should you give job candidates the interview questions ahead of time?

A reader writes:

I searched on your site and saw you have given examples of common questions interviewers ask. However, while a candidate can prepare for those types of questions, for situational interview questions it’s tough for them to come up with answers when I’m asking them to draw on their experience and give me examples of specific situations on the spot.

Are there any disadvantages to supplying situational interview questions to candidates ahead of time so they can prepare thoughtful answers? I’ve never had a potential employer offer them to me prior to an interview, but I see only advantages to doing so. For example, for people who get very nervous in interviews, it seems to me that it would help to level the playing field since they wouldn’t have the stress of having to answer on the spot. In addition, it also seems the interviewers would get better quality answers from all candidates who took the time to prepare. The only potential disadvantage I see is that people could used canned responses, but since situational interview questions draw on their experience, it seems like it would be difficult to do that.

The timing of this letter is uncanny, because I’ve been thinking about trying this and have now started experimenting with it.

I’m interviewing for a junior-level admin position, and most of the candidates are fairly inexperienced — especially at interviewing. Candidates who are newer to the work world tend not to be great at interviewing, and they often struggle to come up with useful answers to questions like “tell me about a time that you improved an existing system” or “tell me about a time that you had to juggle lots of competing priorities” or any of the many other “tell me about a time when…” questions I like to use. (And in general, interviewers should use lots of those questions because they get you the best information about how candidates operate.)

I thought exactly what you’re thinking here: that giving them a heads-up in advance would help them prepare more thoughtful answers and give me better information about them. And they can’t really “cheat” by making up fantastic but false answers ahead of time, because I respond to their initial answer with tons of follow-up questions about what they’ve told me.

So now for this position, when I confirm a phone interview, I send along a note that says this:

“I’d love if you’d come prepared to talk about:
– a particularly significant professional achievement
– what your role was, what the challenges were, and how you approached it
– a specific time in the past when you’ve had to stay on top of a large volume of work and juggle a lot of competing priorities, and how you approached it
– a time when you went above and beyond to get results — what the situation was and what you did”

The result was great. I received better-thought-out answers that made it easier for me to assess each person’s fit for the role, since they weren’t scrambling to think of examples on the spot. Plus, I was able to see how well they did or didn’t use the chance to think through the questions ahead of time. (Interestingly, I still encountered candidates who struggled with these answers, which was particularly telling now that they’d had an advance heads-up.) It can also help level the playing field for candidates who might excel at the job but who don’t have as much experience interviewing as other candidates do (or who haven’t been taught how to prepare for common interview questions).

To be clear, I didn’t prep candidates for every question I would ask, or even for most of them — just for a few specific situations that I really wanted to probe into and where having some time to come up with strong examples would help (and wouldn’t hurt).

Originally, I only did this with candidates for junior-level roles. I figured that for more senior roles, candidates needed to be more equipped to talk about their experience. But over time I found there were topics where some prep time was helpful for those applicants as well.

So yes, give it a try! One very important caveat though: If you do this as an interviewer, the key is to probe into whatever answers you receive. You need to ask a bunch of follow-up questions (what was the biggest challenge with that? why did you approach it that way? did you worry about X? how did you handle Y? what would you do differently if you could do it again?) or you do risk a canned answer.

But done well, with strong follow-up questions, it should strengthen your ability to assess your candidates.

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. Kai*

    I love this concept. I also get nervous in interviews and am not great at coming up with answers on the spot.

    Plus, doing this can give you some insight into how skilled a candidate is at following directions and being prepared, which in general are pretty important skills.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I think they’re often more important than being able to sell yourself on the spot and have instant recall of your greatest accomplishments, for many positions. Some of the best “talkers” I’ve met have been the worst workers. I know this isn’t true across the board, but it’s something I’ve observed quite a few times.

        1. Adam*

          Agreed. The “sell yourself” concept makes sense if you’re going into a sales type position or something where you have to do a lot of convincing, but most of us aren’t looking for jobs of that nature. If I were hiring, say, an editor, I’d be much more interested in having him come prepared to have deep discussion on review styles and whatever else. I definitely wouldn’t be asking “So what makes you better than all the other editors I’m interviewing?” (I don’t think this phrasing of a question is all that common anymore, but you still get a sense of it hovering there).

          1. Not Today Satan*

            I got the “why should I hire you?” question recently. So forced and awkward. Makes me feel like the razzle-dazzle frog.

        2. Nobody*

          So true about the best talkers often being the worst workers! Where I work, employees are typically hired in groups of three to six at a time. Management always has a clear front-runner in every group — someone who really impressed them during the interview — and that person invariably turns out to be the worst employee of the group. Every time. I guess these people developed their smooth talking skills to compensate for their other shortcomings.

          1. Chriama*

            Or it could be that management is asking questions or using an interview format that screens for the wrong thing.

    1. Allison Mary*

      I agree with this wholeheartedly – particularly as someone who falls into that “junior-level” category of candidates. I actually brought up my desire for some kind of a heads up on interview questions, in a comment a few weeks or maybe a month or so back. I definitely do better when I have time to think and organize my thoughts on a particular topic – I don’t do well with selling myself on the fly. And maybe this will change as I grow professionally and develop more experience – but for now, I wish all hiring managers would do exactly what Alison describes above. I think it would really help me present a more accurate picture of myself, without being quite as frazzled by nerves.

    2. little Cindy Lou who*

      I usually interview pretty well, but I once had a two-roles-two-managers interview (they wanted to interview me for both to see which I might fit better). One of the hiring managers asked me if I had ever done any work that wasn’t directly appointed to me and it took me a good minute or two to think of an answer (longest time I’ve ever held a smile following “great question! Let me think for a minute…”). She ended up liking my example, but I’ve since realized that even though I often bring ideas for efficiency to my managers, I consider doing those types of things a normal practice, so I had to think instead from a what might look above and beyond the roles I’ve held to an outsider perspective.

      But while I certainly understand that it’s a better interview when both sides of the table get at the heart of how each other operate, my experience is that the best (most successful at getting into the meat) interviews are actually just guided conversations about what the hiring manager needs in the person they’ll hire and how that compares to the work you’ve done before and what you bring to the table, versus a series of questions based on the hiring manager’s need, because I feel this gives less opportunity for back and forth about what the manager is really looking for in a hire. Usually getting into the specifics of what s/he needs and what you’ve done before brings these situational questions up more organically and I feel like my brain is then already primed with examples because I’ve been rehashing my prior experience already. (And interestingly, second manager in that interview approached it like this and we had a fabulous conversation in which I was excited about the type of work he would be looking for me to do and he was very happy with my experience and skills. I felt like I got a better sense of him and the role and I think he got a better/more detailed picture of me).

