Imagine you’re an interviewer or a detective or even a doctor- maybe scratch out the last one- and you need answers. What are your questions? You’re hiring for an exceptionally trained or full of potential candidates. You’re solving a case that’s going nowhere.
You have a patient that’s adamant to not tell the whole truth- sorry, we already scratched that. You need answers; answers that will get you closer to your absolute goal- the best employee or the absolute truth.
That’s when you start probing. And the act of inquiring tactfully in conversations is what we call ‘probing questions’.
What is a Probing question?
Probing questions are simply asked when you want to delve deeper into an issue. It gives a greater insight into what the other person has just told you.
When you attempt to understand the details of a topic, you ask probing questions to gather more knowledge and information about the same. Probing questions are follow up queries that ask for detailed analysis of a particular topic.
It facilitates critical thinking and in-depth reasoning. Usually, these are open-ended questions that lead to effective questioning. It means the answer is subjective and can vary from one person to another.
When you want to explore the various facets of the topic, you choose probing questions. For example: after a presentation.
Probing questions are when you want more from the respondent than just plain yes or no answers.
You need them to put themselves in the question scene and answer, you want them to think deeper, dig deeper and unearth answers that they didn’t know were in their conscious or subconscious mind. Probing questions is a skill and maneuvering this skill is an art.
Characteristics of a probing question
Probing questions also encourage brainstorming, helping you to uncover the hidden issues, if any related to something. Any probing questions will have the following characteristics:
- Probing questions allow multiple answers and subjective responses.
- It avoids simple dichotomous responses like yes/no or the closed questions that do not look into enough details.
- These questions encourage deep and insightful thinking.
- It surfaces more inquiry and probes into the matter being discussed.
- Probing questions stimulates reflective thinking
- Your probing skills can elicit more questions covering the various aspects of the topic.
- These questions are concise yet challenges assumptions, helps to arrive at definite conclusions.
Importance of probing questions
To ask a probing question is all about going beyond simple answers. It means getting into the core of the problem; to need to probe more on it and fully understand what is being said.
It helps to identify the causes, reasons, emotions that are behind the issue. The importance of probing questions are as follows:
- Probing questions help to clarify the minute details of something. If the speaker is using vague words, you can ask for more detail by going deeper into the various aspects of your query.
- If you are unclear about something related to the answer, you can use probing questions to dig deeper into the unknown aspects of the issue.
- When someone goes off the topic or it seems irrelevant, you can use probing questions to understand the main purpose of the inquiry.
- If you want more detail about something, or wish to challenge assumptions made by the other person, probing is a good way of doing it.
- When you want someone to give enough information but they miss out on providing it; probing is used to ask them to tell you more on the topic.
- Probing questions help to evaluate the efficacy and benefit of something; usually in the purchasing or selling of a product or services.
- The questioning techniques give you an opportunity to brainstorm and creative analysis of a particular object, person, or situation.
- Probing techniques facilitate meaningful discussions that also help to build a rapport between the two parties.
400 Probing questions examples
Probing questions can be used in literally all aspects of social situations. It can be used in sales and marketing, job interviews, counseling, nursing, healthcare, students, teenage issues, and for children.
In sales questions, probing helps buyers make better purchasing decisions. Contrary, the seller can close the deal without much hassle.
Thus, probing questions are discovery questions that are meant to get a detailed understanding of the problem in hand. Let us see the examples of these questions in a few aspects of life.
Probing questions for sales
Few effective probing questions used in understanding the buying and sales process are as follows:
- When was the last time you bought a similar product?
- Can you please specify the budget that you have in mind?
- What specific features are you looking at to take a final call on the buying process?
- Can you please tell me why one should buy this product and not some other?
- How can we help you today? Are you looking for something specific?
- How much discount are you offering the buyers for this?
- Could you please give a background detail of the technology used?
- Could you afford a little more than your preferred budget?
- Where are your stores located?
- How much time do you all take to deliver the product at home?
- Do you provide an after sales service? Is it convenient and free of cost?
- How is your current product performing? Are you planning to change it?
