5 Reasons to Make Open-Ended Questions Part of Your Assessment Strategy

One of the things I’ve always loved during my many years at MRG is talking – by phone, by email, or especially in person – with the coaches who are using our assessments. Part of this is my own curiosity – I’ve been doing this work for a long time, yet somehow there are always new challenges and applications that I learn about from talking to others in the field. Another reason is that these conversations often spark new ideas – things I can recommend that can help take an engagement to a deeper or more powerful level.

No matter what’s happening in an engagement, there’s one thing that I recommend almost universally: adding open-ended questions to an assessment. I’ve yet to find an engagement that can’t benefit from the insights that open-ended questions deliver. Open-ended questions can be added to any assessment MRG offers, and for more than 30 years, I’ve seen them do wonders – for the coach, for the organization, and most importantly, for the individual who’s taking the assessment.

Why use open-ended questions?


  1. You’ll get more specific and thorough responses.

 I think the biggest benefits come from the detail and specificity that is often incorporated into these responses.  One of the reasons I think we get this level of information from these questions is because they are answered after the individual has spent 20-30 minutes answering the numeric questions that require them to reflect: on the themselves if they are taking an LEA, SPA, IDI or PD questionnaire; on their colleague if they are taking an LEA observer questionnaire; on the future with Strategic Directions; on a role with role expectations; or on the organization if they are taking the leadership culture questionnaire.

This creates the opportunity to get more thoughtful thorough responses to the questions than we would if we had asked them without the reflection generated by the questionnaires. When we ask these questions without that reflection time, we are more likely to get answers that reflect top of mind responses influenced by the individuals’ state of mind, or things that have happened more recently.

  1. You’re getting deeper insights into their other data.

I don’t use any of our questionnaires without open-ended questions anymore.  I have found the responses too valuable to be willing to go back to not having them. They give me insights to some of the questions that can arise looking at the numeric data. Questions like “does that very high score on persuasive from the direct reports have any downside from their perspective?”; “Why did that leader rate Technical so much higher than anyone else on the strategic directions questionnaire?”; “Is that low Economic score on Personal Directions a concern for this person?”

  1. You’re getting that information faster.

While we may be able to get many of these insights through conversation and inquiry, we all know that we are being asked to help our clients gain important insights in shorter and shorter time frames.

If we can gain some of these insights up front, we are in a better position to provide more complete insights and wiser facilitation to our clients, often in shorter periods of time.

  1. You give people a chance to be understood.

I also think the open-ended questions can provide a benefit to the individual. No matter how good an assessment is, there is no getting around the fact that the language of the assessment is not written exactly as the questionnaire respondent would write it. When people take assessments, they want to be understood. They want to be sure their message is delivered and reflected the way they intend it to be. Allowing people to respond to questions in their own words gives them this opportunity and allows them to state what is important to them, in their own words.

  1. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to use them.

You have the experience and the expertise to easily write your own open-ended questions, but we also know you are very busy. So we have a bank of suggested questions for each of the MRG questionnaires that you can use verbatim or as a starting point for creating your own questions.  That means that adding open-ended questions doesn’t need to be a daunting task.

Intrigued? As always, we’re here to help. As you probably know, I’d love to talk to you personally… but start with our client services team, who will get you any information you need. Or if you’re ready to set up your questions, the function is available in Quest when you set up your next project. Enjoy the insights!

About the author

As president of MRG, Tricia uses her penchant for bursting into song and bringing out the best in people in approximately equal measure.

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