When you really analyse effective questioning, this is best demonstrated when you relate to children. When children are young, they often ask “why?” as they grow to understand the world that they live in. In counter to that, parents will often ask their child what they did with their day and wonder why they get so little information back.
Parents wanting to know about their children may often question with something similar to “did you have a good day at school?” relayed with the answer “yes”. Children take things literally and will generally answer a yes or no question with a variant of those answers. As we get older, we get used to giving more information where we are able to read the context of a question, but those questions are still and remain ineffective in gaining information.
Open and closed questions are commonplace throughout all our lives, even if we aren’t really aware of it. When taking the example of children, the need to ask “why?” is a completely open question which requires a detailed answer.
An open question is a question that would typically start with either who, what, where, when, how or why. When a question starts with one of these prefixes the person answering it should not be able to provide a simple yes or no answer. Open questions are the most effective way of getting in-depth and thorough answers and lead to more effective conversations.
A closed question could fall along the lines of “did you do xxx”, the answer coming back will typically be a yes or no. When the answer you require falls within this requirement or where you are looking to gain commitment, closed questions can be effective, however where you require detail, these would be ineffective questions
Day to day people phrase a lot of closed questions when actually they require someone to give much more information than they are asking for in reality. Worse still, these questions can be leading questions which lean towards giving an answer that would be considered to be the right answer. If that was not bad enough, sometimes you will hear an open question but it will quickly be followed by a closed question, an example being “how did you get on there, did you enjoy it?”. It is clear to see that ineffective questions come about all of the time and can often be to the detriment of the information required.
The good news is that these methods of questioning are mostly habitual and that if you pay attention to what you are asking you will be able to train yourself to ask questions more effectively. Understanding the literal answer to your question will often make you think of a more effective way of asking it.
In specific relation to the recruitment industry, questioning is hugely important, especially when it comes to interviews. Often, ineffective questioning will lead to ineffective answers and could result in that candidate not having given themselves as strong an opportunity to portray themselves at their best. In some cases, it would be fair to say that the fault lies with the interviewer rather than the interviewee.
Often, interviewers are not trained to interview people, instead, they may be in the position of interviewing as a result of their job role. If you are an interviewer or in a senior position, it is worth spending time considering your questioning techniques and working to make them as effective as possible. Remember, there is no need to fill a silence, ask an effective question that requires a detailed answer and allows time for consideration of a well thought out answer.
Keep the prefix of your question with a variation of who, what, where, when, how or why.
Contributor: Tristan Law