  2. CrazyCatLady*

    I really like this! I’m a high performer but I do struggle with anxiety and nervousness so interviews make me very flustered. Just having an idea of those types of questions would be very helpful to me and I think employers would get a more accurate view of me if I have a little time to think the questions ahead of time. I could see how this may not be as useful in a high-pressure or senior role, though.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        Haha, maybe!

        By the way, (this is totally off-topic, Alison, you can delete it if you want!) I was commenting a couple weeks ago with you about 14ers and 13ers in Colorado! But I lost couldn’t find the open thread. anyway – I live in Colorado too and hiked my first 14er last summer and am already hooked. I’m so excited about planning my trips for this summer. I hope your injury gets better soon – it makes me crazy not being able to hike.

  3. Phideaux*

    I used to send specific questions prior to interviews, but what I found was that the interviewees had prepared for the specific questions, they didn’t really have much follow up prepared. Over time I modified this to be less specific in the actual questions, but the “topics” we would cover, and what some of the follow up may be. I think it helped the interviewees to be a little more relaxed, and I was able to get truer answers from them. It also helped me weed out some of the non-fits from the start. Surprisingly, despite the fact that you told them what we would be talking about during the interview there were those who didn’t give it an ounce of thought and were totally unprepared.

    1. ECH*

      Reminds me of a high school teacher I had. As study guides, he would give us the tests with the answer choices removed. The final was then taken from all the previous tests. I think there were probably some kids who still did poorly.

  4. CrazyCatLady*

    And like you and Kai pointed out, it gives you actual insight into what kind of worker this person may be, based on their actions (preparing, having thoughtful answers), instead of just their words.

  5. Lily in NYC*

    I think this is fantastic. What a great way to conduct an interview, especially considering there will still be questions that aren’t supplied beforehand. I was completely caught off-guard the first time I was asked this sort of question – it can be difficult to come up with something good when I’m nervous, but if I had had just 5 minutes to prepare I would have been able to think of something better than whatever I said.
    Sort of related, I just had a candidate email to ask me if I could tell them exactly what we”ll ask for their case study for a project manager interview. We would never provide something like that beforehand because it’s a “test” just the same as an admin might be asked to take a typing test during an interview. No one would be pleased if the admin candidate asked to see the typing test the day before and to me this is the same kind of request.

    1. Ama*

      Heh, I still cringe thinking of one particular interview where I was asked to provide an example of a time I wrote about a controversial or political topic. I can’t get too much into the details without potentially doxxing myself, but for some reason the post that I thought was appropriate to bring up involved the concept of slash fiction. Which I then had to explain to the bemused/horrified interviewers. (In my defense, this was about the third interview I’d ever been on in my life and the first for a writing focused job.)

      I may not have got that job even if they’d given me advance warning so I could pick a better example, but at least I wouldn’t still be wondering how much that mistake cost me.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        OMG, I recently was asked about a time that I witnessed discrimination. I spoke about my lesbian friend who can’t be public about her partner because she would get fired. But she works for a religious org, so I knew it wasn’t the best example and started backtracking, but the backtracking made it worse. I think I left my body at one point and just watched in horror. It was a train wreck.

        1. Anx*

          Perhaps I’m being naive, but isn’t that a fairly basic example of discrimination? Wouldn’t any answer to that question with any substance be somewhat uncomfortable?

          Or are we just supposed to pat ourselves on the back for valuing the dismantling of discrimination without even acknowledging it?

          1. Hi*

            Religious exemptions exist that allow religious organizations to more or less discriminate in hiring employees. It isn’t quite the best example.

        2. Steve G*

          Ha ha! Well listen, if they were going to ask a dumb question they deserve whatever response they get!

          Why would they ask you about a time you’ve witnessed discrimination? What if you’ve never witnessed it?

          1. Treena Kravm*

            That’s probably a very valuable screening question, depending on the position or organization. Could you imagine a person in a role in the social justice/service sector who had “never seen discrimination”?? What a disaster…

        3. Harley Quinn*

          That’s funny (your account of it, not that it happened to you and you were horrified).

          That seems like the type of trick question in which the candidate’s answer could be used as a reason to discriminate against him/her. How would one even answer that?

          I’ve seen lots of discrimination, but I’ve only met one man who won an employment discrimination lawsuit…and no one could figure out what the hiring supervisor had against him. There was no evidence of racism, ageism, or anything else– she just didn’t like him and had hired less-qualified candidates three times in a row before he finally sued the department to give him the job.

      2. CollegeAdmin*

        HAHA I love this – I am picturing your interviewers’ faces and cracking up.

        (If I was your interviewer, though, I’d have been asking what fandoms you were in. So you would have gotten points from me!)

      3. Tara*

        My uncle recently started a conversation with “So, you know fanfiction right? Have you ever heard of My Immortal?”

  6. Not Today Satan*

    When I first started interviewing, I was terrible at answering these questions. Partly because I had less experience to draw from, but also because I didn’t think of stories beforehand and couldn’t come up with anything on the spot. I cringe to think of all the times I said “hmm, can’t think of anything!”

    1. Steve G*

      I’m wondering how the OP expects to handle the situation where the interviewee just plain, old doesn’t have an answer. Even if you give them the list beforehand, they still aren’t going to have an answer. Would it be even less OK to say “can’t think of anything?”

      Because, for example, with the “a time you improved a process” question, I never had real leeway to improve processes until I was 29. Yeah, I improved small, random things before that, but never a process that impacted money and people before 29. So even if you gave me the question with a week to answer, my 25yo self would still have said “mmm, sorry, no example!”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, if I’m asking that question, it’s because I need to see evidence of a track record of doing that thing well. So if they don’t have a track record of doing it well (or at all), that’s highly relevant info about their candidacy.

      2. Serin*

        Yeah, I improved small, random things before that, but never a process that impacted money and people before 29.

        I think a manager who was interviewing a younger candidate would be interested in an answer along the lines of “I’ve never really had leeway to do this at work, but I made my parents a check-off grocery list that they’re still using ten years later” or “Since I comparison-shop auto insurance every year, I made myself a spreadsheet so I don’t have to look up the numbers every year” or “My income tax file system: let me show you it.”

