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16 types of questions you need to know (with examples)

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

May 06, 2024

Getting the hang of the different types of questions isn’t just about scoring better answers and creating solid connections. It’s also your ticket to steering clear of awkward misunderstandings and dodging those cringe-worthy communication breakdowns.

When Thomas Kuhn said, “The answers you get depend on the questions you ask,” he was definitely onto something.

Let’s explore the everyday types of questions people ask and the answers they’re likely to elicit.

Types of questions

Closed questions (aka the “Polar” question)

Closed or “polar” questions generally invite a one-word answer, such as “yes” or “no.” For example, “Do you drive?” or, “Did you take my pen?” They could also include answers to factual or multiple-choice questions, such as “What’s your name?” or “Would you like tea, coffee, or water?”

They’re popular as icebreaker questions in group situations because they’re easy to answer. Of course, most questions can be opened up for further discussion, including closed questions — but more on that later.

Examples of close questions

  • Are you ready to start the project?
  • Did you receive the email?
  • Have you completed the report?
  • Will you be attending the meeting tomorrow?

Useful for: warming up group discussions, getting a quick answer

Open questions

Open-ended questions require a little more thought and generally encourage wider discussion and elaboration. They can’t be answered with a simple yes or no response. For example: “What do you think of your boss?” or “Why did you choose that car?”

Examples of open questions

  • What do you think about the new marketing strategy?
  • How can we improve our customer service?
  • What are your thoughts on the current market trends?
  • How do you envision the future of our company?

Useful for: critical or creative discussion, finding out more information about a person or subject

Probing questions

These questions help gain clarification and encourage others to tell you more information about a subject. Probing questions are usually a series of questions that dig deeper and provide a fuller picture. For example: “When do you need the finished project,” and “Is it ok if I email it to you?”

Examples of probing questions

  • Why do you think sales have declined this quarter?
  • What factors contributed to the delay in project completion?
  • What obstacles do you anticipate in the project timeline?
  • Why do you believe this marketing strategy will resonate with our target audience?

Useful for: seeing the bigger picture, encouraging a reluctant speaker to tell you more information, avoiding misunderstandings

Leading questions

These questions are designed to lead the respondent towards a specific desired positive or negative route.

In the workplace, you might encounter leading questions such as: “Do you have any issues with the project?” or “Did you enjoy working on that project?” The former subtly prompts the respondent towards a negative response, the latter towards a positive. Asking, “How did you get on with that project?” will get you a more balanced answer.

Leading questions could also involve an appeal at the end designed to coerce the respondent into agreeing with the speaker. For example, “This project is going well, isn’t it?” encourages the respondent to say “yes.” This works particularly well because, psychologically, we prefer saying yes over no when we’re on the spot.

Examples of leading questions

  • Don’t you agree that the new design is more appealing?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to implement the changes gradually?
  • Wouldn’t it be great to implement this new software?
  • Don’t you think our team has been performing exceptionally well lately?

Useful for: building positive discussions, closing a sale, steering a conversation towards an outcome that serves your interest

A word of warning: It’s important to use leading questions carefully; they can be seen as an unfair way of getting the answer you want.

Loaded questions

Loaded questions are seemingly straightforward, closed questions — with a twist: they contain an assumption about the respondent. Lawyers and journalists famously use them to trick their interviewees into admitting a fundamental truth they would otherwise be unwilling to disclose.

For example, the question: “Have you stopped stealing pens?” assumes the respondent stole a pen more than once. Whether she answers yes or no, she will admit to having stolen pens at some point.

Of course, the preferred response would be: “I have never stolen a pen in my life.” But it’s not always easy to spot the trap. These questions are quite rightly seen as manipulative.

Examples of loaded questions

  • Don’t you think it’s about time you took responsibility for your actions?
  • Why do you always insist on causing trouble?
  • Isn’t it obvious that our competitor’s product is superior?
  • How could you possibly justify such a reckless decision?

Useful for: discovering facts about someone who would otherwise be reluctant to offer up the information

Funnel questions

As with a funnel, these questions begin broadly before narrowing to a specific point — or vice versa.

When meeting someone new, we usually begin with specific, closed questions, such as “What’s your name?” and “What do you do?” — before broadening out into more open-ended questions, such as “Why did you choose to be a firefighter?” as you become more comfortable talking to each other.

The reverse — beginning with a broad question before honing in on something specific — is often used when questioning witnesses to gain the maximum amount of information about a person or situation. For example, “What do you do for a living? Do you work nights? Did you see a break-in? Was there more than one person?” And so on.

Funnel questions can also be used to diffuse tension: asking someone to go into detail about their issue distracts them from their anger and gives you the information you need to offer them a solution, which in turn calms them down and makes them think something positive is being done to help them.

Examples of funnel questions

  • What brought you to our event today?
    • Have you attended similar events in the past?
    • What aspects of our event agenda caught your attention?
    • Can you share any specific goals or objectives you hope to achieve by attending?
  • Can you tell me about your experience working in marketing?
    • How do you typically approach developing a marketing strategy?
    • What specific tactics have you found to be most effective in reaching your target audience?
    • Could you give me an example of a successful marketing campaign you’ve led in the past?
  • What interests you most about our company?
    • How do you see your skills aligning with the role you’re applying for?
    • Can you elaborate on your experience in project management?
    • What achievements are you most proud of in your career so far?
  • Why are you interested in pursuing further education?
    • What specific field or area of study are you considering?
    • Have you researched any programs or institutions that align with your interests?
    • Can you elaborate on your long-term career goals and how further education fits into your plans?

Useful for: building relationships, discovering precise information, diffusing arguments

Recall and process questions

Recall questions require the recipient to remember a fact. For example, “What’s seven times seven?” and “Where did you put the keys?” or “What’s your login password?” Process questions, on the other hand, require the respondent to add their own opinion to their answer. These types of questions can be used to test the respondent’s depth of knowledge about a particular topic. For example: “What are the advantages of asking a closed question?” or “Why are you the right person to lead this project?”

Examples of recall and process questions

  • Can you walk me through the steps you took to troubleshoot the technical issue?
  • How did you prioritize tasks when managing multiple projects simultaneously?
  • Can you recall a specific instance where you had to resolve a conflict within your team? What approach did you take to address it?
  • When developing the marketing campaign, what factors did you consider in selecting the target audience and messaging?

Useful for: encouraging critical thought and in-depth evaluation of a subject in tests, interviews, or discussions

Rhetorical questions

These are a different beast altogether because they don’t really require an answer. They’re simply statements phrased as questions to make the conversation more engaging for the listener, who is drawn into agreeing with you.

For example, “Isn’t it nice working with such a friendly team?” is more engaging than “This team is friendly,” which doesn’t require any mental participation from the respondent.

Coaches or public speakers often use rhetorical questions to get the audience thinking and agreeing. In this way, they’re a not-too-distant cousin of the leading question.

Examples of rhetorical questions

  • Isn’t it obvious that we need to prioritize customer satisfaction?
  • Do you really believe we can afford to delay the product launch any longer?
  • Isn’t it clear that innovation is crucial for staying competitive?
  • Do you honestly believe we can achieve our goals without adapting to market changes?

Useful for: persuading people, building engagement

Divergent questions

Divergent questions are designed to explore various possibilities and perspectives. Instead of seeking a specific answer, they encourage creative thinking. For instance: “What are some alternative approaches to solving this problem?” or “How can we tackle this project from a different angle?”

Examples of divergent questions

  • What are some alternative solutions we could explore to increase customer engagement?
  • How might we adapt our marketing strategy to reach a wider audience?
  • In what ways could we improve our team collaboration and communication?
  • What are some creative approaches we could take to streamline our product development process?

Useful for: fostering creativity, encouraging innovative solutions

Evaluation questions

Evaluation questions aim to assess the value, effectiveness, or impact of a situation, decision, or action. An example might be: “How do you think the recent changes in our workflow have impacted team productivity?” or “What criteria would you use to evaluate the success of this project?”

Examples of evaluation questions

  • What were the main drivers behind the recent increase/decrease in sales revenue?
  • How successful was the recent product launch in meeting sales targets and customer expectations?
  • What are the main obstacles hindering progress toward achieving our strategic goals, and how can we overcome them?
  • How effectively did the company respond to feedback from the latest employee satisfaction survey, and what improvements can be made based on the findings?

