During a job interview, the interviewer tries to make you do the talking. They will avoid factual, close-ended questions that only require a yes or no from your part. Instead, they try to get you to talk by using open-ended and behavior-based job interview questions. So what are open-ended job interview questions? Read all about it in this blog and make sure you’re able to answer such questions during your next job interview.
Open-ended job interview questions require you to offer more details in your answer and allow you to demonstrate your communication skills. For example, questions like this can start with ‘Tell me about a time..’. Such a question cannot be answered with a basic ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Other commonly used open-ended questions are:
- How would you describe yourself?
- What motivates you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
By asking such questions and by letting you talk the interviewer is trying to understand your personality to discover whether you will fit into the organization and the team. Furthermore, the interviewer wants to discuss your abilities, qualifications, and experience needed for the job.
Tips for answering open-ended job interview questions
Match your response to the job and the company
The job description usually describes requirements and needed skills and abilities. They most of the time also give a brief insight into the company structure, goals mission, and values. Make sure to include these in your answers when describing certain situations. The best way to do this is according to the STAR-method.
Answer as honest as you can
Open-ended job interview questions will require you to talk, and different kinds of questions can be asked. If you come up with an answer from the top of your head, it’s always better to answer as honest as you can. This is because if you’re lying or bragging too much, the interviewer will most likely find out. Of course, you can center certain situations a bit more around yourself. For instance, if you answer a question and you’re giving an example of a time where you had to lead a project to a successful end, it’s okay to talk about you and your role a bit more.
Use the situation to gain knowledge
Just as open-ended questions give the interviewer information about you, you can also them to your advantage. For instance, if a question is being asked and after answering, you have a question about a related topic, don’t be shy to ask or save it until the end. This way, you can really connect with the interviewer and turn the interview into a conversation from which you can both gain knowledge to see if there’s a match.
What To Focus On When Answering Open-Ended Interview Questions
There are a few points that you need to remember when answering interview questions to make sure that you show the best version of you during the job interview.
When answering a question, don’t start rambling or getting off topic. Get right to it, and make your answers concise and concrete. Just tell the interviewer what he or she wants to know and use the best examples you can come up with.
Just like your answers should be accurate, you need to make sure that when you talk about your strengths that you stick to what is most applicable to the position that you applied for. Always make your answers as relevant as possible instead of talking about experiences that have no relation whatsoever to the vacant position at the company.
Besides being accurate and relevant, also be specific as you talk about your experience. For instance, instead of saying that you possess people skills give an example that shows that you’re a persuasive communicator in a professional setting. Demonstrate to them that you’ve built relationships in the past and what you got out of them on a professional level.
Detailed descriptions of your abilities and responsibilities
You should be able to connect your abilities and previous responsibilities to the job that you’re being interviewed for. Ensure that your answer relates to what’s listed in the job description. By doing so, you show the interviewers that you know what you’re talking about and that you know what it takes to fulfill this position.
Quantify your answer and give figures
When you discuss your experience, it’s always a good idea to quantify them by giving answers. For example, if you worked as a sales manager and you helped increase company turnover by making a plan, use the figures. It comes across far stronger if you tell the interviewer what plan you made, how you executed it, and how you increased turnover by 20% than just telling that you used to work in sales and were kind of good at it.
Example answers to open-ended job interview questions
In this part, we will discuss some common open-ended job interview questions that you might encounter when being interviewed for a position. When answering these questions, remember to use the STAR-method to demonstrate your experiences and unique value as a job candidate.
Tell me about yourself
One of the most common questions, or better said a request, is to tell the interviewer more about yourself. Your goal here is to focus on what interests the interviewer and providing him an answer that he or she would like to hear about the position.
‘I have been working as a sales manager to the sales director for over 4 years. First, I started as a sales employee and was promoted after 6 months. I am passionate about learning new skills, and I have completed several sales training courses. Over the last couple of years, I have developed a strong skill set, including building relationships. I am eager to make full use of this in a larger working environment.’
What are your greatest strengths?