        1. Margot*

          We made one of our best hires when a candidate told us about how much she loved to balance her parents’ checkbook when she was a kid! It was a cute anecdote, a great example of her love of puzzle-solving and finance, and we still remember it 5 years later. She has been promoted twice she we hired her!

        2. Windchime*

          We once hired a young man for a programming job. He had no professional programming experience, but was really involved with programming some kind of an online game. We asked him about a time when he had to meet a strict deadline and he paused and then something about being responsible to create a new, scary monster before Halloween on short notice. We loved his answer and it told us that he knew the importance of meeting a hard deadline. He turned out to be a great hire.

        3. JAL*

          This helps a lot. I graduated college less than a year ago, and while I have a job, it’s not where I need or want to be right now. I took it because they hired me and I was having trouble passing through interviews for more professional jobs where you needed a degree, simply because i had trouble answering questions like this.

      3. Mitchell*

        Kind of along the same lines of helping candidates, when I interviewed entry-level, I prefaced my questions with “the situation doesn’t have to be from work”. But it depends on what you’re actually trying to learn about the candidate. Do you need a candidate who has lots of experience with process improvement or are you looking for someone who can look at their own routines and be efficient?

      4. OP*

        When I interview recent grads with no professional experience, I change the interview questions around to draw on their experiences in college. For example, “Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict within your group while working on a group assignment and how you came to a resolution.”

  7. Katie the Fed*

    One of the best bits of advice I ever got on interview prep was to come up with anecdotes for all kinds of situations:

    – A time when I resolved conflict
    – A time when I had to defend my opinion from someone who disagreed
    – A time when I disagreed with my leadership

    and so on. So I came armed with examples I could fall back on. It’s helped a lot.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      Even with that advice, I still find it challenging to answer questions about those on the spot. There are so many behavioral/situational questions that even if I come up with examples of all of them, it’s still too much for my nervous brain to articulate on the spot.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Oh I understand – I’d much rather get the questions beforehand. But in the absence of that this is the best I can do to prepare. The worst is when you get a vague one like “tell us about a time you handled a difficult situation.” That’s so broad – how do I pick the best story?

        1. CrazyCatLady*

          I definitely do try to prepare but I honestly don’t even think it helps me! Sometimes I feel like people who don’t prepare probably do better than I do. And I hate the super vague/very broad questions too!

        2. Kimmy*

          I’ve read that you should try to use an example of a situation that you’re likely to face again in the job you’re interviewing for, if you can.

        3. Steve H*

          For my first job out of college I had to do multiple interviews with the company that eventually hired me. They did not send out the questions ahead of time, but they used pretty much the same questions in each interview (different people ran each interview). I was able have a pretty good idea of what kinds of situations they were going to ask about.

          I did exactly what you mentioned; I had about 6-8 anecdotes – ones I felt best demonstrated my strengths. The later interviews became almost a puzzle of trying to figure out which story to use with which question (so as to keep a variety available for later questions). It was much less stressful than having to come up with relevant situations on the fly.

          1. AnnaM*

            My daughter prepared well for her first teaching interviews but did best in one that allowed her 20 minutes to see the questions beforehand – it was still her own response but less off the cuff. It’s really positive to do this – it’s a little like allowing follow-up questions if you feel the interviewee has more to offer. I’d certainly want to work for these kind of managers myself.

      2. Ops Analyst*

        I have found it really helpful to just pick 5 anecdotes to remember and figure out how to apply them to different questions and situations. For example, back when I was a youth program director I spent an extraordinary amount of time with a nervous mom getting her comfortable with our programs and environment for her child. I’ve used that experience to answer questions about how I have gone above and beyond, how I have focused on customer service, how I increased or ensured program success (number of sign-ups / sales), how I dealt with difficult or needy people, and for examples of the kind of worker I am or how committed I am to my work, etc. It’s really hard to remember dozens of different situational examples but it’s easier if you can try to think of different types of situations that one experience can relate to.

        1. Ops Analyst*

          Not sure if that last sentence reads clearly. I mean, if you can tie several of those situational questions to one particular example its a lot easier than remembering a different example for each.

    2. Calla*

      Yep! I usually prep for questions like:
      – A major accomplishment (obviously)
      – A mistake (or example of my weakness in play) and how I fixed it
      – A time I dealt with a coworker who was difficult to work with

      Of course you can’t prepare for everything, but for the common enough questions, you can have already brainstormed some good answers.

    3. Jubilance*

      That’s exactly what I do before an interview. I map out my scenarios for commonly asked things using the SAR method – situation, action, result. That way when I get a question, I probably have a scenario in mind that will fit.

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    Maybe it’s my own neuroses here, but getting a heads-up on questions would actually make me more nervous about the interview, sort of like when you had open-notes tests in high school—you knew the test would be that much harder!

    That said, if it appears to be working for you and getting you better answers, more power to you.

    When I’ve interviewed and asked situational questions like that, I’ve tended to preface it with something along the lines of “Don’t feel you have to answer this right away. Take some time to think about this….”

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I just had an interview where they sent all the questions beforehand, and had exactly this experience! I was really overprepared and struggled to think on my feet. I wasn’t as dynamic as usual because I’d rehearsed everything. I think I was much more engaging in the couple of questions that were more off the cuff. I would have been much more effective with something like Alison’s example, with a couple of topics to think about, but not every. single. question.

  9. Adam*

    I can this working well. As a candidate you can never be certain what may appeal to a certain interviewer the most. My current office job back when I was interviewing for it I figured they’d want to know mostly about my previous office experience, but we ended up talking more about time in the food/service industry.

    I like this idea honestly. The interviewer knows what’s really important to them so if they give the candidate a heads up as to what they’ll most want to focus on it could make interview prep a lot easier, particularly if you’re hiring into roles where open communication would be real hallmark of success as opposed to trying to intuit what the other person is thinking.

  10. The Office Admin*

    Can I be completely honest and say that my current job has left me feeling like overworked, exhausted, mentally drained mush?
    I cannot think of a single answer/time/example to any of Alison’s questions. I know they must have happened, but I just. can’t.
    That being said, I would love if an interviewer would provide me with a couple of questions to prepare with!

    1. Not Today Satan*

      Something that I found helpful was asking a close coworker/friend how he would answer these about me. Sometimes outsiders notice things we take for granted about ourselves.

