Interview Questions

There is a seemingly endless variety of job interview questions, but you can usually organize them into five categories, based on the kinds of answers you're trying to elicit.

Job Interview Questions: Five Types to Consider


Definition: Job interview questions that call for a simple, informational answer – usually a yes or no.

Sample interview questions in this category:

  • "How many years did you work for the circus?"
  • "Did you enjoy it?"
  • "What cities did you tour?"

When to use them: Closed-ended job interview questions work best if you're trying to elicit specific information or set the stage for more complex questions.

Pitfall to avoid: Asking too many of them in rapid-fire succession and failing to tie them back to the job criteria, thus making candidates feel as though they're being interrogated.


Definition: Job interview questions that require thought and oblige the candidate to reveal attitudes or opinions. One type of open-ended question is the behavioural interview question. With behavioural interview questions, candidates are asked to relate past on-the-job experiences to situations they are likely to encounter in the position being discussed.

Sample interview questions in this category:

  • "Can you describe how you handle tight deadlines on the job?"
  • "Can you give me an illustration of how you improved productivity at your last job?"

When to use them: Most of the time, but interspersed with closed-ended questions.

Pitfalls to avoid: Not being specific enough as you phrase the question and not interceding if the candidate's answer starts to veer off track.


Definition: Job interview questions that invite the candidate to resolve an imaginary situation or react to a given situation.

Sample interview questions in this category:

  • "If you were the purchasing manager, how would you go about selecting a new automated purchase order system for the company?"
  • "If you were to take over this department, what's the first thing you'd do to improve productivity?"

When to use them: Useful if framed in the context of actual job situations.

Pitfall to avoid: Putting too much stock in the candidate's hypothetical answer. You're usually better off asking questions that force a candidate to use an actual experience as the basis for an answer.


Definition: Job interview questions asked in such a way that the answer you're looking for is obvious.

Sample interview questions in this category:

  • "You know a lot about team building, don't you?"
  • "You wouldn't dream of falsifying your expense accounts, would you?"

When to use them: Rarely, if ever. You're not likely to get an honest answer – just the answer you want to hear. And you run the risk of appearing unprofessional.


Definition: Job interview questions that, on the surface, may seem bizarre but may actually be revealing in the answers they elicit.

Sample interview questions in this category:

  • "What literary character do you most closely identify with?"
  • "If you could be reincarnated as a car, which one would you choose?"

When to use them: Some businesses have used these kinds of interview questions to determine whether a candidate is a fit for the company culture or to see if the interviewee can think outside the box. But most firms should approach them with a good deal of caution. A candidate's response to an off-the-wall challenge may highlight his or her creativity and offer insight into the thought process. But you also can come off as unprofessional, if not out and out weird, if you don't handle these job interview questions carefully.

Pitfalls to avoid: Overuse. If you decide to ask an off-the-wall interview question, do it just once. A series of weird questions may send your candidate scrambling for the door before the interview is over.