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Guide to Open-Ended Interview Questions With Best Answers

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity - Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Interviews are the gateway to gauge the depths of your skills and performance ability in unfavorable conditions. Interviews are also a means to judge your persona and attitude and be coherent to the workplace policies.

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. Definition of open-ended interview questions
  2. Reasons why recruiters ask open-ended interview questions
  3. Open-ended vs. close-ended interview questions
  4. Open-ended interview question categories
  5. Tips for answering open-ended interview questions
  6. Open-ended interview questions with sample answers
  7. Advantages and Disadvantages of open-ended interview questions and answers

Interviewers generally resort to two types of questions, open-ended and close-ended, for the selection process. Open-ended questions are the preferred choice because of their scope to analyze a candidate's abilities.

But how?

Definition of open-ended interview questions

In essence, an open question for an interview is but a question that cannot be answered in a singular word, such as "Yes" or "No," and is not limited by a set of answers you can choose from. You need to utilize your skills and knowledge to answer what you think of the situation or the issue.

Open-ended interviews are heavily dependent on such questions. These questions are asked based on the post's requirements, with the option of further probing, if necessary. Incorporation of the STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result) method in your answer gives it an eloquent touch.  

Reasons why recruiters ask open-ended interview questions

Recruiters ask open-ended questions to understand your critical thinking skills and the ability to make prompt decisions. Incorporating the right open-ended interview questions helps recruiters choose who to work for the company and whether he/she will fit in the work culture.

These questions help gauge the qualitative abilities and act as a channel to gather more information on the history and experience of a candidate. So, make sure you are prepared for open-ended interview questions if you are shooting for glory! Without open-ended questions, no interview is complete today.

It is essential to deliver prompt answers to the questions asked and in-depth knowledge of the job requisites. Otherwise, you may not find yourself in the best of positions to grab the opportunity. Employers are looking for spontaneity and confidence, so make sure you are a step ahead for that coding interview preparation you have been working on lately.

Also read: 9 behavioral interview questions commonly asked at Google.

Open-ended vs. close-ended interview questions

Open-ended questions are no longer a stranger, and it can be safely said that open-ended questions have the scope for you to go long and go big, provided you are not making it a dull affair. Knowing when to stop is a virtue that can win you many battles. However, it is not always this simple.

On the contrary, the recruiter may also bombard you with closed-ended questions. These are used for a quantitative purpose and are generally answered in either "Yes" or "No." You can also answer from a given set of choices, A, B, C, and so on. These are the first choice for surveys as it is not an instant turn-off for people, and it barely takes any time. Closed-ended questions can get you traction for statistical insights.

Take a look at the following example for straightening out any remaining dubiety.

At an interview:

Close-ended question: Were you satisfied with your last organization?

Open-ended question: How satisfying an experience was it working for your last company?

Open-ended interview question categories

As enunciated earlier, open-ended questions are a doorway to the depths of your knowledge and skills. But these are also of many kinds, depending on the requirements of the job and the interview. It may be so that the interviewer will ask all of these types of questions to get a comprehensive idea about what you can bring to the company's table. An ideal career advice would be to prepare beforehand for the different scenarios you may face during the job role.

Behavioral questions: Behavioral questions help evaluate your decision-making ability in hypothetical adverse situations. It helps the interviewer gain insight into the skills you possess and the usability of those skills in the role you have applied for. These questions are aimed to test your strengths and weaknesses, and you can answer them, too, with the right preparation of the right ingredients.

In essence, you need to prepare concise and informative answers, highlighting your strengths and how your decision-making ability can benefit the organization in more ways than one. Employers are looking for proactive participation rather than reactive participation. So, make sure to pull the right rabbit out of your hat when your time comes.

Some common examples of behavioral interview questions are:

  1. Tell me how you deal with deadline pressure.
  2. Talk to me about a time when your manager was absent, and you had to take care of the lion's share of work.
  3. Give me an instance where you had to say 'no' to your supervisor.
  4. Talk me through a situation where it was your fault that your team is in a difficult position. What did you do to make it right?
  5. Give me an instance when you shared bad blood with a coworker and how you resolved the issues.

Situational questions: Situational questions share their objectives with behavioral questions. The difference lies in the fact that the former is about a situation you faced in reality, while the latter is based on a hypothetical scenario given to you by the interviewer to judge your situation-specific reactions and decision-making ability.