      1. Harley Quinn*

        This, so much.

        In my former job, I was only successful because I became adept at avoiding the people who complicated my job. I ran my projects under the radar so that they would not attract unwanted involvement and poorly thought-out ideas/commands from micromanaging superiors. I frequently performed unofficial damage control when members of the public were offended by my superiors and co-workers.

        I’m told that everyone (including my boss) viewed me as a helpful competent professional, but secretly I was exhausted from my huge workload and maintaining the façade that everything was wonderful when it so obviously wasn’t. Even if I could think of an answer to one of those on-the-spot interview questions, my answer would’ve been negative and rambling because I was so tired and fed up.

        Could I tell any of this to a potential employer? No way!

        I actually asked the people close to me to help me “rephrase” my answers to commonly-asked experience questions. This worked up to a certain point, but there were some questions during the actual interview to which I pretended not to have an answer. I decided in advance it would be better to say that I was unfamiliar with something than to be negative or badmouth my workplace. It would’ve been great to have a few questions in advance.

        (I sucked at the interview, but I got the job. I’m embarrassed when I think about some of my answers, but at least I didn’t say anything bad about my former workplace.)

      1. The Office Admin*

        Yes, I’ve been job hunting for a few months now. Luckily, my husband and I are relocating to a new city in mid-May so right now it’s just a put-your-head-down and do the work sort of thing, but my face is breaking out like a 13 year-old and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve had to spend the last two weeks worrying about finding enough money in business contracts to get the business bank account on the positive side so we can run payroll each week.
        It’s a disaster and I cannot wait to get out. AAM & this community helps keep my sanity though!

    2. Alexis*

      I completely feel your pain. I was blessedly canned from my recent painful job, but still get a shudder when I hear an accent similar to my ex-boss’s.

  11. Jeff A.*

    I like this strategy a lot. Keep us posted on how it works out down the road once you’ve made a few hires and brought them on board.

  12. Jill*

    I participated in something like this for our fire department’s cadet program, which is geared for 17-19 year olds just out of high school. There were 200 applicants for a 20 cadet class. We did pre-interviews with the kids where they appeared before a panel and rotated answering 1 of 20 potential questions. The objective was to give them a chance to hear possible questions that may be asked at the real interview and to get them over their interviewing jitters.

    It was really helpful to these young people who were clearly deer in the headlights. Many of them responded as though there were in school. i.e. Teacher asks a question and you better give a quick answer immediately or risk looking like an idiot. When I told them that in an interview it’s the opposite – that employers want to see you pause and consider the question and then give answers that are elaborative and detail rich, most of the kids were surprised.
    It also helped them formulate answers to common interview questions by drawing on school, athletic team, or house of worship relationships since, at their age, most have never had prior job experience to base answers on.

  13. cardiganed librarian*

    I’ve done a few public sector interviews where they gave me the questions 15-30 minutes in advance. Of course, because they’re public sector they don’t ask follow-up questions so they do allow for ridiculous BSing, but I think the problem there is the rigid structure, not the advance notice. As someone who really, really does all my best thinking with a pen in hand, making notes, I have long felt that the only thing you test for when you spring questions on interviewees is the ability to think on one’s feet. That’s a valuable skill, to be sure, but it’s not of paramount importance in all jobs and depending on the role, being able to prepare a thoughtful answer might be more important.

    I’ve also had to do some small tasks in that preparation time, which I rather liked. One asked me to prioritize a list of tasks and give a brief explanation, which I then had to justify in the interview. But I am a crazy person who would rather do a 3-hour written test than a 20-minute interview.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yes! I applied for an admin position at a public school district that did this, and it was sincerely a great interview experience, despite the one-size-fits-all-ness. They also gave us the lead-off question via email, so you had no reason not to make a great, polished first impression.

      1. More Cake Please*

        We do this here as well, and I know it made a huge difference for me interviewing. I had prepared several situations beforehand, but I used that 15 minutes to think specifically of which situation to use for each question. I had another interview recently where they didn’t share the list, and I used up a good example early on that I wish I could’ve saved for a later question because it was a better fit.

        We are able to do follow up questions though.

      2. Elsajeni*

        One of my favorite interview experiences when I was looking for teaching jobs was like this — I didn’t get a full list of questions, but they told me in advance that I’d be taking a math quiz, and when I got there the quiz instructions included a note letting me know that I would be asked to talk about a couple of the problems in the interview. It was really helpful to have time to pick out the problems I’d talk about in advance and make sure that the work I showed on the quiz backed up what I wanted to say.

  14. Alternative*

    How interesting. I have plenty of years of experience, but for some reason, I find it REALLY hard to come up with answers to situational questions. It’s like…I don’t think of my work and experiences that way – they are just things that happen, or that I deal with, and I don’t mentally compartmentalize them into “this was a challenge that I overcame by doing xyz,” or whatever. I’m not even sure what qualifies as a problem or challenge, as it seems to me that is just what work is – coming up with new ideas/solutions/working hard as needed.

    1. Sadsack*

      Yeah, I tend to think about it the same way. I automatically try to think of the Big Things, when in fact I am faced with “challenges” on a regular basis. Having the questions in advance may be very helpful, instead of feeling on-the-spot to come up with an fitting example.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Just an example to get the ball rolling: I inherited a shared inbox that constantly had about 100 unread (or unresponded to) emails. It was a mess, so I made a comprehensive tagging system in outlook and within a couple weeks all emails were addressed within a week going forward. Almost all interviewers are impressed with this example, even though it was such an everyday, basic thing for me. Try thinking of examples like that.

      1. louise*

        This would be awesome to talk about more in the Friday open thread! I’d love to hear how people have answered these questions! I feel like it could certainly open the door for people to copy (we’ve all seen what happens to the great cover letters Alison has shared), but I think so many of us have apt, everyday scenarios just like you with the email inbox and we just aren’t thinking along those lines because we’re trying to come up with bigger/better examples.

    3. Ops Analyst*

      Oh gosh. Me too! I have come up with some good old standbys after many, many interviews. In my current role I have been keeping a log of my accomplishments so that I will have an arsenal when I’m ready to start interviewing for my next role in a few years. I’m sure it will help with requesting raises in the future too.