This is the moment for you to ‘sell yourself.’ When answering this question, try not to be modest, but don’t exaggerate either. Try to establish the appropriate context in your answer and give the hiring manager an honest, thoughtful answer that highlights your professionalism and self-awareness too. Focus on your strengths that relate directly to the job position and the corresponding description. If needed, provide an example that shows your strength and how this can help add value to the hiring company. Example strengths for your information:
- Ability to prioritize
- Working under pressure
‘In my previous job, I worked in a fast paced environment. I am highly adaptable to changing market environments. During my work period, multiple new systems were introduced, and some teams were pretty unhappy about it. I figured out the system in my own time and was then able to train colleagues to work with the different systems.’
What are your greatest weaknesses?
Just like the interviewer will ask you about your strengths, your weaknesses are usually also discussed. When the interviewer asks about both in the same question, make sure that you start with your weakness so that you can end your answer on a positive note with your strengths. Being asked about your weakness might sound intimidating, but it’s actually an opportunity to show that you’re self-aware. Therefore, discussing your ‘weaker’ or developments points is better than not answering at all or saying that you don’t have any weaknesses. Discussing your weaknesses shows that you can critically analyze yourself and your skills. Example weaknesses for your information:
- Being too self-critical
- Uncomfortable taking certain risks
- Lack of focus (or being too focused)
‘During my previous job, I noticed that I could be too critical of myself. A recognized this pattern after a project where I felt I could have done more, even though I’ve done well if I look at it objectively. Initially, at the beginning of my career, this led to negative self-talk and being too critical of my own performance. A solution to this is to actively reflect on a project and celebrate achievements. This has helped me improve my self-esteem, but it also helped me appreciate my team more and the successes that we achieve together.’
What motivates you?
This is a very common job interview question. Also, interviewers can easily notice if you haven’t thought about it in advance. The best answer to a question about your motivation is giving an honest answer that is related to the job description and requirements mentioned. This way you suggest that you would be suited and capable to do the work. Examples of what could motivate you:
- Meeting deadlines, goals and targets
- Coaching others
- Working within a team
- Learning and developing skills
‘I’m driven by results and working within a team. I really enjoy having a concrete goal that I can work towards and on a solid strategy to accomplish it. In my previous job, bi-annual goals were set, which were aggressive, but I worked with my team and manager to break these down into monthly strategies and milestones. This way we were able to meet the half year and yearly numbers. It was very satisfying to work this way and towards a common goal.’
What are your goals for the future?
Interviewers ask this question to determine if you want to stay in a position for a longer period and if you be successful in the position that you applied for. By understanding your career plan, the interviewer, or hiring manager, can make a better-founded decision on who fits the job best. If your goals are aligned with those of the company, you have a greater chance of getting hired. Interviewers also use this information to understand if your professional goals and expectations match the role of the job opening. Examples of what your future goals could be:
- Gain industry expertise
- Leadership or management experience
- Become an expert at certain skills or skillset
‘One of my future goals includes leading a sales team. I’m excited about the possibility of working with several teams, like sales and marketing, simultaneously and developing a streamlined process, which fits my MBA background. The reason I applied to this job is that it calls for someone with organization skills. In my previous job, I worked closely with the team manager and would really like to manage my own teams in a couple of years.’
Why are you the best person for the job? Why should we hire you?
What does make you the ideal candidate for this position? How do you answer this question? It looks tricky, but you could use your answer to your advantage. On the other hand, if you cannot answer this question properly, it might appear that you’re not that serious or not that confident in your abilities.
Make sure that when you go to the interview, you’re able to match your top abilities and skills with the job requirements. When you’re giving answers to open-ended questions ensure you use examples that relate to the requirements as mentioned in the job description. Also, you should be able to substantiate how you can actually help the company. Other forms of this question can be: ‘why do you think you would b a good fit for this role?‘ Examples of why you’re the ideal candidate (make sure you are able to provide examples of work experience):
- You’re a great team player, and you can be a valuable asset to the team
- You’re able to bring value-added experience to the team and company
This inquiry allows you to make an “attempt to sell something” that exhibits why you are for the position. To plan, make a rundown of the requirements for the work, and see which of them you have. In your response, center around several of these qualities.
‘In my previous job, I was responsible for the customer service department. This provided me with the ideal experience for this position. For over four years, I developed many of the skills that are required for this position. This included delegating tasks, processing customer reports, and reporting to the managing director in order to further develop our customer service strategy.’
Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic