Any type of interview is an opportunity to get information. The funnelling technique is a communication process to help ensure:

– the right type of questions are asked

– detailed responses are given

– accurate notes of the responses are captured

"Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much"


Funnelling is a 3 stage process:


Ask an open question. These can start with the 5 W's and the H  (What; Why; When; Who; Where; How) or using T.E.D. (Tell; Explain; Describe).

For example:

– Tell us how you produced that report

– Tell me about something that went well this year

– Explain what the customer said when they phoned

– Explain your idea for improving the system

– Describe a difficult problem you have solved at work

– Describe the customer's attitude when they came in this morning


Probe to get the nuggets of detail from the interviewee to funnel the responses into useful information. 


Close by summarising and confirming i.e. summarise back what you understand from the interviewee's responses and confirm that you have got it right. This often allows the interviewee to add further detail they have missed out and it checks the interviewer's listening skills.

For example, interviewing someone for a customer service vacancy:

Open: "Tell me about the last time you dealt with an irate customer"

Probe: Depending on the interviewee's response, follow up by asking questions such as:

– "Who else was there? What was their part?"

– "Why was he so annoyed?"

– "How did you calm the customer down?"

– "What exactly did you say to him?"

– "What was his reaction?"

– "What was the effect?"

– "Who else was involved?"

– "How long did it take to resolve the situation?"

– "How did you arrive at an outcome?"

– "What did you learn from the situation?"

Close: "So just to summarise, this customer was annoyed because …………and to deal with this you …….. Have I got that right?"

The funnelling technique has applications for a range of situations: customer service; appraisals; recruitment interviewing; performance counselling; coaching; disciplinarys etc. It's an effective communication process to promote the best possible outcomes. 

This content is included in our fully designed, ready to deliver course material on Recruitment Interviewing and Appraisal SkillsVisit our website blog for more e-learning tips to circulate to colleagues and friends.

Bryan Edwards is Managing Director of ABC Training Solutions Ltd ( which delivers training throughout the U.K. and markets a range of fully-designed, ready to deliver workshops, self study packs and other training exercises for the busy trainer. He can be contacted on 07747 602215 or [email protected]