- How do you manage the customer service queries?
- Is there an EMI facility available to close the deal?
- Can you please tell me more about the product?
- Are you ready to offer me a ‘best deal’ today?
- What is motivating you to buy this product?
- Are you evaluating the different options available in the market?
- What questions do you have to ask that remained unanswered?
- What else can be done to help you finalize the decision?
- From where have you heard of us?
- Are you happy with the services given by the sales team?
- Will you refer us to other buyers?
- What’s holding you back from reaching a final decision?
- Have you ever made a purchase from our store before?
- What measures do you take to fix customer problems and issues?
- Do you wish to take help from anyone else before purchasing it?
- Can you be more specific about the technology you are using to develop this product?
- What are your expectations from this product or services?
- Can you please help us understand more of what you said right now?
- Who told you about us?
- What are your must-haves before making a final call?
- When can our representative call you to know your final decision?
- What is your take on our offers so far? Are you satisfied with it?
- Do you still have some queries in mind that you wish to clarify with us?
Probing questions in counseling
Counselors usually ask probing questions to get a deeper understanding of the problem in hand.
As therapy involves the treatment of the problem behavior and improving the deficit areas, it is essential to gather in-depth information about the client. Few of such good questions are:
- What is your current problem that brings you here?
- How long are you facing this problem? In what ways did it affect your life and living?
- Did you ever visit a counselor before?
- What do you do to feel a little better?
- Have you ever tried any self-help strategies to reduce your symptoms?
- Describe your mood in a few lines?
- Have you tried to bring positive changes in your daily living?
- From where have you heard about us?
- What are the five things that you do to manage stress and anxiousness?
- How do you help yourself in times of grief?
- Describe one thing that can instantly make you happy?
- Can you give us a background of how these problems started with you?
- Can you describe yourself in one line/
- What do you like the least about yourself?
- What does your perfect day look like?
- What makes you laugh the most?
- Can you tell us something about your immediate family members?
- Do you find your thoughts random and illogical at times?
- Why did you choose to come for therapy?
- How would you rate your relationship skills? Is it positive, negative, or neutral?
- Has your partner ever disappointed you? How did you feel?
- How often do you see dreams and about what?
- With whom do you get along really well? Why?
- Describe your growing up years?
- Do you express your emotions or keep it with you?
- From whom do you get the most support in your life?
- Are you good at following rules?
- Can you remember your happiest moment?
- What would your perfect relationship look like?
- What makes you angry?
- Are you impatient? In what circumstances?
- Do you regret not being able to achieve what you have wished for?
- What are your regrets relationship wise?
- Do you enjoy being alone? Why?
- What are your deepest fears?
Probing questions in customer service
These questions help to clarify customer doubts and provide them with best service as possible. Some of the probes that can be asked are as follows:
- What is the present problem that you are facing with our services now?
- When did this problem begin?
- Did you refer this to some other service provider?
- Have you ever tried to fix this issue yourself?
- For how long are you facing this issue?
- Could you tell me more on the problem solving methods that you used?
- What do you want us to do right now?
- Did this have an impact on you? How do you feel?
- Are you sure that the problem is because of this?
- What are the new plans that you are offering us?
- Is this the first time you are facing this issue or it happened earlier as well?
- How long will you take to resolve this issue?
- Can you please tell us about the experience you have with our services?
- What is stopping you from taking an adequate action?
- Who persuaded you to take a decision on our behalf?
- What are your views on our customer service? Do you find it adequate?
- How can we improve customer services in future?
- Why did you choose our services over others?
- How can we help you to resolve this issue right away?
- Is there anything else that you would prefer me to help you out with?
- Will you invite your friends to use our services in future?
- Can you rate us good for a customer satisfaction program?
- What else can we do to better serve you?
- Do you feel our representatives were efficient in solving your problems?
- What, according to you, makes us fall apart as a good provider in the market?
- What are your biggest challenges that made you think differently and stop our services?
- If you are given a chance to choose a competitor in our field; who would it be and why?
- What are your future expectations from the company?
