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The Keys to Open Ended Questions in Interviews: Clarify & Keep Concise


Three tips designed to help you deal with open-ended questions.


When it comes to job interviews, open-ended questions can catch us off guard. They require more than a simple “yes” or “no” response and demand a thoughtful and detailed answer. Here are three tips to keep your responses concise and effective:


1. Set a time limit. When faced with an open-ended question, it’s crucial to establish a time frame for your answer. Ideally, you should aim to respond within two minutes, ensuring you provide a comprehensive yet succinct reply. It’s important to remember that interviewers are not looking for long-winded monologues. Three minutes should be your absolute maximum.


“Interviewers don’t expect or desire lengthy monologues.”

2. Seek clarification if needed. Occasionally, an open-ended question may be so broad that it feels impossible to answer within the given time frame. In such cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to seek clarification. Offer a partial answer and follow up with a question of your own, such as, “Is that the type of information you were looking for?” or “Could you provide further details about what you meant by that?” This demonstrates your desire to provide a relevant response while respecting the time constraints.

3. Practice and time yourself. To ensure you’re prepared for open-ended questions, consider conducting a role-play exercise with yourself. Select common interview queries like “Tell me a little bit about yourself” or “Describe your work history,” and time your responses. This practice will help you gauge your answer’s length and allow you to refine your delivery, ensuring your answers fall within the recommended time frame of three minutes or less.


Brevity is key – interviewers don’t expect or desire lengthy monologues. Focus on delivering concise, well-thought-out answers, and you’ll stand out as a confident and effective communicator. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out by phone or email. Happy hunting!