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Interview Preparedness - Probing Questions


If you are a smart candidate you will be wise to prepare for your interview. Many hiring managers are quite trained to probe and ask you questions that you may find difficult to respond on the fly. This means you need to go for your interview prepared. Here are a few probing questions. Try and think throigh how would you answer if you were asked to provide an "example from your experience" and thereafter this probing starts.....

Probing questions are generally acceptable in a structured interview, but they should not result in the introduction of new topics or issues, since the structured interview is intended to ask the same questions of each applicant. Otherwise, some applicants may be inadvertently advantaged, while others, disadvantaged. It is also important not to reveal effective behavioural indicators through probing questions. The recommended approach is to develop specific responses to probing questions at the same time as structured interview questions. These discretionary, standardized answers should ensure that enough details of the situation, the your demonstrated behaviour in the situation and the outcome of the behaviour are being described to help your interviewers understand. Probing questions can also be used to help you focus on specific incidents without responding with generalizations. Listed below is a series of sample probing questions that can help to elicit specific details about the who, when, where, what, why and how of the applicant's responses. This list is followed by a summary of 􏰀do􏰂s􏰁 and 􏰀don􏰂ts􏰁 to consider when designing interview questions.

Sample Probing Questions


  • Who else was involved?

  • Who else helped you with this situation


  • When did all this take place?

  • When did you get to know about this?

  • When you got to know of this what were you doing?


  • Where did this take place?

  • Where did you decide to know about this?


  • What was the [situation/issue/problem]?

  • What were the [results/outcomes]?

  • What actions did you decide to take, and when?

  • What was your role?

  • What part did you play in making the decision to ?

  • What did you say, or do that [did/didn􏰂t] work?

  • What was the message you were trying to convey?

  • What were you trying to convince or persuade them of?

  • What techniques did you use to keep yourself and your work organized?

  • What did you do when your work started to get behind?

  • What was the deadline?

  • What actions did you take to ensure you met the deadline?


  • Why was this situation a particular challenge?

  • Why was this person difficult?

  • Why did you take that approach?

  • Why was it important to meet the deadline?


  • How long ago did this happen?

  • How did you develop this idea?

  • How did you convince your supervisor to adopt it?

  • How did it help the organization?

  • How did you prepare for it? How did you size up the situation?



  • Use language that is clear, straightforward and concise. Phrase answers in the proper working language of the job.

  • Develop answers that are specific, open- ended and call for more than a simple 􏰀yes􏰁 or 􏰀no􏰁 or a statement of facts. Ensure that responses contain only one issue or topic at a time for each qualification being discussed.

  • Develop responses that call for job knowledge or present a job-related problem or situation. Ensure responses are realistic, practical and deal with important aspects of the job.

  • Ensure answers distinguish among applicant qualification levels and differentiate between you and other applicants who will be good performers on the job vs. those who will not.

  • Require that the interviewer􏰂s get to see you describe actual behaviour (behavioural questions) or what you would do in a particular situation (situational questions).

  • Have your responses reviewed by subject matter experts such as managers or consultants who are knowledgeable about the job, or job incumbents who are successful in the targeted position.

  • Have responses reviewed by your mentor or a coach or by people from diverse cultural backgrounds to ensure that they are inclusive and do not contain words or expressions that could be offensive or create barriers.


  • Use complex language, government-specific terminology or language that requires culture- specific knowledge that is not work- related.

  • Make your answers so specific that hiring managers who have not experienced particular situations are unable to understand you

  • Develop leading responses that suggests a complex answer to the hiring manager and does not help them ask you their next question as a follow through.

  • Develop responses that involve moral judgments unrelated to work or discriminate on the prohibited grounds.

  • Develop responses that may seem threatening to hiring manager or could make them feel uncomfortable

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