Various Types Of Interview Questions

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Questions can be asked and data recorded in many ways. Different types of questions are appropriate for different purposes and different types of data can be used and analysed differently. It is important for interviewers or the questionnaire writer to understand the range of question types available because the choice of question type will determine the information that is elicited. It is also important to understand the different types of data that will be generated, because that will determine the types of analysis that can be carried out. The interviewers or questionnaire writer should thus be thinking about how the data are to be analysed at the time that the questions are being formulated (Brace L. 2004).We will describe each of question type detailed in the following parts.

Type of Interview Questions

1. Credential verification questions

This type of question includes What was your GPA? and How long were you at . . . Its purpose is to place objective measurements on features of your background (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

2. Experience verification questions

This type of question includes What did you learn in that class? and What were your responsibilities in that position? Its purpose is to subjectively evaluate features of your background (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

3. Opinion questions

This type of question includes What would you do in this situation? and What are your strengths and weaknesses? Their purpose is to subjectively analyze how you would respond in a series of scenarios (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

4. Dumb questions

This type of question includes What kind of animal would you like to be? and What color best describes you? Their purpose is to get past your pre-programmed answers to find out if you are capable of an original thought. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, since it is used primarily to test your ability to think on your feet (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

5. Math questions

This type of question includes "What is 1000 divided by 73?" to "How many ping pong balls could fit in a Volkswagen?" Its purpose is to evaluate not only your mental math calculation skills, but also your creative ability in formulating the mathematical formula for providing an answer (or estimate, as can often be the case) (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

6. Case questions

This type of question includes problem-solving questions ranging from: "How many gas stations are there in Europe?" to "What is your estimate of the global online retail market for books?" Its purpose is to evaluate interviewee's problem-solving abilities and how they would analyze and work through potential case situations (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

7. Behavioral questions

This type of question includes Can you give me a specific example of how you did that? And what were the steps you followed to accomplish that task? Its purpose is to anticipate future behaviors based upon past behaviors (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

8. Competency questions

This type of question includes "Can you give me a specific example of your leadership skills?" or "Explain a way in which you sought a creative solution to a problem." Its purpose is to align your past behaviors with specific competencies which are required for the position (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

The first four types of interview questions listed have a predictive validity for on the job success of just 10 percent. And 10 percent predictive validity is the same level that is generated from a simple resume review. Math questions increase the predictive validity to 15 percent (since it tests intelligence, commonly a key competency for most positions) and case questions raise the predictive validity to 25 percent (and slightly higher for consulting positions). Behavioral and competency interviewing, on the other hand, yield a predictive validity of 55 percent. Still far from perfect, yet much more reliable for most interviewers. Interestingly, the first four question types are still the favored approach by most untrained interviewers, simply due to lack of experience. Behavioral and competency interviewing is gaining greater acceptance by trained interviewers because past performance is the most reliable indicator of future results, especially when it is tied to the specific competencies for the position. Companies such as Accenture have modified this approach with specific critical behavioral interviewing to target those behaviors which provide the highest correlation with the required competencies for highly predictive positive results (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

Type of Questions

Open-ended Questions

Used by interviewers when they expect more than a yes or no answer. Some typical open questions are: "What can you tell me about yourself?", "Why are you interested in the posted position?" or "What are your most remarkable skills?”
The best way to answer these questions is by doing the right research before going to the interview (check your own resume and the organization website) and by making a list of possible open-ended questions so you can rehearsal your answers before the interview (Searcy, C. A., Woods, P. N., Gatewood, R., & Lance, C. 1993).

Closed-ended Questions

Used by interviewers when they need to know a specific piece of information (years of experience, technical knowledge, etc.). These questions require a brief and solid answer. The best way to deal with these questions is by reviewing and making sure you don't have any doubts about your background and CV details. If the question requires a yes/no answer then always try to add a brief piece of valuable information to the answer. For example: "Are you experienced teaching children?” Yes. I have 4 years of experience and I think they have been really rewarding"(Searcy, C. A., Woods, P. N., Gatewood, R., & Lance, C. 1993).

Hypothetical Questions

Used by interviewers to assess your problem-solving skills and to make sure you do have enough experience in the field to be able to face day-to-day problems. Of course, reply speed is also assessed. The best way to face these questions is by having all the required information so you do not give plain, meaningless answers. The best way to gather info is by asking follow-up questions before answering (Searcy, C. A., Woods, P. N., Gatewood, R., & Lance, C. 1993).