  15. GigglyPuff*

    The job I started this year, did that, and it was honestly the best interview I ever had even though it was a phone interview. I got the questions 15 minutes before the interview, and it really allowed me to think about them, make notes, remember things I might not on the spot (my brain isn’t great at on the spot thinking), and even ask a coworker if they thought it was appropriate if experience A would fit the question when I wasn’t sure if that was the type of answer the question was looking for.

    I always knew I was much better at in-person interviews, with physical cues and facial expressions, but I did so good on this interview I never had a second one and got the job. I should have realized this might help, cause I’m one of those people who has to write out exactly what I’m going to say in a speech, even bullet points aren’t good enough. I don’t always have to follow it word by word, but planning out exactly what I’m going to say, and having time to remember experiences and qualifications, that aren’t strictly defined in a category was so helpful, I loved it.

    So please, if you’re able, even 15 mins head start did wonders for me. So for all the people out there who may not process things as quickly as others, consider giving out the questions.

  16. Barefoot Librarian*

    I really love, love, love this idea. I’m one of those nervous interviewers who always blanks on the spot, then walks out and thinks of 10 great examples of when I did “_____.” It’s terribly stressful and frustrating when I know I actually have dozens of examples. I do try to prepare for the standards ones involving juggling multiple deadlines, customer service basics, improving a project, and the like, but often interviewers come up with some that you would have never though to prepare for or ask for multiple examples in one interview (every question felt like an example of “a time when” questions in my last professional interview).

  17. Amy*

    For an upper level employee I wouldn’t want to see this. By then they’ve been on both sides of the interview process so should be able to anticipate the kinds of questions asked. Also, depending on the type of job, you may want someone who can think on their feet and doesn’t have a problem with nerves. For example, if it’s possible the person might have to talk to the press or have an interview with a grant funding agency, you don’t want someone who would clam up.

    1. Steve G*

      I wouldn’t want these type of questions either but I understand other people would, but that being said, it is nice to see interviewers preparing for interviews!

      I am job hunting and out of the 10 interviews at 6 companies I’ve spoken with, I would say that only 3 of the 10 interviewers (+ the one who asked what I thought were random personality type questions for a 1st interview when I thought we could have like, um, talked about 12 years of actual experience first) had put a lot of effort into preparing for the interviews. One in particular asked really pointed, tell-me-about-a-time when questions, and that interview really got to the meat of my work history. The rest, however, left me with different degrees of frustration, because I felt like their questions weren’t really hitting on a any key points.

      Maybe some people think they are good at reading people or good at winging conversations, I don’t know. But the most nerve racking part of interviewing for me is prepping loads and loads of questions in case the interviewer doesn’t know how to lead the conversation.

    2. oaktown*

      For an upper level employee I think there is still a value in some pre-interview prep, but in a different way. I have had interviews where they gave me a short exercise to do that they gave me when I came in and then had maybe 10 minutes to think about before they called me in.

      I think this could be even more useful if you gave some kind of exercise: “create a campaign for XYZ ballot initiative” whatever your field is, and an outline of what you are expecting to see. Or it could even be a more operations/process kind of exercise.

      If you sent it to them a couple of days ahead of time you would get a much better idea of how the candidate thinks and the level of work they can do than if you spring it in the interview.

    3. Barefoot Librarian*

      I definitely get your point about thinking under pressure, Amy, but many jobs don’t require that type of thing. My line of work, for example, largely involves committee planning for projects and lots of notice before a presentation. Most of the business dealings I have (with vendors and such) is via email and coming up with quick, off-the-cuff responses to situations is rarely, if ever, required. Research and planning skills, however, are highly prized. I think it might largely depend on the type of job as to whether this tactic would be appropriate and beneficial or not.

  18. Oryx*

    I had this happen once. In the original email it said we would have up to 3 minutes to answer.

    Got to the interview and it turned out to be only 30 seconds. I don’t know if that was accidental or some sort of test but suddenly my thoughtful questions had to be crammed down to fit their time frame. (The fact that the guy literally sat there with a stop watch didn’t help)

    1. Laurel Gray*

      A time limit on answers during a job interview almost turn the whole thing into a quiz show. Silly.

    2. Jeanne*

      The stopwatch is stupid. What does that tell him about you if you can answer in 30 sec instead of 1 min? Unless you’re applying to work with Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory.

    3. Mike C.*

      That’s crazy, holy cow.

      What kind of business would say, “we’re only going to spend 30 seconds per question to find the best fit for our job”?

      Was there a clock there so you could watch the time go down, or did someone in the room just shout TIME!!!! when you were done?

  19. NickelandDime*

    I like this. Thoughtful questions that gauge fit. Not: “Tell me how many jelly beans are in this jar.” Or: “If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, alive or dead, who would you invite?” I’m stumped by these questions – not questions about my work or skill set.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I was once asked “Tell me about your junior year in high school – what were you doing, what was your family like, what were your interests.” I was 31 at the time and it was not for a junior role. I think that was, by far, the strangest and most irrelevant interview question I’ve been asked.

      1. Dani X*

        I was asking “what animal would best describe you”… since i happen to own cats they were what came to mind, followed by wolves, bears, deer and antelopes – none of which really work. I think my uhhhh got to him and he moved on.

        1. Ž*

          “I’m a mouse! SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUEAK!” — the first thing that pops into my head but the thing I can’t say with my out loud voice.

  20. Artemesia*

    I think behavioral interviews are powerful but almost everyone has trouble coming up with good examples on the spot. I used to help students prepare for these and so people with good advising do come prepared to talk about specific times they: dealt with a difficult co-worker, solved a challenging workplace problem, whatever. And those people have a real advantage because they did get coached to prepare for this type question. They aren’t necessarily better than more naive applicants who didn’t get this help. Giving some questions like this does level the playing field.

    1. Joey*

      are they stumped because they didn’t bother to google what kinds of questions interviewers typically ask?

      1. badger_doc*

        Exactly–behavior based interview questions follow a pretty distinct pattern and can be found on most interview technique websites. We use it at my company and it works wonders for hiring, but you can always tell the candidates who never thought to prepare ahead of time.

    1. Chris80*

      +1 As an INFP, I tend to be hardworking & conscientious in my job, but am not good at proving that through interview questions that put me on the spot instead allowing me to spend time putting together a well thought out response.

