How to Handle Open-Ended Interview Questions
Preparing for an interview can be a difficult process, especially when you don’t know what to expect. In this blog, we’ll get some expert insight on what interviewers typically ask, how to answer open-ended questions, and what to avoid during an interview.

What kind of questions will I be asked?

Ellee, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., says, “You should be prepared to answer questions about yourself, your education, your past/present work experiences, and any extracurricular or volunteer work you completed. You may also be asked why you want to work for their company versus others. If the interview is behavioral-based, meaning the interviewer is asking, ‘Tell me about a time when…’ questions, be sure to utilize the BAR (Background, Action, Results) or STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) method. This will ensure you are capturing the necessary details in the answer you provide. Be sure to review the job description prior to your interview so you can highlight your qualifications that match the role during your answers.”  Ref Link

Kimberly, Hiring Expert at Emerson, says, “You can count on being asked why you're applying for the position and what you know about the company. Those are easy to answer as long as you do a little research about the company prior to interviewing. You may be asked to give examples of situations you encountered in previous positions. For example, ‘Tell me an example of how you handled an uncomfortable situation with a coworker,’ or, ‘Explain how you would help a group of employees with different ideas find common ground.’ Interviewers are looking to see how you answer questions in addition to your answers.”  Ref Link

Brittany, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, says, “The amount of time you have with your interviewer will determine how many questions you will be asked. It's hard to say which questions you’ll receive because it depends on the position. Know that your interviewer is trying to form an understanding of what you have accomplished, what you are capable of, and how you will benefit the company through this particular role.”  Ref Link

How to answer open-ended questions

“Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common open-ended questions that an interviewer could ask. Here are some ways to go about answering open-ended questions.

Carrie, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., says, “I like to use this time to share my relevant work experience and highlight the qualities of my personality that would be beneficial in the role I am interviewing for. This is also a great time to show what differentiates you from other candidates – whether that’s a unique hobby, past work experience, or even just describing a situation that made an impact on your life.”  Ref Link

Ashley, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, says, “This is a great opportunity to highlight anything you are proud of or want an interviewer to know about you. Keep it simple, unless they ask you to go into detail about your education and work experience. It's important to find a balance between sharing too little and sharing too much. You don't want to provide the bare minimum, but you also don't want to talk for 10 minutes about yourself. The interviewer will ask you to elaborate on anything he/she wants to know more about.”  Ref Link

Jenna, Hiring Expert at Emerson, says, “‘Tell me about yourself’ is one of the most common questions that seems the most surprising to candidates. My recommendation is to give a well-rounded answer about your background, what made you decide to pursue the field you're in, prior employment, and tie it back into soft skills that would apply well to the role or values of the organization with which you are interviewing. You'll want to be careful as there is a concern about saying too much about yourself and disclosing items that may be inappropriate or open you to potential discrimination (age, marital status, family, religion, etc).”  Ref Link

What to avoid during an interview

Jacqueline, Hiring Expert at BNY Mellon, says, “As a Recruiter I frequently see candidates saying or doing things in interviews that can be off-putting. First and foremost, you never want to be unprepared. Too often people are unfamiliar with the company where they are interviewing, the responsibilities of the job for which they are interviewing, or they are not prepared to speak about their experiences and skills. Secondly, it is usually best to avoid speaking negatively about current/past employers or bosses. It can come off as unprofessional and, depending on the circumstances, it might be viewed as a red flag to the interviewer.”  Ref Link

“Next, it is important to be aware of your body language. Avoid overly-casual body language and posture as it might be viewed as lack of interest or overconfidence. Instead, be attentive to your interviewer(s) and make sure your body language portrays attentiveness. Your communication skills are important as well. While you may be nervous, it’s best to avoid using frequent filler phrases such as ‘um’ or ‘you know’ as they can be distracting from the message you are trying to convey.”

Practice makes perfect

Having a friend interview you prior to the interview itself is a good way to practice answering open-ended questions that interviewers might ask. Getting constructive feedback from someone you trust will help you prepare and build confidence for the real interview. When in doubt, be yourself and the rest will fall into place!
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