These questions are generally based on situations, which you will have to handle at the company once you are a part of the team. Thus, ensuring your ability in such situations allow the recruiter to gauge how well suited you are for the applied position. Your analytical thinking skills are called to action here, more often than not.

Basic situational questions asked in an interview are:

  1. You are stuck with the implementation of some UI tweaks, but it is not working, and the only UI expert is on leave, and so is your supervisor. Your team is busy with another project; so, no luck there either. What do you do now?
  2. You and your team were given a massive project, which you have worked on for two months. Now you realize that you have made some mistakes, which will put you at least a couple of weeks back. So, how do you handle the situation as simultaneously the deadline is creeping up as well?
  3. Your coworker is giving you a hard time and is potentially preventing you from delivering your 100%. What do you do to deal with the coworker?
  4. It is Sunday. But there is suddenly an urgent client requirement, which requires you to address the issue immediately, or your company will suffer a loss. What is your solution to this fix?
  5. You and your team have been working hard on a project for quite some time now. The project manager makes a mistake and creates an extra burden for the team. What will you do?

Anecdotal questions: It is almost the deadline, and your manager suddenly has to take an extended leave because of some medical emergency. Tell me, how do you take up the interim leadership role and deliver the project?

When you hear a question of the sort coming at you, brace yourself and get ready to make an unforgettable impression. This is your chance to take center-stage and prove why you are ideal for the job, which is exactly what the interviewer is trying to know, anyway.

Ensure you have an enthralling story to pick out from your hat and keep it concise and highlight the steps you took to reverse the situation in your favor and got the job done on time. To prepare yourself adequately for the interview, remember to be ready with compelling examples for the key discussing points of the session and job role.

Keeping it on track and relevant to the topic are your top priorities, followed by keeping the story limited to what needs to be said and not what you want to say.

If opportunity does not knock, build a door – Milton Berle.

Competency questions: As the name suggests, these questions test your rational abilities and psychology behind taking a particular decision. The instances asked for are generally real-life, while you also can showcase how your able decision-making skills helped you come out on top. The results must highlight your efficiency at the job, and while you are at it, here are a few pointers to keep in mind the next time you are in a fix:

  1. Emphasis on maintaining transparency through effective communication.
  2. Situational-based decision-making ability under strenuous conditions.
  3. Ability to lead in times of distress.
  4. Strong belief in teamwork.
  5. Trust and responsibility are the magic ingredients of a high-spirited team.

Technical interview prep mock classes can help you on this front, and there are plenty of such courses available.

Tips for answering open-ended interview questions

Whether you're looking to crack a coding interview or trying to answer common Google interview questions, these tips work for both scenarios.

Do not stray off-topic: It is a must to know what role you are applying for in the company. Do not deviate from the topic you have been asked and provide ample closure to what you can bring to the company's table. The onus is on you to convince the interviewer with your knowledge on the topic because no one else will take the baton for you.

Include relevant situations as examples: Giving examples is a must when you are trying to showcase your skills and ability to perform in a demanding workplace. Nothing works better if you talk about your spectacular efforts in a project in your previous company or how you saved a client from leaving your company by delivering the project on-time. Do not forget to put the priority on what you did to overcome the situation.

Keep it to the point and compact: Going in-depth is a great trait, as long as you are not making a speech. Speaking of the essentials, your qualities and assets that the company can use to enhance business operations are your primary intentions. Speaking of how you have helped your previous organization can also gain you dividends in turbulent times. So, do not forget to mention those either. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that it should be a concise and enthralling account of the event.

Give it a personal touch: Using open-ended questions cannot meet a better end than giving a bright side to your personality. Take this opportunity to inform the employer about those steely nerves of yours, even under cracking pressure. Talk to the recruiter of the times when your calmness had saved the blushes of the company. Bottom-line, if you are unable to answer the interview questions with flair and panache, it is not going to be a happy ride back home.


5 tips to come out the happier soul out of your next interview

  1. Follow the STAR method.
  2. Do not drag your answers.
  3. Prepare various examples of different situations.
  4. Take your time before answering the question.
  5. Emit a positive and energetic persona. Nobody likes a couch-potato.

Open-ended interview questions with sample answers

Open-ended questions are a tricky customer and need to deal with tact and precision. Otherwise, you are probably going to blow it. Since it is a common occurrence, you can go through the answers to some of the best open-ended job interview questions generally asked, which trouble interviewees.