  21. Meg Murry*

    Yes, the best interview I ever had was when I was pre-coached on the interview. Two of my former coworkers from company A had gone to work at company B, so when I got an interview at company B they took me out to lunch and told me about the types of questions that company B typically asked at an interview (mostly situational, lots of “tell me about a time when”, as well as a few technical) as well as what the curveball questions they had been asked in their own interviews were. As luck had it, they were also the people who had interviewed me when I first started at company A, so they were able to tell me what I had done well in my interview then and what I could work on (for instance, good at speaking slowly and not using too many filler words, work on more eye contact).

    The first few times I was hit with situational interview questions, especially ones dealing with times things had gone wrong I got so flustered – but practicing, and knowing that they were going to come up really helped me answer them well (and think of a good answer for “a time that I had failed” where it was only a minor failure, not a disaster, but that I could show that I learned from).

  22. Professoressa*

    I did this a year ago, and it was a huge success! Two weeks before the interview, I wrote to all the candidates and described for them three or four challenges we were grappling with at the old Teapot Factory (demand for the white chocolate pots was declining, for instance, and we were trying to figure out new ways to reach customers) ; I emphasized that we were still in the brainstorming stage and were eager to hear any suggestions/ ideas, so that they didn’t feel were were playing “I’m thinking of a number between one and ten; what do you think it might be?” Of the eight candidates, at least four clearly did no preparation at all and seemed entirely stumped when we asked them for their thoughts of our challenges, and their failure to prepare told us everything we needed to know.

    There was an unexpected benefit, as well. Our best candidate, the one we ended up hiring, made good use of the advance notice, but I know realize that she didn’t need it: she happens to be incredibly articulate and quick on her feet. Nonetheless, she told me later how impressed she was to have been sent the questions in advance: she took it as a sign that we were very clear on our expectations and that we were committed to treating candidates respectfully. So, I now think of questions in advance as the first step in recruiting the candidate we want to hire.

  23. Not Katie the Fed*

    I (somewhat) recently got a federal government job, and more recently was on the interview panel for another position in my organization. For both, we had a set list of questions, which were provided about 15 minutes before the interview. It was definitely an odd experience. One of the things I liked about the questions, though, were that the last two were, basically, say anything you want to say about your fit for the job that we haven’t already covered, and do you have any questions.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’m just checking to see that if I post here we won’t cancel each other out, like matter and anti-matter.

      1. Not Katie the Fed*

        When I went from contractor to government, I was like “Oh no! What will my handle be. I’m not a not-Fed anymore, but…”

        It’s funny too because I believe we both work in the same area (geographically).

  24. Mike C.*

    This is really great. My last interview went like this, and it was really useful to have several different stories in my pocket. After all, many times one story will work for several questions while another only fits one, and it’s useful to both the interviewer and the candidate that these stories are used efficiently.

    Also, this allows for a basic standardization across all candidates that still allows for deeper probing of specific issues.

  25. MBA*

    My boss used to provide candidates the questions while they were in the waiting room. She would make sure each candidate got the same amount of time with the questions (I think 5 minutes). When I interviewed with her, I was very surprised by the practice but very much appreciated.

    I’ve recently been interviewing for roles (you all would probably still consider me junior level) and had this one thrown at me:

    -Think of an innovative solution you came with for a problem

    When I heard it, I could. not. think of a solution at all. I just sat there going…um… um… and finally blurted out something stupid. It’s funny because I pride myself on being very creative and on always being able to get a job done on time, in budget, and with quality but I don’t think of ANY of my solutions as innovative. To me, they just seem like the logical solutions after examining all the possibilities.

    To be honest, I still hope I don’t get that question because the answer I’ve thought out now isn’t that much better. However, even 5 minutes ahead of time to prepare for that question would have helped.

    I wonder if a company ends up just hiring people who’ve been through a lot of interviewees vs the most skilled when they ask really tough situational questions with no prep time. Like a lot of you said, it certainly screens out people with some jitters.

    1. Ops Analyst*

      Oh, thats a tough question! There are a lot of jobs where you don’t actually have the opportunity to be innovative. Plus, most problems don’t actually require innovative solutions. I’ve also read something recently that the word “innovative” is one of the 10 most frequently used words that job candidates use during interviews.

      I think the list of questions 5 minutes before the interview started might throw some people off. If there is a particularly tough question on there, 5 minutes isn’t a lot of time to work it out amongst all the other questions and then it could make you extra nervous or preoccupied with that question. I think a better strategy would be to ramp up questions with increasing difficulty, so that the interviewee is ramping up their answers at the same pace and formulating thoughts as you go along.

  26. Ops Analyst*

    For my current role, which is mid-level, the recruiter actually spent about 15 minutes on the phone with me prepping me for the interview. He set clear expectations, gave me information about the job that I didn’t have from the ad, told me which “required” sets of skills did and didn’t matter so much for the position, and explained a couple of activities we would do during the interview. He even gave me tips about the hiring manager’s pet peeves and personality, which really set me at ease. I’ve had some corporate experience before but this was a career change for me and I was being poached from non-profit education. I got the feeling that they wanted to give me a clear picture of what they were looking for so that I could more accurately relate my experience.

    This was honestly the first job interview I’ve ever had where I felt like the recruiter and hiring manager really set me up for success. If I hadn’t gotten an offer it wouldn’t have been because I bombed the interview or was surprised by anything. Knowing that felt good because I didn’t leave my interview feeling like I could have done better. I think this is a really excellent way to prepare candidates and give them an opportunity to wow you.

  27. Lyda Rose*

    I think this is brilliant idea; it’s a job interview, not improv comedy. The more thought that goes into the process, the better – for both sides.

  28. Grey*

    I loathe “tell me about a time” questions just because they’re way too specific and some interviewers will preface every question that way.

    For example, in a profession where you encounter an angry customer on a weekly basis, “tell me about a time you dealt with an angry customer” seems like far less a useful question than “tell me your rules for dealing with angry customers”. I’d have a lot to say on this subject but less to say on a particular instance because each one is unique.

    And what about job where you juggle priorities on a daily basis? How do I tell you about a specific time, as in Alison’s example, when it’s something that’s never ending? Why not just ask me how I deal with the issue instead of demanding a specific instance that doesn’t really exist?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because it’s a lot easier for most people to BS an answer about how they would handle a situation than to BS an answer about how they really did handle a situation. And plus, much of the value in these questions is in the sort of follow-up I described in the post. That’s the part that really gives you insight into how someone operates.

