When I began writing and interviewing, I didn’t understand the benefit of asking different types of questions to get different types of information. It’s not always easy for someone to open up to a stranger, so I’m listing one strategy and five types of questions you can use to improve your interviewing skills.
Start with simple questions to make the person you are interviewing more comfortable. You may be able to build rapport through the information shared in those early answers. The person may begin to relax, which may help him or her open up to you and begin talking like a friend as you progress to difficult or complex topics.
Five types of questions
1) Closed-ended questions. These are questions that can be answered with a simple “yes,” or “no.” These types of questions are a good way to get the interviewee warmed up. An example would be to ask “Is it true you graduated from ABC College with a degree in unicornology?” Closed-ended questions can also serve as fact-checking devices, ensuring the subject that you are interested in getting the facts straight.
2) Open-ended questions. These are opposite of closed-ended questions, and cannot be answered with a simple “yes,” or “no.” An example would be to ask why the person decided to major in unicornology, which may provide insight into personality, or what drives him or her.
3) Primary questions. These questions introduce a topic. An example would be “What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?”
4) Secondary questions. These are follow-up questions that provide insight into motivation, preparation or lessons learned. If the subject answered the primary question listed above by saying “Climbing to the top of Mt. Everest,” then a follow-up question could be “What did you learn from that experience that changed the way you live your life?”
5) Hypothetical questions. The answers to these questions may provide insight into character and behavior. “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?” “If you could change one thing about the way your company works, what would it be?”
Well-prepared questions can make or break an interview. Ask a variety of these types of questions to increase the likelihood of a successful interview.