  • What do you think is your greatest strength, working as an android developer?

The key to my performance is the attention to detail, which takes the lion's share of my priority. As a developer, I have always been keen on tweaking here and there to enhance something or the other for a better user experience. My previous supervisors have a common opinion about my unrelenting effort at optimizing apps during the development and beta stage.

  • What do you think is your motivation to work harder?

My motivation lies in creating a more convenient world for one and all, and developing applications to improve lifestyle is one way to achieve it. Racking my brain cells to find an ideal solution or something even better helps me strive and push my limits.

  • Why do you think you are an ideal candidate for the role?

I am working in the field for nearly 6 years now and have gained valuable exposure in back-end server set-up optimization. Server issues are a thing of the past when I am working on it, and my previous stints bear the testimony to my words. Plus, I am adept at leading teams to success within the organizational framework, which I look forward to implementing in your company, should I get the opportunity.  

  • What are your stress coping mechanisms?

Pressure and stress are part and parcel of any job. However, though many consider it a factor that pulls you back, it pushes me to perform better, stay on track, and not lose focus. Multiple projects and deadlines are my secrets to elevated and enhanced productivity. Of course, there will be times when the pressure will be more, and so will be stress with too many projects at hand. I prefer to chalk out my schedule to handle the tasks without putting too much pressure on my team or me. Attention to detail and perfection within the deadline is my motto.

  • What is success, according to you?

Success, in my opinion, is the collective result of dedicated teamwork. It does not work if only one or a few members are involved while others beat around the bush. A cumulative effort on every front is the shortest yet a guaranteed formula for success.

  • Why are you looking for a job change currently?

I am a dynamic employee in search of tougher challenges to enhance my professional skills. I am seeking growth as an experienced coder and for me, without new mountains to climb, you rest and you rust.

When your back is against the wall, break the goddamn thing down. –Harvey Spector

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself in a middle-management or equivalent role with my able leadership skills, specializing in AI and Machine Learning. I see myself as an impetus of business growth with my hunger to succeed - I believe I believe I can do that and so much more, given the opportunity.  

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to intervene to restore the office's calm. How did you do it?

There was a dispute regarding hiring two candidate in my previous organization. One was a veteran with nearly 22 years of experience, while the other was a vibrant and dynamic young candidate, however with only 7years of experience. The group was split in two, each supporting their favored candidate. Seeing this is going nowhere, I intervened and suggested a need-based approach, through which we can hire the candidate we need, rather than who we want. This was accepted unanimously as the decision required the involvement of the team. We ultimately hired the one with 22years of experience as she had more all-around skills, which were then more crucial for the team.  

  • Which decisions, according to you, are relatively harder to take?

As the project manager, I needed to make many tough calls, which nobody looks forward to. Some of them include letting go of people because of downsizing, firing incompetent employees, and suggesting remuneration and hikes as well.

  • How did you come to know about the job vacancy?

I have been looking for a step up in my career for quite some time now and rummaging through the job market to find a challenging role to give my skills a much-needed boost. I found out about this vacancy through an employment website, and instantaneously identified it as an opportunity to help me through my desired career growth path.

Advantages and Disadvantages of open-ended interview questions and answers

The best open-ended interview questions give you the scope to answer the way you want to; it gives you the freedom to deliver your thought and decision-making process. This is a mutually benefitting situation as the interviewer is also seen to have come across new perspectives and approaches, which can entirely change the direction of what is being thought all-along. The advantage of the interviewers to assess the capability of the applicants serves as a smoke-screen for scrutiny.

However, you can call this a double-edged sword. This also means the preparations need to be immaculate and exact to bolster your chances of overcoming the hurdle. This also gives rise to a situation where there is no time limit for the interview as there is ample scope to go on about the story without any chance of it being verified or statistically proved.

Open-ended questions for interviews are not the most feasible when you need bulk information from a large section of the crowd.

A job interview is not a test of your knowledge but your ability to use it at the right time - Anonymous.

It is evident by now that an unprepared self can find it challenging to come out of the fray victorious. Thus, you need to be on your guard and have the answers ready at the tip of your tongue if you are in quest of glory.

Last updated on: 
October 27, 2023

Abhinav Rawat

Product Manager @ Interview Kickstart | Ex-upGrad | BITS Pilani. Working with hiring managers from top companies like Meta, Apple, Google, Amazon etc to build structured interview process BootCamps across domains

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