The open-ended interview is a source of terror to many applicants. However, open-ended interviews offer many advantages for applicants over traditional interviews. They give the applicant much more freedom and control during the interview, as well as a much greater capacity to distinguish himself from other applicants.
Open-Ended Interview vs. Traditional Interview
Unlike the traditional interview, the open-ended interview gives applicants much more freedom to talk about subjects they wish.
In a traditional interview, the questions are very specific. "Where were you working in 2004?" and "How much profit did you bring the company?" are examples. There's only one right answer to these questions, and they often don't allow you to distinguish yourself from other applicants because many applicants will have very similar answers.
In an open-ended interview, however, questions give the interviewee much more freedom. "Tell me about your career up to this point" and "What are your expectations for this position" will yield diverse responses from applicants that help interviewers get a better idea of who the applicant is.
The best thing about an open-ended interview is that the interviewee has much more opportunity to distinguish herself from the other applicants. These questions give applicants the chance to give the interviewer information that is not readily available from your cover letter and resume. They also allow you to talk about the best things about you -- things that really sell you for the position.
Unlike traditional interviews, in which the interviewer typically holds a position of power, open-ended interviews allow the applicant to take control of the conversation. By talking about the best parts of yourself and keeping the conversation fresh and interesting, you can highlight all your key selling points while veering away from your weaknesses. Done effectively, you can spend the entire interview talking about nothing more than what makes you right for the job.
Practice Makes Perfect
Open-ended interview questions are typically similar and revolve around the common things of your past performance, your goals and your vision for your new job. With this in mind, you can prepare for the interview beforehand by rehearsing answers. These prepared answers, or segments of answers, help you sound more confident during the interview and allow you to play up the good and play down the bad. You'll feel more prepared and less nervous because you know exactly what you will say beforehand.