should I give my interviewer a typed list of my answers to likely questions?

A reader writes:

I have interview for a position that I am really excited about this Thursday, so I have been trying to do as much preparation as I possibly can so that I can perform well.  Part of what I’ve done is to collect around 20 interview questions and write down my answers.  My interview is on Thursday and I know from the times I was given to choose from that they will continue to hold interviews on Friday and Monday.

My husband thinks that I should type up my questions and answers and give the interview panel copies at the end of the interview, prefacing it with something like, “In my preparation for this interview, I collected some questions that I thought I might come up and typed up my answers in an effort to organize my thoughts.  Since I am so early in your interview process, I thought I might leave behind copies for you to refer to later when you start your decision making process.”

This would accomplish several things: it would allow me to make sure I cover things that I think are important that may or may not come up in the interview, or answer questions more completely since sometimes it is easy to get a little flustered in an interview setting and leave something out.  But, more importantly, it would allow me to leave something with them in hopes that it will keep me fresh in their mind after they complete all of their interviews.

What do you think…good idea?  Weird?  My husband even thinks that I should go get little presentation folders to put the papers in…I think that may be taking it a little too far, but maybe not.

Don’t do this. It would be weird.

If you want to leave materials behind, leave behind past work samples or writing samples. Or even better, create a plan for how you’d tackle the job, or some specific challenge the employer is facing. (That can be really impressive, if it’s done well.) And if there are things that don’t come up in the interview that you wish had been covered, raise them on your own or in your thank-you note afterwards.

But don’t leave a transcript of the answers you prepared.

This is one of those things that sounds perfectly reasonable in theory, but if you put it in the context of how things work in the real world, it’s just going to be weird. (Sort of like this past question about whether a candidate can tape record an interview. You can make perfectly logical arguments for it, but it’ll still come across as weird.)

Also, a word about those presentation folders — they are almost never needed in an interview. Candidates sometimes bring extra copies of their resumes in those, and they just get thrown away. That kind of thing is fluff. Good managers care about what you can do, not whether you sprung for a nice, unnecessary folder.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Absolutely agree with AAM on this one. You’re picking questions you might think are important or likely to be asked in the interview but those conducting the search might disagree. I don’t want to hear about your attention to detail. I want to see it in an error free cover letter, resume and thank you note. I don’t particularly care what your goals are for 5 years out…I want to know how you’ve met your goals for the past few years. And I certainly don’t want to read your term paper on top 20 interview questions. It’s weird. Really really weird and not a good use of my time.

    I recently had a candidate ask me what kind of questions he could expect in our interview so he could prepare. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable giving him those questions because I wanted an honest answer to my questions rather than canned, researched garbage. My answer made him uneasy but the truth is, I want to get a realistic picture of the candidate…not canned bs that they read on a recruiting website (and for what it’s worth, AAM is the only site I’ve found that has realistic and good advice).

  2. Wilton Businessman*

    I agree, too weird. It’s certainly appropriate to followup with a thank you letter.

  3. Jamie*

    Agree 100% – this would be very weird.

    I can see your logic, but I would be very wary that someone who did this had a reason for being so mechanically prepared, such as crafting disingenuous answers and printing them as not to deviate or trip themselves up. Clearly not your intention, but your interviewer won’t know that.

    However, doing the prep work and just not handing them out is awesome – totally prepared. And I can feel your enthusiasm for the job just from your letter to AAM – I’m sure in person that would be even more evident. That puts you several steps ahead of other candidates in most cases, so you don’t want to do anything to mute that.

  4. Interviewer*

    An interview is a conversation. Some candidates take notes when I talk about our company, the benefits or key parts of the job description. I take notes on your answers to my questions. Sometimes my notes have nothing to do with your actual answer, and more to do with how you delivered it, any relevant body language, or the small technical details you gave while answering it. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific destination as the right answer for our culture, and I just want to see if you get there, or the path you took to end up there. I realize the interview is a nerve-wracking experience for most people, but I’m looking for someone who does (eventually) feel at ease, and speak confidently and naturally with me about their past work experience, and demonstrates how they would interact with their team members.

    Sending a follow up thank you note is appropriate, perhaps highlighting something that makes you a good fit in a sentence or two.

    But that list – no. Don’t do it. I cannot explain how weird this sounds. Like you’ve interviewed a million places and want to predict what I’ll ask you, and shortcut everything by giving me a piece of paper with all the answers, a la Carnack. No, no, no.

    Fancy folders – also a big no. Since I don’t use them for anything around the office, I throw them out, and the glossy ones can’t be recycled. Kind of annoying.

  5. jen*

    Oh my gosh, thanks for saying that about presentation folders. The more layers of plastic I have to wade through to get to your resume or written submission, the worse my mood when I review it. Please just staple pages together neatly and forget the duotang.

  6. Anonymous*

    What’s the point of the interview if you are only going to type up the questions you think they are going to ask with the answers you’ll give? And who’s to say that those answers really came from you? With the latter question, since this is your husband’s idea, I could easily think that he’ll provide the answers for you to use and/or actually write the essays himself. Talk about someone else doing your homework for you! Furthermore, it’s not really coming from you; the interviewer wants to hear from you, not a piece of paper. S/he already has that with your cover letter and resume. Now it’s time for you to speak up. If something isn’t mentioned that you feel you need to mention, then perhaps summarize it quickly in your thank you note afterwards.

    And a couple of things about not writing your answers – it gives the interviewers a better chance to reread your answers. While that sounds fine and dandy, it can backfire; suddenly they like an answer after further thought. Second, I noticed mistakes in your post here which you wouldn’t want your interviewers to see. One thing for instance I immediately noticed was that you told AAM twice your interview is on Thursday.

    Good luck on your interview. Practice at home and you should do fine.

  7. Anonymous*

    I think your preparation will help you for your actual interview, but passing out copies of your answers will just seem like you are too “desperate.”

  8. Lexy*

    I agree with everything stated. I also wanted to give a hearty voice of support for not presenting things in presentation folders. They are almost universally ridiculous and make anything put in them almost unreadable.

    I’ve done some grading of university coursework (as a research assistant, not a professor). I have never once run across a use of these folders that made my job – reading, understanding and scoring your work – easier. I imagine the same is true of putting resumes and other ephemera in them for an employer.

    Thanks for letting me rant.

  9. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

    I just have to say that if a candidate did this, I can tell you without a doubt that the managers at my organization would purposely ask them every question on the sheet and then make comments every time you responded with something different than what’s on the sheet. Just for fun.

  10. Erin*

    I agree with what everyone else said. It’s weird, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone do it. Also, I don’t think putting things in a presentation folder is a good idea at all, I always remove everything from them and throw them to the side anyway.

  11. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I do want to add, since we’re all piling on, that it’s very sweet of your husband to be trying to help you in your job search. Maybe a nice dinner instead?

    1. lexy*

      Right, Allison, the suggestion isn’t without logic and is worth considering. It’s just that it wouldn’t really have the effect you’re looking for. It’s not like he’s a bad person for thinking of it or anything.

  12. Cheri*

    I agree with the input already given, having 30+ years as an HR Director, my advice is to prepare for the interview the way you have done. Then spend the rest of your energy tuning into your interviewer in a relaxed and enthusiastic manner. Be yourself. The job is won by the connection you make with the interviewer, if you were not qualified you would not have been invited for the interview.

  13. Katie*

    This is all great advice, and I agree 100% with AAM. But it also sounds like our OP is concerned about being forgotten or overlooked because she’s interviewing early in the process. I don’t think that’s something to be overly worried about. If an early candidate really shines, then I’ll remember that person – even if the interview process takes a long time. Confession time — I recently hired for a position that has been posted since mid-December (don’t ask). And I ended up hiring the 1st candidate that I interviewed. So it does happen. It sounds like she is certainly well-prepared, which will help her to stand out. She should focus her energies on figuring out what makes her the best candidate for the position and not sweat it that she’s going early.

  14. fposte*

    Seconding Katie but with a slightly different approach–it sounds like you’re trying to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, at least in the industries I’ve worked in, you don’t want to stand out from the crowd by employing a tactic or device that isn’t conventional–it just suggests that you’re unfamiliar or unprofessional. You want to stand out in a good way, and you do that by letting your preparation show in your performance at the interview and putting your creativity to work in solving whatever problems they throw at you.

  15. Joey*

    Did I interview you a few years ago? That’s one of my “I once had this candidate…” stories.

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