- What concerns do you have right now?
- How do you measure improvement and on the basis of what parameters?
- What are your thoughts on brand building?
- Are we the one you were looking for?
- What else you would love to know about our services before moving ahead?
- Has anything changed since you last visited us? Is it better or worse?
- What process did you go through to enhance customer satisfaction and feedback?
Probing questions in social work
The various types of questions used in social work are as follows:
- What made you decide upon a career in social work?
- Do you think that your previous work experience can be beneficial for us?
- Are you prepared enough to kick start a career in social work?
- Can you highlight your key skills?
- Describe your major successes and failures?
- Where do you see yourself two years from now?
- What motivated you to start a career in social work?
- Are you comfortable to work with diverse groups of people?
- What are your hopes from this career?
- Describe your major disappointments in fieldwork?
- Are you an intuitive learner?
- Do you think compassion is an important character trait in social work?
- Are you an active listener?
- What are your short term and long term career goals?
- How do you handle failures?
- Can you handle things without supervision?
- Do you think your personal weaknesses can interfere with your work?
- Can you give an example of what kind of social issues would you prefer to work with?
- If you do not earn enough from social work; what else will you work for?
- What techniques of therapy do you use too often and why?
- Can you handle socially sensitive issues like child marriage, sexual abuse, or teenage abortion?
- Are you comfortable to make home visits?
- Do you believe in implementing social welfare programs? Can you do it independently?
- How will you manage a sexually abused child?
- Do you belong to any NGO or charitable organization?
- What kind of support do you expect from us?
- Would you mind giving us a detail of your work experience?
- What do you mean by social security measures?
- How do you handle conflicts in a sensitive group?
- Have you ever worked with elderly people?
- Do you have any experience of working with children suffering from learning disabilities?
- Being a social worker, what social changes can you bring to society?
- Can you tell us something about the most difficult case that you have handled?
- Are you comfortable working in teams?
- What personality traits make a good social worker?
Probing questions in nursing
The question focuses to understand the key skills needed to carry on with the job.
- Describe your key skills?
- What is the first thing that you do when an emergency patient gets into the hospital?
- Do you become anxious in adverse situations?
- How do you handle a patient’s temper tantrums?
- Why have you chosen nursing as a profession?
- Are you empathetic? To what extent?
- Can you perform well under pressure?
- Have you ever delivered difficult news to a family member of the patient?
- What are your expectations from this job role?
- Are you open to work in shifts? Which one do you prefer and why?
- Where do you see yourself after five years from now?
- How will you enhance and hone your clinical skills and expertise?
- What sort of impact do you think will happen if an emergency patient refuses to take treatment? How can you handle it?
- Which technique will you follow to improve patient participation in the hospital?
- Have you ever served in an emergency ward?
- What motivates you to do your job well?
- Why have you chosen this specialty?
- Do you think you can motivate your patients to follow a healthy lifestyle?
- How will you tackle physician questions; if they test your work accuracy?
- Tell us your way of dealing with stress.
- Who inspired you to take up nursing?
Probing questions to be asked to a patient
- When did your symptoms start?
- How can we help you today?
- Do you have any history of drug abuse or alcoholism?
- Have you ever visited this hospital before?
- Are you looking for a nurse at home too?
- What do you mean when you say that you are frustrated?
- How are you feeling today?
- Is there anything else that you wish to tell me?
- Do you suffer from any allergies?
- What are the medications that you are taking right now?
- Do you exercise regularly and for how long?
- Describe your medical history?
- Have you ever had surgery?
- Did you try out home remedies to improve your symptoms?
- Who looks after you at home?
- Are you on painkillers right now?
- Describe your food habits and lifestyle?
- Did you do this test before? Do you remember the results?
- Can you please show me your previous health reports?
- Can you show me the pain points that hurt a lot? Does it affect your day to day life?
- Do you take medications for sleep? And from when?
- Can you tell me the last dose of medicine taken?
- What do you do when you get a common cold?
- Who came with you today for a hospital visit?
- How much family support do you get to treat your ailment?
Probing questions for students
Sometimes teachers can ask in-depth and conceptual questions to the students, the answers to which goes beyond surface understanding. Students go beyond the first response and think of the other alternative answers to the question being asked.
- Can you highlight more on what you said right now?
- What would be the best example to support your answer?
- Describe the concept a bit elaborately?
- Will you please make us understand the problem better?
- Who is the main character in the story? Can you identify the character flaws in the story?
- How will you write this answer?
- What are your views on this topic?
- How much time do you spend studying?
- Who helps you in learning different concepts?
- Can you apply this law sometime else?
- Why have you taken up this subject?
- Which one is your favorite subject and why?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Do you feel tense during examinations? How do you manage?
- What else do you do apart from playing chess?
- How good is the evidence that you gave to support your answer?
- What do you like the most about this school?
- Do you like to greet your teachers and show respect for whatever they are doing?
- Who is your best friend in class and why?
- What are your future goals?
- How far do you agree or disagree with this concept?
- Does anyone else in the class want to say something more on this topic?
- Can you refer to any similar situation where this law worked well?
- Have you tried an alternative way to solve this problem?
- Does this answer make any sense to you?
- How does this concept relate with our everyday life? Can you give examples?
- What is the purpose of this experiment? Can you argue for or against this statement?
- How can you justify your answer?
- Do you think the plot of the story justifies the book title given by the author?
- Which character in the story do you relate with and why?
Probing questions for teachers
For the teachers, asking a probing question helps to know their academic and interpersonal skills better.
- What motivated you to become a teacher?
- For how long are you in this industry?
- Tell us about your key skills
- What are the interesting job roles that you have worked in?
- Do you believe in innovation? What can you do to make it happen in a regular classroom setup?
- What are your expectations from this job role?
- How will you handle aggressive kids?
- Can you elaborate your thoughts on learning disabilities in children?
- How does a teacher’s personality affect the students?
- What are your views on the continuous evaluation process?
- Do you believe in individual differences in learning?
- What is your classroom discipline approach?
- How do you interact with the parents?
- Would you like to play games with your students?
- How will you deal with a special child?
- What is the importance of technology in classroom teaching?
- What’s your teaching philosophy?
- Describe your educational background and work experience?
- How will you describe yourself?
- Refer to any five adjectives that describe your personality?
- What is your current read?
- Do you play sports?
- What are your hobbies and favorite pastimes?
- Which is your favorite subject and why?
- Is there anyone who motivated you to become a teacher?
- What is that one thing that you dislike about the teaching profession?
- Can you describe your teaching style in one word?
- What qualities make a good teacher?
- Do you think team teaching is helpful?
- How do you maintain good communication with your students?
Probing questions to ask your partner
- When was the last time you were angry with yourself?
- What would be a perfect day for you?
- Do you believe in the Red string of fate?
- Can you brief me your life story in two minutes?
- What quality describes your spouse?
- Do you rehearse what to say before making a call?
- What is your most terrible nightmare?
- Do you fear being rejected?
- Have you ever tried complimenting yourself?
- Describe your best friend?
- What role does love play in your life?
- Are you an introvert?
- What is so special about our relationship?
- Do you believe in destiny or hard work?
- Which one is your best buy?
- What is your perfect dine out?
- What is that one thing that you wish to change about your partner?
- Describe your first date?
- Are you grateful to someone for something?
- What do you dislike most about your appearance and why?
- How far can friendship build a strong marriage?
- Do you criticize yourself?
- In what ways do you wish to spend a weekend with your partner?
- What is your favorite food?
- Tell what you can remember about your first crush?
- Do you like pets?
- How will you describe a sweet moment?
- What are the things you wish to accomplish in next ten years?
- Can you describe your hobby?
- Who is your favorite TV star?
- Which one is your worst job and why?
- What family traditions do you still follow diligently?
- Which is your favorite holiday destination?
- Are you a sports lover?
- Do you believe in myths?
Probing questions in job interviews
- Do you think you are a right fit for this job role? Why?
