Open-Ended Interview Questions and Answers

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Most job interviews will contain at least a few open-ended interview questions. Basically, open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

An employer might ask an open-ended question for a variety of reasons. Generally, he or she will ask an open-ended question to get a sense of your personality, and to see if you will fit into the company culture. He or she might also ask this kind of question to see if you have the qualities needed for the job.

Open-ended questions can feel intimidating because there are so many different ways you can answer them. Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers. However, a strong answer will focus on why you are an ideal candidate for the specific job. The answer will be in-depth, and might include an example from a past work experience.

Read below for detailed tips on how to answer open-ended interview questions. Also see a list of common open-ended interview questions, and links to sample answers for each.

Types of Open-Ended Interview Questions

There are many different kinds of open-ended interview questions. One common type of open-ended question is a behavioral interview question. A behavioral interview question is one in which a person asks you about your past work experience. For example, an employer might ask, “Tell me about a time when you struggled to meet a deadline,” or “Describe your greatest accomplishment at work.”

Another common type of open-ended question is a situational interview question. A situational interview question is one in which a person asks how you would handle a hypothetical work situation. For example, the employer might ask, “What would you do if you knew your boss was wrong about something related to your work?”

Other open-ended questions do not fit into a specific category, but are very common. For example, one of the most commonly asked open-ended questions is actually a statement: "Tell me about yourself."

There are many other kinds of open-ended interview question types, including anecdotal and competency interview questions.

Tips for Answering Open-Ended Interview Questions

Focus on the job description. No matter what your answer, be sure it focuses on the skills, requirements, and/or experiences related to the job. For example, if an employer asks you to talk about a time you achieved success at work, try to provide an example that relates to the kind of work you would be doing at this job.

Provide an example. When appropriate, provide an example from your past work experience in your answer. For example, in a situational interview question about how you would handle a future problem, you can give your answer by providing an explanation of a time you solved a work problem in the past.

When answering a question by using an example, try using the STAR interview technique. This involves describing an example of a past experience in detail. Explain the situation, the task or problem you dealt with, the action you took to solve it, and the results.

Go in depth, but keep it concise. You want to provide in-depth responses to open-ended questions. However, be sure you don’t just talk and talk for too long. Stay focused on clearly answering the question. Keep your answer to-the-point and concise.

This is particularly important when you are asked the common interview question, “Tell me about yourself.” What the prospective employer wants is a quick, 2- to 3-minute snapshot of who you are and why you're the best candidate for the position. You should talk about what you've done to prepare yourself to be the very best candidate for the position. Use an example or two to back it up. "Tell me about yourself" does not mean tell me everything. Just tell me what makes you the best.

Open-Ended Interview Questions

A great way to prepare for open-ended interview questions is to practice answering common ones. Here are some examples of additional open-ended interview questions you may be asked, plus sample answers: