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Interview Preparation

How To Answer Open-Ended Interview Questions

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What is an open-ended interview?How to answer open-ended interview questionsOpen-ended interview questions with example answers

Guide Overview

Understanding open-ended interview questions 

Open-ended interview questions allow for answers that can come from diverse angles based on the candidate's experience, knowledge, or personality. Interviewers and hiring managers ask open-ended questions to probe job candidates' thought process. These questions allow employers to objectively evaluate candidates' communication and problem-solving skills and determine whether they are an ideal fit for their roles. It is important for you to know how to answer open-ended interview questions to improve your chances of getting hired. 

Here we discuss what open-ended interview questions are, outline how to answer them, and provide examples of these questions with answers. 

What is an open-ended interview?

An open-ended interview is a method hiring managers use to gather information from job candidates. In an open-ended interview, the interviewer asks questions that can only be answered based on your experience, knowledge, skills, thoughts, ideas, personality, and interests. Open-ended interviews help the interviewer get more insights about job candidates and help them determine whether they meet the requirements of their role.

Open-ended questions differ from close-ended questions because they lack yes or no answers. This can make them more challenging to answer, so it’s important to make sure you are prepared based on the requirements listed in the job description. You may find it easier responding to these questions if you understand the role’s requirements and prepared adequately.

Discover real interview questions asked for thousands of job titles

How to answer open-ended interview questions

Here are strategies for answering open-ended interview questions:

1. Study the job description carefully

One simple way to ace open-ended interview questions is to study the job description carefully and ensure your answers focus on the job requirements. Since there are no right or wrong answers in an open-ended interview, you have more flexibility to impress the interviewer. You only need to sound convincing and demonstrate you have the skills, experience, and personality for the position. Regardless of the interview format, you want your answers to help the interviewer envision you in their position.

2. Provide relevant examples

You can improve your chances at an open-ended interview by supporting your answers with relevant examples related to the employer’s position. For example, the interviewer asks a hypothetical question about how you would handle a troublesome client. You can respond with an answer that shows how you used your conflict resolution and persuasion skills to calm an unhappy customer in the past. When answering open-ended, situational interview questions, using the STAR technique can help you sound more convincing.

3. Stay on subject

While open-ended interview questions can be ambiguous, your answer should be directly relevant to the company or position. Provide an answer that demonstrates you understand the problem and can solve it in a work environment. A more specific answer makes it easier for the hiring manager to determine whether you are a good fit for their role.

4. Reflect your personality

Open-ended interview questions allow you to be creative and flexible with your answers. Your answers should reflect your personality and demonstrate your excellent communication skills.

5. Practice common open-ended interview questions

Before the interview, practice as many open-ended interview questions as possible. Practicing can help you prepare convincing responses ahead of time and make it easier to form your thoughts during an actual interview.

6. Keep answers short

Answers to open-ended questions should be in-depth and specific, but still concise. Avoid going off topic and providing lengthy answers as this can increase the risk of going off-topic. The interviewer may also lose attention if your answers are too long.

Open-ended interview questions with example answers

Here are example open-ended interview questions and answers to help you practice and impress hiring managers:

Tell me about yourself.

Most hiring managers ask this question to help establish a rapport and learn a bit about you, both personally and professionally. In your response, make sure you frame your qualities and attributes in a way that reflects your suitability for the position:

Example answer: I would describe myself as a hard worker and top performer. At my current company, I have won the Employee of the Month award a record 11 times in the last three years thanks to my ability to meet and exceed sales quotas. It wasn’t easy getting to where I am today. I’m grateful to my manager, who created an environment that rewards excellence. However, I spent a great deal of time, money, and effort to learn to be the best at what I do. My passion for achieving results and leveraging the strength of my team has helped me professionally, and I believe I can transfer that zeal into your position. 

What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?

Knowing your own abilities and areas for growth is a valuable skill, and one that hiring managers like to see. Assessing your own strengths and weaknesses is common in a job interview. Prepare in advance, particularly the weaknesses response, to ensure what you say still reflects positively on you as a candidate:

Example answer: My biggest strength is the ability to delegate effectively. As a team leader, I have a knack for giving individuals roles that best suit their personality and expertise. This has made it possible for my team to have an oversized project completion rate. My major weakness is trusting people too easily. This is not a weakness per se, but in the past, some people took it for granted. Now, I vet people more carefully before I entrust them with anything. 

Learn more: How to Answer: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Why should we employ you?

Many hiring managers like to end their job interviews with this question. It’s a great opportunity for you to give a last pitch for why you’re the best candidate for the job. Prepare a short statement that summarizes your skills and qualifications to share when asked:

Example answer: I’ve been following your company for a while now. The information I gathered from the job description and my research on your company shows I am more than qualified for this role. I value collaboration and have a verifiable track record of meeting and exceeding sales quotas. I believe my experience, skills, and achievements have prepared me adequately for this role. If given the opportunity, I will use my experience and skills to improve the company’s revenue generation. 

What are you passionate about?

Companies want employees who are well-rounded individuals. Asking about passions outside of the workplace helps the hiring manager learn more about you as a person and see where you devote your skills, time, and energy when not in the office. Ideally, answer this question in a way that highlights your transferable skills for the position:

Example answer: I’m passionate about cycling. It requires energy, dedication, and is a bit risky considering that most road users don’t respect cyclists. Cycling keeps me fit, helps me explore the outdoors on weekends, and allows me to unplug from the city. It also allows me to socialize and contribute a token to the local bicycle shop’s business. 

How do you deal with stress?

Stress management is an important ability for most employees. Hiring managers want to ensure you’re prepared to handle on-the-job stress and still accomplish your work responsibilities. In your answer, highlight stress reduction strategies you can perform at work:

Example answer: I practice yoga. I find it extremely relaxing and physically stimulating, and that helps me control stress. I also love listening to sentimental music-it takes my mind off the rigors of work. At work, I have learned not to get worked up when things don’t go my way. I’d leave the job for a while and return to it later, after I’ve rested. These strategies help me keep stress at bay. 

What motivates you?

Many companies strive to motivate their employees to perform excellent work, but hiring managers often look for candidates who are capable of intrinsic motivation. When you respond, mention motivators related to your job or desire to succeed professionally to show you’re ready to meet or exceed expectations:

Example answer: I’m motivated to deliver results everyday by the smiles my work puts on our clients’ faces. My work at my current company requires helping patients navigate the complicated paperwork and regulations of the healthcare system. Many of them have health issues not covered under insurance, but I try my best to help them get access to quality healthcare and live the most comfortable life possible. 

Open-ended interview questions can be difficult to answer, but they also offer more flexibility and allow you to show the interviewer your creativity and personality. It is important to practice as many open-ended questions as possible to impress the hiring manager and boost your chances of getting hired.

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