Interviewing

21 Tough Open-Ended Questions (and How to Answer Them)

November 30, 2020

Interviewers typically ask open-ended hiring questions during the hiring process to learn more about a candidate’s experience and relevant abilities. The ability to answer open-ended interview questions in a detailed and thoughtful manner can show your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Learning about different open-ended interview questions can help you better prepare for your next interview.

In this article, we’ll explain what open-ended interview questions are, how they compare to closed-ended interview questions and provide examples of both. 

What are open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions are queries that prompt the candidate to provide a detailed explanation. Many employers ask open-ended questions to get a better insight into the candidate’s thought process and personality. These questions can also reveal whether candidates have enough experience and qualifications for a specific job by explaining how they apply their knowledge and skills.

Since there are no right answers to open-ended questions, some candidates might find them challenging. However, the fact that there is no correct answer can be an advantage, offering flexibility in the way they approach the question. An ideal answer will show that the candidate is ideal for the open position and showcase their previous experience in similar roles.

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

Examples of closed-ended questions

As opposed to open-ended questions, closed-ended questions can only be answered with a very specific response, which is typically “yes” or “no.” Sometimes, the candidate may respond with other one- or two-word answers. They can come in many forms, but their common characteristic is the limited response options available. Here are some examples of closed-ended questions that may be asked during an interview:

  • Did you have trouble finding our office?
  • Are you experienced in business-to-business sales?
  • Do you have a diploma in marketing or business administration?
  • Are you able to work in shifts?
  • What college did you graduate from?
  • Do you work well under pressure?
  • Can you operate a cash register?

Examples of open-ended questions

Although the open-ended questions asked during an interview can vary according to each situation, there are some often-used open-ended questions to expect, including:

  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you think you are right for this position?
  • Why did you leave your previous position?
  • Where do you see yourself in the future?
  • Why did you choose that college specialization?
  • What did you learn from your previous job experiences?

Open-ended interview questions and answers

Here are some common open-ended questions that you could encounter during an interview:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are your motivations?
  • Tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume.
  • How did you hear about the position?
  • What makes you the right person for this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?

How would you describe yourself?

Being self-aware is a valuable trait for many employers. This question could show your ability to evaluate yourself and demonstrate some of your strongest skills. Give an answer that describes your most positive attribute and how you apply it in the workplace.

Example: “I’m an excellent team member. I like to collaborate and contribute as much as possible during projects. If I finish my tasks and time leftover, I’ll ask my coworkers if I can help them with anything. I always try to make time to answer any questions, especially from new team members. I believe teamwork and collaboration help create better, more efficient results.”

Read more: Interview Question: “How Would You Describe Yourself?” (With Examples)

What are your motivations?

Staying motivated within a position is important to maintaining productivity and satisfaction. Explaining what motivates you to succeed can show how an employer could use your strengths and working style. Choose an answer that best describes your motivations and how it could relate to the company. Give an example if possible. 

Example: “One of my biggest motivations is the end-user experience. In my current role as a front-end developer, I’m very aware of how many details can improve the product. I want to make sure that each button is in an optimal place, that drop-down menus are correct and that every page scales. Receiving positive feedback from customers or clients keeps me motivated to try my hardest.”

Related: Interview Question: “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume.

Not only do employers seek candidates that have the right skills and qualifications for the job but also that they can fit into their workplace culture. Your answer to this question could show how you would be successful in the open role. Choose a response that reflects your strengths and any personal interests that relate to the role. 

Example: “Working as a retail associate, I found that my favorite part of the job was upselling products whenever I could. I set weekly goals for myself to upsell to at least 50 times a week. It resulted in higher revenue for the store, and I gained a lot of personal satisfaction. I’m interested in working as a sales representative with your company because I believe yours is the best on the market, and I want to continue to grow my sales skills.”

How did you hear about the position?

This question could determine your motivations for finding a new job and how many other jobs you’ve applied to. Sometimes, hiring managers ask this question to determine the effectiveness of their recruiting efforts using different sources. If you’ve used multiple sources to search for and apply to jobs, keep a list of each job and where you found it to give an accurate answer. Explaining why you’re searching for a new job can also provide useful information to the hiring manager. 

Example: “Over the past few months, I felt that there was no place for me to evolve in my current position, so I want a new challenge. I scouted the job market until I found this role on your company’s job board, which I think perfectly suits my ambitions.”

What makes you the right person for this job?

The previous research you’ve done on what skills the company requires from their employees can help you identify your own professional qualities and link them to their expectations. You can even describe a past event at any of your former workplaces where you showed those qualities and added value to that respective company.

Example: “From the information I could gather regarding your company, you have excellent work systems in place and need organized employees that can manage daily operations. My work experience shows a history of success in organizing employees and communicating with them, and I hope I can use my skills for the benefit of this organization.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Explaining career goals can show you are a motivated professional who can contribute to the company. When developing a response, review the company to see if there are any positions you might earn in the next five years, then describe how you intend to achieve those goals. 

Example: “In five years, I see myself in a middle-management position at this company, with a firm view on upper management. If possible, I’d like to move into a product manager role, then possibly into a directing position. I’ve been working on my leadership skills to succeed and grow, with this company being the ideal environment for me to do so.”

Why are you leaving your current job?

Many employers will be curious to know why you are searching for a new job. No matter the reasons for leaving your current or previous job, make sure to offer a response that’s positive regarding your employer and coworkers. You can offer a simple response that briefly explains your reason for leaving.  

Example: “After a few years of working there, I feel that I achieved everything I can in my position. Managing large teams is one of the main reasons I chose a career in sales management and after gaining valuable experience in my previous role, I think it’s time to take the next step.”

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