Useful for: reflecting on outcomes, improving processes

Inference questions

Inference questions prompt individuals to draw conclusions based on existing information. For example: “What do you think the client’s reaction will be to this proposal?” or “Based on the data, what trends can we infer about market preferences?”

Examples of inference questions

  • Based on the data trends, what conclusions can we draw about consumer preferences?
  • From the sales figures, what can we infer about the impact of the recent promotional campaign?
  • Given the increase in website traffic, what assumptions can we make about the effectiveness of our SEO strategy?
  • Considering the decrease in customer complaints, what inferences can we make about improvements in product quality?

Useful for: developing critical thinking skills, making informed predictions

Comparison questions

Comparison questions involve analyzing similarities and differences between options. “How does feature A of our product compare to a similar feature in our competitor’s product?” or “What are the pros and cons of the two approaches we’re considering?”

Examples of comparison questions

  • How does the performance of our website this month compare to the same period last year?
  • In what ways does our customer satisfaction rating compare to industry benchmarks?
  • What are the key differences between our pricing strategy and that of our main competitors?
  • How does the functionality of our product compare to similar offerings on the market?

Useful for: informed decision-making, product development

Application questions

Application questions focus on how knowledge or skills can be applied in real-world scenarios. For instance: “How can the insights from our recent training be applied to improve customer service?” or “In what situations do you see using the new software?”

Examples of application questions

  • How would you apply your knowledge of data analysis to improve decision-making processes within the marketing department?
  • Can you provide an example of how you have applied your project management skills to successfully coordinate a cross-functional team?
  • How would you apply your experience in customer service to handle a difficult customer situation?
  • Can you demonstrate how you would apply your creativity to develop innovative solutions to a common industry challenge?

Useful for: bridging theory and practice, enhancing practical skills

Problem-solving questions

Problem-solving questions are geared toward finding solutions to challenges. “What steps can we take to address the current project delays?” or “How would you approach resolving conflicts within the team?”

Examples of problem-solving questions

  • How would you approach solving a recurring customer complaint about product quality?
  • Can you describe a time when you had to troubleshoot a technical issue under tight deadlines? What steps did you take to resolve it?
  • Given a scenario where a project is facing unexpected delays, how would you identify the root cause and develop a plan to get it back on track?
  • Imagine a situation where a key stakeholder disagrees with the proposed solution to a business problem. How would you handle this disagreement and find a resolution?

Useful for: overcoming obstacles, fostering teamwork

Affective questions

Affective questions delve into emotions and feelings, offering insights beyond factual information. For example: “How did you feel about the outcome of the last client presentation?” or “What emotions do you associate with our recent achievements?”

Examples of affective questions

  • How did you feel when you received recognition for your hard work on the project?
  • Can you describe a time when you felt proud of your team’s accomplishments?
  • What emotions do you experience when faced with a particularly challenging task?
  • How do you typically handle stress in the workplace, and what strategies do you use to maintain a positive attitude?

Useful for: building empathy, understanding team dynamics

Structuring Questions

Structuring questions help organize information and thoughts. “Can you outline the key steps in our upcoming marketing campaign?” or “How would you structure the proposal to make it more convincing?”

Examples of structuring questions

  • Can you outline the key steps you would take to plan and execute a successful marketing campaign?
  • How would you structure your approach to conducting a comprehensive market analysis?
  • Can you provide a framework for organizing and prioritizing tasks in a project management context?
  • What factors would you consider when structuring an effective training program for new employees?

Useful for: clarifying ideas, improving communication

A word on tone

Understanding tone, context, intonation, and body language helps us interpret all types of questions effectively. However, introducing technology, like a digital screen between interlocutors, adds a layer of complexity.

Emojis and gifs have made their way into the workplace, and they’re not going anywhere. They undeniably enrich interpersonal communication, offering a touch of humanity to digital interactions. When used adeptly, emojis and gifs inject a bit of fun into workplace communication.

By being mindful of tone while mastering the types of questions, you can elevate your work relationships to a whole new level.

This post was originally published on October 23, 2018, and updated most recently on May 6, 2024.



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