- Tell us your views on co-curricular activities?
- What led you to apply for this position?
- How will you create psychologically safe work teams?
- What did you learn from your previous job roles?
- Can you emphasize a little more on this please?
- Why should we select you for this role?
- Have you applied to this organization before?
- What are your pay expectations?
- Do you believe in diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace?
- Could you please highlight more on the incident you just discussed?
- What was the result of the experiment done by you?
- Can you tell us your criteria for exceptional work performance?
- Do you trust your intuitions in making vital decisions?
- How often do you admit mistakes?
- Why are you looking for a job change now?
- Tell us about you?
- What are your weaknesses that you would like to improve upon?
- Are you goal-oriented?
- Tell us about your leadership skills?
- How do you define failure?
- Do you have employment gaps? Why is it so?
- How would your co-workers describe you in a few words?
- Do you have pet peeves?
- What kind of work environment are you looking at?
- When can you start working with us?
- Are you open for a relocation?
- What are your views on emotional intelligence in a workplace?
- What is that one thing that you liked about our company?
- Do you have any questions for us?
Probing questions to get to know someone
- Do you believe in spirituality?
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- What is your life’s philosophy?
- What are your thoughts on gratitude?
- What do you fear the most?
- Who do you seek help from in times of adversities?
- Do you fear public speaking?
- How do you manage anger?
- What was the best and worst thing that has happened to you till date?
- What do you mean by a perfect relationship?
- Which one is important for you – looks or brain?
- Do you stay connected with your exes?
- What is an ideal weekend for you?
- Can you elaborate on your hobbies and interests?
- What is your life’s greatest regret?
- What makes you happy the most/
- Tell us something about your parents
- What accomplishments make you different from your peers?
- Can you tell us about your deepest insecurities?
- Do you think that hard work can overcome all obstacles in life?
- How often do you exercise and engage in sports?
- What’s your favorite sweet dish?
- Are you on Netflix or Amazon Prime?
- What are your thoughts on online education?
- Do you believe in good luck?
- How do you start your day?
- Which parent has influenced you a lot? And how?
- Who is your favorite writer?
- Which city do you prefer to live in?
- Do you think your life is good enough?
- What are your thoughts on self-love?
- What relaxes you the most?
- Do you like water sports?
- Which one is your preferred indoor game?
- What’s your favorite TV show?
- If you could change one of your bad habits, what would it be?
- Tell us about your hidden talent?
- Can you vividly remember your school days?
- How often do you procrastinate?
Probing questions for kids
- What are the things you enjoy doing in school today?
- Are you a good friend?
- How will you help a friend in need?
- Who is your favorite cartoon character?
- Which is your preferred outdoor sport?
- Who plays with you at home?
- Do you have any homework today?
- Can you think of anything that you did and it made your parents feel proud of you?
- What brings an instant smile on your face?
- Which city do you wish to visit?
- Who helps you with your school work?
- Do you love to read stories?
- What are you good at?
- Who loves and hugs you the most?
- If you are given a chance to spend a whole day outside, what would you do?
- Do you like to keep pets at home?
- Who is your favorite superhero?
- Do you love sharing? What will you share?
- Have you tried to learn a new language?
- When was the last time you cried and why?
- How would you feel if your dad gives you an unexpected gift?
- 302. If you are given a chance to become invisible for a day, what would you do and why?
- What do you like the most about your school?
- Can you remember a crazy thing that you did recently?
- What makes you a smart child?
Probing questions for teenagers
- When you feel sad, who supports you the most?
- Tell us an amazing thing about you.
- What would you wish to become when you grow up?
- How far do you think that technology has facilitated learning?
- What is a cool app that you have in your phone?
- What kind of YouTube videos do you see quite often?
- Do you listen to good music?
- What is your opinion on ‘love at first sight’?
- With whom will you share the most proud moment of your life?
- What can make you angry in no time?
- Do you prefer to show kindness to people in need?
- Can you remember your kindergarten school? How was it?
- What makes you sad the most?
- Do you think sex education is important in school curriculum?
