Asking the right questions and getting what you want to know

Updated: Nov 6, 2020


The purpose of the asking should drive the need for the right questions to raise during an interview, a survey, an audit, a debate, a test, an interrogation, or any other form of request for information. 


Standalone inquiries could be insufficient. It would be beneficial to incorporate a human touch to make questioning more engaging. Some ways to improve questioning results could be including; body language, context, tone, and intonation. Think of it as a way to dress-up the questions to enhance their presentation. 


Once the objectives of the inquiry are defined and clearly stated, it is vital to select one or more questioning styles most applicable to the task. With that in mind, let’s review some key types of questions that could be employed depending on the situation at hand. 


Different Types of Questions 

There are several types of questions and formats that could be employed when seeking information from others. Some of those inquiries include;  


1) Behavioral questions. – Great to use when trying to gauge how someone handled a particular situation in the past. A common element of these types of questions is the reference to a specific time when the event occurred. These types of questions are beneficial during job interviews. 


2) Situational questions. – Applicable to cases where it is essential to assess the thinking ability of the interviewee by placing him/her in a particular scenario given specific parameters. Adding a challenge to the situation and asking for potential solutions could provide insight into how the interviewee would react to a possible/future situation. 


3) Factual questions. – Are fact-based validation questions where there can only be one correct answer per question. These are valid questions during interrogation, an audit, or school assessments. 


4) Competency questions. – Designed to allow interviewees to explain the what, how, and why of a particular event. The person asking the questions should pay close attention to the answers in search of cohesiveness, illustration, supporting details, the flow of information, end-results and, the reasoning for arriving at a conclusion. The most common place for these kinds of questions is job interviews. 


5) Opinion questions. – Provide an opportunity to get someone’s perspective about a given scenario. These questions are not looking for facts but rather a person’s point of view regardless of whether we agree with it or not. These questions are widely used during debates and surveys. 


6) Specific/Closed-Ended questions. – Are typically designed to allow for limited responses via pre-defined answer choices. However, their design involves much thinking, forcing the interviewee to analyze the question before selecting their answer of choice. Closed questions can be complicated, given the limited information available. A good case scenario for these questions includes school tests with yes/no, correct/incorrect, or true/false scenarios. 


7) Open-Ended questions. – Will require a longer than usual answer. The researcher expects a response in the form of a sentence, a paragraph, or a conversation. These types of questions are also known as statement phrases seeking the why or how of a given situation.  


8) Process questions. – Create an opportunity for the questioner to seek an in-depth response from the interviewee. These kinds of questions are strategically elaborated in such a way that the answers will follow a chronological or sequential logic until the final answer is reached. These are great questions when looking for process improvement or audit documentation. 


9) Probing questions. – Are intended as a follow-up on vague or ambiguous responses. These kinds of questions can also provide further clarification about the topic at hand. Probing questions are an excellent tool for sales professionals seeking to understand their clients’ or prospects’ challenges better. 


10) Rhetorical questions. – Are probably the most commonly used questions that do not require a response. They are designed to get the audience’s attention at the beginning of a product demonstration, a presentation, as a book title, or as a way to start a conversation. 

The answers we get will depend on the questions we ask. When you can use several types of questions in your audit, interview, or other kinds of questioning, you would have mastered the cornerstone of a great researcher. Let’s make sure to design purpose-built questions to guarantee we meet our objectives efficiently.  


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