      1. Artemesia*

        Bingo. The world is full of things that are easier said then done. I’d frankly expect a smart candidate who knows how they ‘would’ handle this to make up a situation if they didn’t have one at hand. Or one can discuss how one ‘would’ i.e. lay out one’s rules and then do a for instance which covers both bases.

      2. Grey*

        But what’s a candidate to do if they can’t think of a specific instance? Is it better to say “I can’t think of one” or is it better to make one up? Are your strongest candidates the ones who are best at lying while under pressure? You don’t really know.

        I like the idea of giving them a heads up on the questions. It helps to prevent this.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d also add: It’s okay that each situation is unique. I’m not looking for your broad operating principles, necessarily. I want to use a specific situation to probe into how you think, make decisions, problem-solve, deal with adversity, etc. That’s why it has to be specific — so that we can delve into how all that played out in a particular situation.

      If you juggle lots of competing priorities on a daily basis, say that. Then add, “For instance, last week, the following happened…”

    3. BTW*

      “For example, in a profession where you encounter an angry customer on a weekly basis, “tell me about a time you dealt with an angry customer”

      Oh my gosh YES! I worked as a CSR at a returns desk for years and this question always makes me cringe. I had to deal with angry people on a daily basis. We’re there ones that stood out? Definitely. But I don’t think, “We kicked them out of the store for calling me the C word” or “because they threw something at my head” would be a great response. An interviewer wants to know that the situation was resolved and the customer left gleaming from ear to ear. I too would prefer if they ask me about the steps I take when dealing with an angry customer rather than a particular situation.

  29. Blue_eyes*

    Bless you Alison and OP. I love this idea. I had a phone interview a few weeks ago where I felt like I totally bombed these kinds of questions because I couldn’t think of something quick enough. Especially since I’m trying to change roles, I don’t always have a perfect example, but I can think of something close enough if I have a bit of time.

    1. OP*

      I haven’t done this yet. We’ve been doing a lot of hiring in my department lately and I’ve noticed for the lower-level/entry level roles that people really struggle with these types of questions (I thought one woman was going to cry when I asked her to tell me about a time she made a mistake and how she handled it). We just haven’t been getting very good quality answers and often, instead of people giving me a specific example, they start talking in general terms about how they would do things, not how they actually did them. I have to ask them again to provide a specific example, and I think that makes them more nervous because they realize they didn’t give me the type of answer I was looking for. So I had this epiphany Bout giving them the questions ahead of time and I wanted to pitch it to HR, since they have final say on these things at my company. But I wanted to run it by AAM first to make sure there wasn’t something I was overlooking that could go terribly, terribly wrong by doing so.

      1. Suz*

        My best interview was when they gave me the questions 15 minutes ahead of the interview and let me write notes that I could refer to during the interview.
        Some questions were easier, but then some questions, I was so grateful to have my thoughts written down because I’d had so many and the word-association really helped, but I didn’t sound like I was rambling because I had already had the thought process!

        If I’d got the questions days before the interview, I think I would have been a bit intimidated, but just the 15 minutes beforehand really suited me

        1. Applicant*

          +1 to taking notes. Extra Credit for actually being allowed to use them at the interview without it negatively affecting candidacy.

          I strongly prefer to write things down if I am responding to a question that requires full consideration. Then, I can edit as necessary before presenting. Though, in my case, I’d be thrilled with several days- then I can present my most well-thought-out response. I can speak well extemporaneously if I have time to consider the questions well beforehand. Otherwise, I feel caught up in the pressure to answer quickly & be friendly, and often wish I’d been able to visualize and edit.

  30. BTW*

    I’m on the fence about this. As someone who is going through the interview process right now, this kind of approach from my interviewers would be gold however … I *expect* situational and behavioural questions at every interview. I am quite shocked at the amount of people that have said they were unprepared for something like this. I think if you know the position well (as in you’ve read and understand the position from the ad) and truly do think that you are a good match then you will have a better idea of what kinds of questions they will be asking. Example: I recently applied for a Volunteer Coordination position. I prepared answers for, “tell us about a time that you … showed leadership – worked in a team – handled conflict” etc. I do a lot of interview prep and I have come across many, MANY articles that tell you to be prepared for these kinds of questions. The articles advise to write down a list of up to 10 situations (using the STAR approach) that can be used for any number of behavioural questions so even if you have one that you weren’t necessarily expecting, you have a few examples in your bag that you can draw on. Remember, “past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour” and they want to know how your thought processes work and how you’ve handled certain situations in the past.

    Okay so, you can’t be 100% prepared because every interviewer is different and the ad might have limited information, I get that. But I feel like anyone can form a good answer when given the tools beforehand. (Well, I would surely hope) I think what would stand out to me is the interviewees who came prepared to answer those questions even if they had no idea I was going to ask them.

    With all that said, would I do better if I was given time to prepare? Yes. I am definitely not denying that or saying it shouldn’t be done. Because then I wouldn’t have to keep 5-10 examples jumbled in my head and could really focus on what was most important. So I’m all for it! :) I had just wanted to touch on the fact that one should have answers like this prepared regardless.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, but you’re probably more experienced. For this role, a lot of the candidates have very little experience; that’s what makes the difference, I think. They just have really different interview skills than other candidates.

  31. PoorDecisions101*

    Sometimes the more prep I do my performance suffers.

    Did a Vieple interview this week for a role I’m ambivalent about, made more so for a mid-senior level role wanting it done this way, but I thought, hey why not. First couple of questions I tried to prepare and came off terribly stilted. From there on in I just decided to wing it and came off a lot better. Hate the video interview format with no interaction by the way – a lot more unappealing to me now that I’ve actually tried it.

    The role I really want and waiting for a response from, the recruiter sent me the job description and walked me through what was going to be asked as well. It was surprising and a first for me. I’m probably on the against, purely for selfish reasons – I’m a think on my feet sort of person and it’s also a key part of what I do, so it makes sense. I also don’t think this is an introvert/extravert thing, as I’m pretty introverted – just pretty good at public speaking and business meetings.

    Also going insane with the waiting, though it’s been less than a week.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I feel the same way, that if I prepare too much, I end up sounding stilted… But if I don’t prepare, I sound flustered and aimless. Also, I recently had one of those video interview with zero interaction and it is so awkward!

