Gathering information is the key to competent interviewing, and nothing is more important than an ability to be flexible in your questioning techniques; you must do it so smoothly that no one
realizes it but you. A questioning style that is appropriate in one instance may give you false, misleading, or--worse still--no information at all in another instance. The following 12 techniques will help you ring the changes as the situation demands and ensure that you strike the right note every time.
1. Close-Ended Questions
These are the most commonly asked questions in interviewing, and also the most commonly abused. How often have you heard of interviewers asking a closed-ended question such as, "Can you work under pressure?" Only yes and no are the possible answers (and who answers no?). The interviewer has no information, no way of evaluating any one candidate against another. But while a closed-ended question is inappropriate in its most common usage, it is useful as a questioning technique when you are looking for commitment ("Can you start on Monday?") or when you are refreshing your memory or verifying information from earlier in the interviewing sequence ("You were with Xerox for ten years?"). You can also use it to get the ball rolling when you have a series of questions on the same subject.
2. Open-Ended Questions
These questions are logically the opposite of the first questioning technique. With an open-ended question, the interviewee cannot get by with a monosyllabic answer; instead the question demands an explanation in response. For example, "How do you succeed in working under pressure?" is an open-ended question that asks the interviewee to answer in detail. As a rule of thumb, this style of question is preferable to closed-ended questions, and is guaranteed to keep the candidate talking and you listening.
These questions often start with, "I'm interested in hearing about..." "I'm curious to learn..." "Would you share with me..."