What is Probing Interview Questions? [Examples]

by ceojem in Interview 08/03/2017 0 comments

We often want or need more information than we get when we ask a question during an interview. Probing is asking follow-up questions when we do not fully understand a response, when answers are vague or ambiguous or when we want to obtain more specific or in-depth information.

Active listening techniques

Question probes often take time to work and the best thing is to lend a sympathetic ear and exercise patience. You therefore need to make liberal use of active listening probes such as silence, good eye contact, plenty of head nods, use of statements such as “OK I see…” and lots of “Mmm-hmms.”

Examples of probing questions for interviews

Probes cannot be easily planned in advance. It is impossible to know what issue the person might raise and how you might need to probe to learn more. However, it is helpful to be familiar with probing and some general ways to probe. You can therefore specifically use the following questions to follow-up on the prepared behavioral questions.

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “What led you to . . . “
  • “What eventually happened?”
  • “Looking back, what would you do differently now, if anything?”
  • “Compare this to what others have done.”
  • “What did your supervisor say / do?”
  • “What was the outcome?”
  • “What was the situation?”
  • “Why did you do that?”
  • “How did others see it?”
  • “What kind of feedback did you get?”
  • “Is this typical for you?”
  • “Can you think of another example of this?”
  • “What did you learn?”
  • “What did everyone else do?”
  • “What else can you remember about that situation?”
  • “Give me more detail about what you did, please.”
  • “What exactly did you say?”
  • “I’d like to hear more.”
  • “How did that make you feel?”
  • “What was the financial impact?”

In broad terms, probing questions often begin with “What” or “How” because they invite more detail. Questions that begin with “Do you…” or “Are you…” invite personal reflection. “Why” questions can be problematic. They may put the respondent on the defensive or result in little useful information and require additional probing.

About Anne Sandberg

With a degree in Experimental Psychology and a masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Anne Sandberg has 25+ years of experience in the human resources, training and management consulting arenas. Anne is President of ReadyToManage, Inc. and can be contacted at

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