You’re already using these questions, but it’s likely you haven’t had any reason to consider their significance. If you seek to be a better communicator and, as a result, a better negotiator, then this is something worthy of attention and being conscious of.
We've just finished discussing buying signs, watching for them and being prepared to react accordingly. But this does not mean you should limit yourself only to being reactive. Interviews are a two-way, interactive event; they are not a one-sided interrogation. Indeed, as an applicant you are seeking admission; yes, more pressure is on you to hopefully meet and ideally surpass their expectations, but you should be every bit as proactive in learning about the opportunity during the process in which you are engaged. So, not only understanding and identifying the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions, but employing them, is the essence of interactive communication – unless you choose instead to sit like a lump and answer only that which is asked of you; but you won’t gain much information that way.
Close-ended questions are simple and only evoke a yes or no reply. This has value when you seek a direct and definitive answer.
Open-ended questions require thought and encourage additional discussion of the subject at hand. They help to perpetuate conversation.
Understanding the difference can be helpful and productive, and here is the primary reason why this is not something to overlook. If you enter an interview with a high level of interest and the best intentions but you only respond and, in so doing, limit yourself to asking yes and no questions you will not get far and you will go home kicking yourself, after the fact. If, on the other hand, you engage in a business conversation and interact with well-placed questions it can make the difference. Here are basic examples of what I am talking about:
“Are you hiring anyone?”
“What kind of people do you hire?”
“Well, that depends…”
They are virtually the same question asked in a different way, thereby guiding the conversation toward a different potential outcome.
While (most) other people are content to limit themselves to sending a few resumes electronically – and likely complaining about poor results and lamenting how tough it is and there are no jobs out there -- think about what you’re capable of doing on your own behalf. If you have been following this blog for the last couple months:
You are, of course, conducting online efforts. You are also capable of confidently initiating direct contact in order to investigate opportunities within companies and organizations of interest. You have learned the means by which to overcome the hurdle of process barriers meant to limit or channel your inquiry; you are now developing ways to navigate around those obstacles, enhancing your odds of reaching a hiring official. You’ve learned how to formulate an effective personal presentation, with examples that you can quickly but concisely share, when you have your moment. You’ve learned how to employ your presentation in a number of different applications (in person, on the telephone, voice mail and email).
And now you are learning how to best apply questions in a manner that will maximize and more completely investigate available opportunities others will miss. There is so much more but, thus far, would you agree it is possible that by adding any (or all) of these measures, it can set you apart from others competing for the same jobs? So it isn’t just about emailing resumes and crossing your fingers, is it?
Next time we’ll talk about communicating with Human Resources.
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