How to Answer Open-Ended Interview Questions (With Samples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 6 November 2022

Published 29 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During the recruiting process, interviewers generally pose open-ended questions to learn more about a candidate's experience and applicable qualities. The ability to respond to open-ended questions in a thorough and analytical manner can demonstrate your problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities. Learning more about various open-ended questions can help you better prepare for your next interview. In this article, we define open-ended interview questions, outline some tips to help you answer one and provide sample questions and answers for you to reference.

Related: Common Interview Questions and Answers

What are open-ended interview questions?

Open-ended interview questions are questions that encourage a thorough response. Many interviewers ask open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of a candidate's thought process and personality. Open-ended interviews allow the interviewer to learn more about job candidates and assess if they fulfil the requirements of their position. These questions can also show if candidates have the necessary experience and credentials for a certain position by eliciting examples of how they use their knowledge and abilities.

Because there are no correct solutions to open-ended questions, some applicants may find them difficult. Since there's no proper answer, it might be a benefit, providing freedom in how applicants approach the subject. An ideal response can demonstrate that the candidate is a good fit for the vacant position.

Related: What Is a Brain Teaser? (With Definition and Examples)

How to answer open-ended questions during an interview

Open-ended questions differ from closed-ended questions in that they don't have a yes or no answer. This can make them more difficult to answer, so make sure you're well-prepared and ready. You might find it easier to respond with the following tips in mind:

1. Examine the job description thoroughly

One simple method to excel when answering open-ended questions is to thoroughly read the job description and make sure your responses put an emphasis on the job requirements. Because there are no correct or incorrect answers in an open-ended interview, you may have more flexibility when constructing your response. It's important for you to sound convincing and show that you have the necessary abilities, experience and personality for the job.

Giving examples that are relevant to the position in question allows a prospective employer to assess how well you would fit in their organisation. It also conveys that you've planned ahead of time and are looking for this specific job, rather than any job that matches your abilities.

2. Provide specific instances

You can boost your chances of getting an open-ended interview by providing relevant examples relating to the employer's role. For instance, the interviewer may provide a hypothetical question regarding how you would handle a difficult customer. You might react with an example of how you utilised conflict resolution and persuasive abilities to calm an irate customer in the past. Using the STAR approach while answering open-ended, situational interview questions may help you appear more credible, persuasive and believable.

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Technique

3. Maintain your focus

While open-ended interview questions might be difficult to answer, it's important that your response directly relates to the company or position. Provide a solution that proves you understand the problem and are capable of resolving it in the workplace. A more precise response helps the recruiting manager assess whether you're a suitable match for their post.

4. Showcase your individuality

Open-ended questions provide an excellent opportunity to showcase your individuality. With open-ended questions, you may be creative and flexible in your responses. A prospective employer may get an impression of how well you might fit with the organisation by replying naturally and giving a little of who you are as a person.

This provides a human context for the talents and qualifications on your CV, which would set you apart from the competition. It's critical for your responses to represent your personality and exhibit your strong communication abilities. Being able to demonstrate humility, a sense of humour and ambition are just a few key characteristics that may help a prospective employer connect with you during an interview.

Related: 8 Personality Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

5. Practise with popular open-ended questions

Practise as many open-ended questions as you can before the interview. You can look up common interview questions online and draft your responses. Practising ahead of time can help you prepare convincing replies and make it simpler to develop your ideas during a real interview.

Related: How to Prepare for an Interview

6. Keep your responses brief

Answers to open-ended questions can be detailed and explicit while being brief. Avoid deviating from the topic and delivering long responses, since they might increase the likelihood of deviating from the topic. If your replies are overly long, the interviewer may lose interest.

4 open-ended questions and sample responses

When considering the potential questions you may face, it may be useful to examine some potential replies to encourage you to create your own. Outlined below are some of the most common examples of open-ended questions in a job interview and their sample responses:

1. What piques your interest in this position?

Your prospective employer is looking to see whether you have done your research and have a genuine interest in joining the organisation with this inquiry. Take advantage of this chance to demonstrate your interest in the organisation while relating your experiences and ideas to their primary objective.

Example: 'I'm interested in this position with Simple Corporation because I'm passionate about this work and the chance it provides to make a difference on a larger scale. I have over eight years of expertise working with educational institutions on issues directly connected to this job, such as social-emotional learning, physical health and positive behaviour support. While my experience in these roles was beneficial, I could only work at one school at a time. This job would allow me to impact entire networks of schools or perhaps all schools in the system at the same time.'

Related: Interview Question: "Why Do You Want to Work Here?"

2. Tell me about yourself.

As the interview begins, this question allows interviewers to get to know the applicants. You might emphasise your self-awareness and capacity to analyse yourself so that the interviewer understands how you use your intrapersonal talents to excel at work. Use your response to discuss how you use your most favourable qualities in work.

Example: 'I think of myself as a supportive and influential team member. I enjoy working with my coworkers and giving as much as I can to attain goals and contribute to future company strategies. In my previous work as a marketing expert, I frequently assisted teammates when I finished projects ahead of schedule. I also try to let my teammates know that they can rely on me.'

Related: Interview Question: 'Tell Me About Yourself'

3. What are your strong points and weak points?

When recruiters inquire about your strengths and shortcomings, they assess your total performance and how you overcome obstacles to progress. Highlighting how you utilise your strengths and work to improve your flaws might demonstrate to the interviewer how you can help their firm. You may consider the following sample answer.

Example: 'I've always had natural leadership ability. With over five years of expertise in finance and accounting, I've consistently exceeded my KPIs. My former company promoted me twice in the last three years and I've taken advantage of every chance to utilise their criticism to enhance my skill set.

I like taking on leadership roles, but I may be overly critical of myself at times and often feel I could have done more, even when my performance surpasses expectations. I've been working on improving this problem by including more supportive self-talk and celebrating my accomplishments, even if it's only a simple recognition of my own success.'

Related: Interview Question: 'What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?'

4. What are your goals and objectives?

This interview question might assist the employer in understanding how you plan your future to achieve both professional and personal goals. Use your response to demonstrate your ability to assess your alternatives in relation to any objectives you have set for yourself and the tools you use to plan and track your progress toward those goals. Demonstrate your capacity to take charge of your goals, tactics, progress metrics and self-evaluation techniques. This may impress employers and give them a sign of your drive and performance.

Example: 'I'm now pursuing a master's degree in information technology. I'm passionate about the topic and have excelled as an information analyst for many years. I've been driven to acquire this extra certificate as I've learnt more throughout the last six years of my profession. So far, I have completed my entrance exams for en programme, but I have yet to begin my curriculum. I believe that by completing my education in this manner, I would be able to better contribute to the company's technological aspirations.'

Related: How To Answer "What Are Your Future Goals?" in an Interview

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