    2. J.B.*

      Yeah, I think if I got specific questions I would think about those specifically and not the general stories. I love Alison’s suggestion for a junior person, and specifically how she did it – gave a big picture question in advance – but for me now it is best to think generally about situational questions and how specific things I have done fit in those categories. Then if I get a question about handling conflict or some specific process I did well, then I can pick the relevant elements from a couple of major work activities. For me, if I bomb the situational questions it is because they are looking for someone with more specific detail experience, not systems stuff!

  32. Nobody*

    I really hope this catches on. I always think of the answers I should have given — right after the interview is over. Here’s another thought, though: why not ask for some written responses to interview questions? That would also give candidates some time to formulate and refine their answers, and as a bonus, you would find out if they have decent writing skills.

    1. OP*

      They’d have to write them onsite for the interview in order to make sure they’re the ones producing the work, and that could be stressful for some people too. When I know my work is going to be scrutinized I read over it countless times until I’m just so sick of looking at it.

      1. Applicant*

        As stated above, I would *love* to be able to write a response. Then, you get to see my writing skills, which are stronger than my extemporaneous speaking skills. I’d imagine that it could work in reverse, as well.

  33. Marin*

    One thing I love about the idea of providing interview questions beforehand is that it gives candidates more insight into the role – not just the tasks involved but challenges involved.

    That gives them a great opportunity to reflect on whether the job is really right for them, and to think about detailed questions for the recruiter.

    This could be particularly helpful for less experienced job seekers or career changers who may not be able to recognise the potential challenges in a role. They can then think through if/how they’ll be able to handle them.

  34. SevenSixOne*

    I think a pre-interview briefing about “this company values A above B. You’ll be interviewing with Sam, who was interested in your resume because C. If you’re hired, you will be expected to D, E, and F– be prepared to explain why you’re suited for that.” is a great idea, but by telling candidates exactly what they can expect in the interview, employers will end up hiring people who are best at telling them what they want to hear and not necessarily people who are the best fit.

    One time I had a recruiter call me the day before an interview and tell me exactly what questions my interviewer would ask me AND suggested how I should answer each one. At the interview, the interviewer pulled out a tear pad of pre-printed questions (the same questions I’d gotten from the recruiter, in the same order), robotically asked me only the questions on the sheet, and wrote down my answers pretty much word-for-word. It was beyond bizarre, especially considering the company is one of the largest employers in my area and really ought to know better.

    PS: I didn’t get the job… but I probably wouldn’t have accepted an offer anyway!

  35. Melissa*

    I once participated in an interview where the prospective employer provided me with a copy of the questions the search committee would ask at the beginning of the interview. As the interviewee, I found this really helpful not because it gave me time to prepare ahead of time, but because I didn’t have to worry about forgetting what the question was while I was answering it. :)

  36. Sarah G*

    I currently work for the County, in the Human Services Dept, and they have an approach that I’ve never seen before and IMO is very effective. They tell everyone to arrive 15 min before the interview time (they tell you the actual interview time, but also say to arrive 15 min early). When you get there, the receptionist provides a print-out of the questions so that you can jot some notes and think about them briefly before the interview. At the end of the interview, you leave the print-out with them, so that you can’t share the questions with other interviewees.

  37. Denise*

    Even as a more mid-level professional, I think this is a great idea. I actually wondered why more interviewers don’t just tell you beforehand what they want to discuss if they are looking for something in particular. There are the standard behavioral questions, but sometimes interviewers can get really specific in attempting to find a past experience that is analogous to the position for which you were applying. In one interview I was asked something along the lines of, “Tell me how your knowledge of one program enabled you to make improvements upon another.” First of all, that is a specific enough context that such a situation may not have occurred. If the interviewer was trying to see if it had or not, a better way of phrasing it would have been, “Has there been a time when…?” And if I said, “Yes…” or “Not exactly, but there was a time when…” she could have followed up with more questions about it. But having to pause and rack your brain for a specific situation among so many is awkward and seems to deflate the interview.

    I don’t even know that the questions would even have to be explicitly given, but just a heads up might be helpful enough. I would completely welcome and think well of the interviewer/company who sent and email saying, “In reviewing your resume, I’m particularly interested in discussing your experience with X at company B and situations you’ve encountered where…” I remember getting towards the end of an hours long interview process that included multiple prior stages and being told, “Now, the person in this position will need to have X factor. Can you tell me about…” I didn’t have X factor and probably would have hesitated in applying had I been told that up front. So that’s another thing–using questions to convey essential aspects of the position should be a no-no. Ideally, people should be able to gather from the job description/advertisement exactly what is essential to the job so they can reflect on those things before the interview.

  38. Amy*

    I love the idea of this. I’m interviewing for entry-level roles at the moment, and so many times I’ve been asked questions that just stump me. There are plenty of “tell me about a time when…” questions that I can’t think of an example to on the spot, but could if I had time to really consider it.

    It would particularly help with what I consider ‘assumption’ questions, where the question assumes I’ve had a certain experience and is literally unanswerable if I haven’t. For example: “tell me about a time you’ve missed a deadline and how you resolved the issue”. I can honestly say I’ve never missed an important deadline. I cannot rest if a project isn’t finished well before it’s due. But if I knew in advance that was a question, I’m sure I could think of some minor examples that aren’t serious enough to spring to mind on the spot in an interview.

    (I also just general think questions about specific mistakes are dumb. Broad questions like “tell me about a time you had issues with time management” solves the issue of a candidate never having made a certain specific mistake, and how the candidate interprets the question gives you an insight into their ability and mindset)

  39. Kassy*

    I love this idea! I went on an interview recently and I think most of it went well, but I was asked a question I wasn’t expecting at all. The frustrating part was that it was totally relevant to my field, and I could have absolutely killed it if I hadn’t frozen in the moment. I have had random answers occurring to me ever since the interview!

  40. Harold*

    Well, the most important thing is that the playing field is level. If one person gets the questions, everyone should get the questions. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. For a high-level (very high level) position that was recently advertised, one candidate (the “chosen one” by top brass) was provided the questions by a close colleague (who also happened to be on the search committee). The guy was an idiot and actually read the answers to the questions (that no one else had access to) right off of a piece of paper. This is Bush League and how employers suppress their own growth by playing favoritism instead of hiring the best person for the job. Until the violaters (who provide such advantage of giving away the questions) of this practice are fired, this will continue. Until then, I like the idea of giving everyone the questions. This ensures a level playing field. Unfortunately, knowing all the questions doesn’t uncover those who are truly talented on their feet; a requirement for some of the most demanding jobs.

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