10 Tips for Effective Interview Questions

The success of interviews depends on many factors, such as the professionalism of interviewers, the place they conduct the interview, and the devices used to record the interview. But perhaps the biggest factor in a successful interview process is the questions the interviewer asks. In this article, we will look at several tips and techniques you can use to get the most out of interviews.

First of all, it is important to mention that before starting an actual interview, you should make the interviewee comfortable with a few questions about their day or offer coffee or tea and have a little conversation.

1.    Avoid unnecessary questions

During the introduction, you may ask questions or start a conversation about the person’s day, but having unnecessary questions from the start would not bode well for the rest of the interview. The respondent may think that you have agenda in asking certain questions.

2.    Be sincere

Your questions should be sincere and make a good impression on the respondent. The topic may not be something the respondent is happy to talk about, but framing the questions in a certain way may play a vital role in getting sincere answers. Don’t ask forced questions.

3.    Don’t ask leading questions

What is a leading question? It’s a type of question that’s framed in a way that makes the respondent answer in a particular way. In other words, these questions don’t allow the respondent to think about the question because the answer is already used in the question. For instance, - “You were home last night, weren’t you?” - is a type of question that already knows or assumes that the respondent was home. In this case, there is no need to ask this type of question because, first, you already know the answer and can use the opportunity to ask other questions, and second, it might just be an assumption that the respondent was home. If you are unsure if the respondent was home, don’t ask a leading question about it. You can use - “Can you please tell me where you were last night?”- for much better effect. The question doesn’t assume anything and lets the respondent answer freely, without any pressure.

4.    Use open-ended questions

There are two types of questions you can use in interviews. Close-ended questions are questions that already have preset answers, such as yes or no, or questions that ask to choose from predetermined options. These questions are usually useful in customer satisfaction questionnaires but don’t really help much in other instances. On the other hand, open-ended questions don’t include any preset answers and let the respondent provide any answer they want. It is especially recommended to use open-ended questions in qualitative interviews where the researcher needs to get deeper insights into the issue.

5.    Ask follow-up questions

Follow-up questions are closely related to open-ended questions. After asking a question, it is better to ask specific follow-up questions to confirm the information. Follow-up questions should be constructed carefully and shouldn’t stray away from the main question.

6.    Avoid double-barreled questions

These are questions that contain more than one question in a ‘single’ question. They are different from complex questions. A complex question is just one question but with many words and ideas used in a single question, whereas a double-barreled question consists of multiple questions. One of the drawbacks of using these questions is that you will possibly just get an answer to only one of those questions

7.    Avoid using personal questions where unnecessary

While it’s understandable that the interviewer may ask personal questions depending on the topic, doing so where unnecessary may not result well, especially if the questions touch upon sensitive topics. It goes without saying that the interviewer should always inform the interviewee beforehand that there will be personal questions. We already know that respondents might be sensitive about talking about certain areas. Therefore, in this situation, asking even more personal questions may have unwanted results. In short, it’s important to know when to stop.  

8.    Make questions as simple as possible

Avoid using complex questions as you should take into consideration that your interviewees aren’t experts in your field and not everyone can understand long, complex questions as you possibly do. One of the best practices in the case of complex questions is to divide the questions into shorter and simpler questions.

9.    Ask unbiased questions

Everyone has a bias, but it may play a huge role, especially during the interview process. Confirmation bias is one of the leading biases where the interviewers ask specific questions and wait for specific answers to confirm their assumptions.

10.    Closing questions

Ask if they want to talk about something you forgot to ask. There’s a big chance you’ll forget to ask some questions you were planning to ask. Thus, you can ask the respondent if they would like to talk about something else related to the topic.