn’t want details and the lawyer has steered the question and answer process to serve his intention.
Determine, according to what will benefit you most, when to employ an open-ended or a close-ended question. When you want a black and white answer or a clear decision ask a close-ended question. When you want to keep the dialogue alive and extract more information, with which to make a better decision and prove yourself worthy of another interview, ask engaging open-ended questions. Conversely, learn to recognize when these methods are being used on you. Interviews are never meant to be, nor should they be, one-sided. I am not exaggerating when I say most people with whom you are competing in the job market are like zombies, simply going through the motions.
When sitting in front of a hiring official, their behavior is almost entirely reactive. I can assure you it doesn’t take much to set yourself apart from others, and it’s much easier than you think to make real impact. In the end they may not choose you, as there are never any guarantees but, take some initiative so when you walk out that door, unlike most others who’ll be forgotten five minutes later, you’ll have made an impact they’ll remember.