Leading Questions

These questions are assumptive ("So, you have a lot of experience in the Customer Service Area, don you?). The idea of leading questions is to get a specific response from the interviewee ("yes, as you can see in my CV, I worked as a receptionist for 7 years and?). The only way to answer these questions is by not being caught off your guard. That is: Listen carefully and process questions before answer them. The interviewer may be asking a leading question with a negative emphasis ("it must have been really difficult to get along with your boss as a salesman"). Always go for positive answers (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

Multi-Barreled Questions

They check your reasoning skills. These questions are linked in such way that suddenly what seems to be one question are actually two or three questions about the same topic. First of all, remember that they are checking your reasoning skills so do not give an answer unless you truly understand the questions. Do not fear to ask the interviewer to either repeat or rephrase his/her question (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994).

Behavioral Questions

Behavioral (experience-based or patterned behavioral) interviews are past-oriented in that they ask respondents to relate what they did in past jobs or life situations that are relevant to the particular job relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities required for success(Janz, T. 1982). The idea is that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance in similar situations. By asking questions about how job applicants have handled situations in the past that are similar to those they will face on the job, employers can gauge how they might perform in future situations (Pulakos, E. D., & Schmitt, N. (1995).

Used by interviewers to check the behavior of candidates. This type of question states that the best way to know what a candidate will do is by knowing what he/she did in a similar situation in the past. It is important to be completely honest when asked a question about a past experience, interviewers will ask for more and more details and it would be impossible to keep a lie going on. The best way to prepare you for these questions is by doing all possible research: What the company wants and what skills are required for the position. Get an Informational Interview to get and insight of the posted position.

Behavioral Interview Question Examples:

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.

History of Interview Questions

In interviews that are considered “structured interviews,” there are typically two types of questions interviewers ask applicants: situational questions (Janz, T. 1982). and behavioral questions (also known as patterned behavioral description interviews) (Flanagan, J. C. 1954). Both types of questions are based on “critical incidents” that are required to perform the job (Weekley J. A., & Gier, J. A. 1987). but they differ in their focus (see below for descriptions). Critical incidents are relevant tasks that are required for the job and can be collected through interviews or surveys with current employees, managers, or subject matter experts (Campion, M. A., Palmer, D. K., & Campion J. E. 1997). One of the first critical incidents techniques ever used in the United States Army asked combat veterans to report specific incidents of effective or ineffective behavior of a leader. The question posed to veterans was “Describe the officer's actions. What did he do?” Their responses were compiled to create a factual definition or “critical requirements” of what an effective combat leader is (Conway, J. M., & Huffcutt, A. I. 1997).

Previous meta-analyses have found mixed results for which type of question will best predict future job performance of an applicant. For example, some studies have shown that situational type questions have better predictability for job performance in interviews (McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. 1994), while, other researchers have found that behavioral type questions are better at predicting future job performance of applicants. (Taylor, P. J. & Small, B. 2002). In actual interview settings it is not likely that the sole use of just one type of interview question (situational or behavioral) is asked. A range of questions can add variety for both the interviewer and applicant (Campion, M. A., Palmer, D. K., & Campion J. E. 1997). In addition, the use of high-quality questions, whether behavioral or situational based, is essential to make sure that candidates provide meaningful responses that lead to insight into their capability to perform on the job. (Huffcutt, A. I. (2010).

Pros and Cons of Question Type

Advantages and disadvantages of behavioral based questions



Assess both technical and personal suitability

Not all selection committee members may be comfortable or skilled in the technique of behavioral based questioning.

The technique focuses on real examples from the candidate's experience, so candidates are less able to quote a textbook answer

Timeframe for interviews may be more unpredictable- you can not predict what example a candidate will provide, how many follow-up questions need to be asked or how long it will take to respond

Advantages and disadvantages of fact gathering questions



Assess technical suitability

Does not assess personal suitability.

Clear, quick and easy way to assess knowledge.

Less useful in assessing whether or not an applicant possesses the skills required for the job. For example, a candidate may be able to describe a problem solving process. This only indicates that they have knowledge of a problem solving process, not that they have good problem solving skills.

Advantage and disadvantages of situational based questions



Assess technical suitability and, to a certain extent, personal suitability.

Too easy for candidates to “tell you what you want to hear”. If you only ask situational based questions to determine personal suitability, you may end up with an employee who knows the right thing to do or say, but does not behave that way in the workplace.

Easy to come up with questions about specific situations and to identify the “ideal” expected responses.

Easy for candidates to anticipate questions in certain areas and provide you with that “ideal” answer.

Find the right mix

Because different types of questions get at different aspects of suitability, you sometimes need to ask a two or three-part question and combine the different types of questions in order to obtain a full picture of each candidate's suitability. Generally, a behavioral-based question will assess both personal and technical suitability as the behavioral based question involves the use of multiple questions and probing. Situational questions and fact gathering questions often need to be used together or in combination with a behavioral based question and/or probing in order to obtain a full picture of each candidate's suitability.