- Are you an active listener?
- Do you think that patience and self-control are important to build healthy human bonds?
- Are you a messy and disorganized teen?
- What is the ideal age to fall in life?
- Say any five words that describe you the best.
- Do you plan for the future or prefer to live in the moment?
- How will you celebrate your parents’ wedding anniversary?
- Do you think you are capable of handling tough situations in life?
- What will you buy with your first month’s salary?
- Are you a worrywart?
- How do you prefer to solve tricky problems?
4 Types of Probing Questions
Here are the five groups of probing question techniques for you to use in your next interaction.
Understanding questioning techniques not just helps you as the one who’s asking the questions but also as a respondent to know where the conversation is heading and how you can manage it better.
1. Closed and open questions
Closed and open questions are when you want a straightforward Yes/No or answer to multiple-choice questions, and an elaboration on the answer respectively.
Closed questions are your simple yes/no needing answers. They can alternatively be one-word answers like, what’s your preferred beverage, favorite ice-cream flavor, etc. Open questions, on the other hand, need a little more than just one word.
When you ask an opinion about a colleague- you want to know more than just good/bad. With closed and open questions, one can combine them and use it, for example, as ice-breaker questions or for small talk!
2. Leading and funnel questions
Leading and funnel questions both want to orchestrate your answers through a series of well-arranged questions. The only difference is that leading questions have a manipulative approach, while funnel questions have a suggestive- from easy to difficult or vice versa- approach of inquiry.
Now, going beyond small talk, leading and funnel questions are all about getting into the details of a subject matter.
Funnel questions are when you slowly build a conversation like what’s your name, what have you studied, how long have you been working, what has your experience till date been like, what is it that you feel you’re still lacking in your profession, how do you think you’ll add value to our company.
The tonality matters in funnel questions because it’s more about making the other person comfortable to think and answer rather than bombarding and making him/her nervous.
Leading questions, on the other hand, also has an arrangement of questions but it intends to influence the respondent to a specific answer that’s favored by the questioner.
3. Loaded and rhetorical questions
Loaded and rhetorical questions are asked when the questioner already assumes what the answer is and wants more of a declaration rather than an opinion.
Loaded questions are asked when a questioner wants to influence his/her views about the answer on to the respondent. Instead of asking, ‘which perfume do you like’, you’ll rather be asking, ‘XYZ perfume is great, right?’ and psychologically speaking, we tend to answer more ‘Yes’ to such questions rather than a ‘No’.
This type of questioning is quite common with journalists or lawyers who expect a certain answer rather than a true opinion. Rhetorical questions on similar lines are when you are not actually asking a question but stating an opinion in a question format.
A common example of this is asking ‘the weather is amazing, right?’ rather than ‘how is the weather outside?’- it’s all about the packaging.
4. Recall and process questions
Recall and process questions are asked when you want a respondent to remember a fact or want his/her opinion about the matter in hand.
Recall questions are put forward in a manner that presents the questioner as naïve or sometimes even dim-witted. It’s ideally like a fact-checking session done more nicely. Whereas process questions are asked when one wants the respondent’s opinion about the case.
For example, from asking a person ‘is today children’s day?’ to ‘why do we celebrate children’s day today?’- your intention changes from recall to process questions.
Parting words from TheMindFool
If you want to just clarify or make small talk, use anything except probing questions. But if you want to get into deeper conversations with someone, try asking thoughtfully constructed probing questions.
On a side note, understand that your tone, context, and body language play a huge part in any interaction, be it just a simple greeting or a long discussion.
A Psychologist with a master's degree in Psychology, a former school psychologist, and a teacher by profession Chandrani loves to live life simply and happily. She is an avid reader and a keen observer. Writing has always been a passion for her, since her school days. It helps to de-stress and keeps her mentally agile. Pursuing a career in writing was a chance occurrence when she started to pen down her thoughts and experiences for a few childcare and parenting websites. Her lovable niche includes mental health, parenting, childcare, and self-improvement. She is here to share her thoughts and experiences and enrich the lives of few if not many.