An interviewee’s guide to Job Interview questions

Why did they ask me that?


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An Interviewee's Guide to Job Interview Questions

In another BLOG I explain how to prepare for a Competency Based Job Interview.  I thought you might also find it interesting to understand how a good interviewer will use different types of questions in the course of an interview.  

This is the sort of thing that any trained interviewer will know, so I hope you find this useful on whichever side of the desk you find yourself.

It's important firstly to know about FUNNELLING.  This is a technique that enables an interviewer to drill down to the facts on a particular topic.  In preparing for an interview the interviewer will have reviewed your CV, comments from any recruiter and studied the Job Description and Person Specification.  They will then prepare a list of questions.  I have interviewed so many people now that I no longer actually write out the questions, although I did for many years.  What I still do however is to choose the areas about which I wish to learn more.  So, the interviewer may wish to check the candidate's experience to see if it fits the Job Description.  Perhaps they need to check some technical expertise that is critical to the job.  Or maybe they have spotted an inconsistency in the CV (it was not written by me, obviously!) which they wish to investigate further.

For the sake of example let's say they have established 3 topics:  Past Experience, Current Role and Future Ambitions.

The Interviewer wants to begin with past experience, sees that the candidate started their career at Bloggs and Co, and so they start with an OPEN QUESTION: "I see that your first job was at Bloggs and Co - tell me about that?"

Open questions are asked first for a number of reasons.  Firstly, because they are designed to gather information.  Secondly, because they tell you a lot about how a Candidate thinks and feels, because they are not directive; the Candidate can take the answer wherever they want.  Thirdly, because they are non-threatening, relatively easy to answer, and a good interviewer wants to set the candidate off and talking and help them to feel relaxed and confident.  Why?  Because that makes for a more open, constructive and informative interview.  Open Questions can be defined even more simply as questions to which one cannot give "Yes" or No" as an answer.  They sit at the mouth of our funnel, which is wide and can take in a lot of information.

The Interviewer listens to the answer, which in turn raises new questions.  Perhaps only one, but more likely several.  The Candidate will have said things that need further investigation, in order to assess their suitability for the role.

The interviewer therefore begins to deploy PROBING QUESTIONS. In our example a Probing Question might be:

"You said that after 6 months you were promoted and managed a team for the first time. Tell me more about that".

The key here is the phrase "tell me more", as that is the essence of a Probing Question.  These are used to investigate a particular topic further, to go into more detail.  One Open Question can generate many Probing Questions.  And so we move further down the funnel, narrowing as it goes, approaching the end of this particular line of questioning.

There may be other questions along the way.  

REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS enable interviewers to both demonstrate that they are listening and to reflect back something said earlier in the interview.  

SITUATION QUESTIONS are the sorts of question you would expect to hear in a Competency Based Interview How to prepare for a competency based interview.

However, the questions we expect to hear as we approach the end of the funnel are CLOSED QUESTIONS - those demanding a Yes or No or a factual answer.  These questions are used to check facts.  So in our example a logical Closed Question might be:

"How many people did you manage in that team?".

Once the interviewer reaches the end of a particular line of questioning (or that funnel), they move on to the next topic and begin with an Open Question (a new funnel).  

In this example it might be about your current experience; and on it goes. I hope this was useful.  If you are on the receiving end of this kind of interview you are in safe hands, and it means that the interviewer should get the right measure of you.  If YOU have to interview someone - well, do them the same favour, please.

There are questions you should not be hearing in an interview - I will talk about those another time.

Have you ever been asked an unusual interview question?  Funny? Ridiculous?  Strange? Please let me know in the comments.

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Should you require some Coaching for an important interview we can help, just call me on +44(0)333 300 1296.


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