Channel your inquisitive side by nailing different types of questions for job success!
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In the job market, it's usually the employer or recruiter asking different types of questions, not necessarily the person aiming to land a role. But posing different types of questions isn't just part of the interviewing process. It's part of everyday communication, whether you're wanting to confirm something, move a project forward, or simply build better working relationships.
Why it's important to ask different types of questions
We might be taught grammar and spelling at school, but what about how to question? Developing your skills in this area can really improve your communication capabilities, while further developing beneficial relations with colleagues, clients, and other professionals across your network.
By asking the right questions, you can collate crucial information, develop productive solutions, and learn new things.
It can also help to:
Strengthen your critical thinking abilities
Verify and digest important points of a conversation
Defuse challenging circumstances
Deliver compelling talks and presentations
Upskill, train, and manage team members
Use the art of persuasion to encourage others to agree with you
What are the 8 different types of question techniques?
Achieve improved outcomes by deploying one of the techniques below; whether you're carrying out an interview, presenting to senior managers, or deep into a project. These are 8 questioning techniques you can use in order to gain more information on a subject.
Probably the most common type of questioning technique, the aim of an open question is information gathering and problem solving. Asking an open question gives the other person a chance to offer a more detailed explanation of the topic in question. It's a great questioning technique to apply when you need to understand why something has happened and the circumstances around it, as well as when you want to get on board with a colleague's point of view.
Typically, open questions start with one of the “Five Ws” - Who, What, When, Where, and Why - a technique taught to Journalists and in police investigations. You can also add How and Which to this list. They're questions that can't be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.
“What are some of the ways in which we could move this project forward?”
“Where do you see our sales figures going this year?”
“Why has our average customer satisfaction rating gone down so much?”
“How productive has the team been over the past month?”
“You look stretched; how can I help?”
Not surprisingly, closed questions are the opposite of open questions, designed to be answered by a nod or a shake of the head. They prove useful when all you require is a simple, quick response and are great if you want to assess whether a co-worker agrees with you or not. They save time and provide direct feedback.
“Do you fully understand the new company procedures?”
“Have sales increased this quarter?”
“Can you take part in tomorrow's meeting?”
“Are you concerned about coordinating the Christmas party this year?”
“Did you get a response from Harry about the new branding campaign yet?”
“Do you think you have the right set of skills for this position?”
Funnel questions begin with broad questions that become more and more specific the deeper you go into the conversation. By starting a dialogue with general questions, you can put the other person at ease, encouraging them to open up more as the conversation progresses. This type of questioning technique is perfect when defusing a tense situation, as you can calm down an irate customer or colleague by getting them to go into more detail about their complaint. Not only will this distract them from emotions, it often means you can find a way of offering something practical to help the matter.
“Have you taken advantage of using the IT helpdesk to solve your problem?”
“What did they do to resolve the issue?”
“How competent was the person who dealt with your enquiry?”
“Are you likely to use them again if you come across another IT issue?”
These do exactly as it says on the tin - dig that little bit deeper to get all the juicy details. It could be as easy as asking the person for an example, so you can further grasp a statement they've made. Additionally, you might need clarification on something or want to investigate if there's proof of what's been said before. Probing questions can help to glean information from those who don't seem to be that willing to share what they already know.
“When do you want this report, and are you keen to see a draft before I hand over the final version?"
“How do you know that the new database can't be used by the marketing department?"
“What exactly do you mean by being business aware?”
“Can you elaborate on that, please?”
Questions that lead
“That's a leading question, yer honour.” Familiar to us from courtroom dramas, leading questions steer the recipient down the path that the person posing the question wants them to go down. Powerful for business leaders and sales personnel, they're often applied in negotiations to influence the decisions of others by starting with a claim and ending with asking if the other person agrees.
“If we decrease spending on events, we could steer more of the budget towards social media, which has a better return on investment, don't you agree?”
“I think Eve's idea is preferable to Amy's as it will lead to a higher level of advertising success. What do you think?”
“Jessica's very organised and efficient, isn't she?”
“Shall we all vote for option one?”
Questions to clarify
To clarify is to check if you've got the right information and have understood correctly, with these types of questions often coming at the end of a meeting, discussion, or presentation. It's one of those great types of questions that can be used to verify dates of deadlines, who's accountable for which tasks, or next steps for the team as a whole. It's also useful for recapping key points, making everyone aware of what the conversation was all about.
“Am I correct in saying that the final project is due a week on Monday?”
“Before wrapping up, let's confirm everything. Office furniture is being moved out on Thursday, Hunter is on target to book the Facilities Manager for the relocation, and staff are going to be informed by HR tomorrow. Is that all correct?”
Rhetorical questions don't require an answer, and are a technique used to engage with the audience while ensuring they're still listening. They're designed so that listeners really think about what's being said, and then come to their own conclusions. They're basically phrases wrapped up in question form.
“How many times do I have to tell you?”
“What could be better?”
“Can't you do anything right?”
“What's not to like?”
Questions for recall
Recall questions are brilliant for ensuring the recipient has remembered something important. Say you're teaching a new colleague how to use the till, you could ask them a recall question about how a particular aspect works so that you know they understand the process.
“Do you remember how to access the channel sales documents?”
“Where did you put the files for the presentation on Tuesday?”
“Can you recall how to spell check the file?”
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