should you give job candidates the questions ahead of time?

A reader writes:

I know you’ve talked about common questions interviewers ask. However, while a candidate can prepare for those types of questions, for behavioral interview questions (“tell me about a time when…”) it’s sometimes tough for candidates 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 these sorts of 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.

Giving candidates a heads-up about some of the topics you plan to discuss in the interview can be a real benefit to both of you.

I started doing this a while back when I was interviewing for a junior-level admin position. Most of the candidates were 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 couldn’t really “cheat” by making up fantastic but false answers ahead of time, because I responded to their initial answer with tons of follow-up questions about their initial answer.

So, for that role, I started sending along a pre-interview note saying 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.

Updated from a 2015 post.

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. mark132*

    I do like a heads up when interviewing. In particular if you are going to ask me to take a test of some kind. So a programming problem, or an IQ test, or anything similar. I don’t need to know what the problem is, just that you are going to do it. I’ve spent a lot of time before interviews reading bunches of programming language trivia to allow me to have a chance at answer some obscure question. And if I won’t be quizzed on that, I would rather prepare in other ways.

    1. Moray*

      I’ve had phone screens where an HR rep or a more junior staff member would give hints about what the actual manager would want to hear in the in-person interview, especially if they didn’t quite think the manager’s desires in a candidate were truly in line with the role.

      (Like if the manager was extremely focused on hiring someone who knew a type of software backwards and forwards, when in actuality it wasn’t that hard to learn on the job but people skills and multitasking were really important).

      1. Artemesia*

        When doing work as a consultant I have had people give me that kind of heads up about the quirks of senior people involved in the process and likely to get hung up on particulars. In one international situation my escort queued me that the boss was obsessed about correct business card protocol and wouldn’t listen to anyone who didn’t pass his business card test. I was actually amused that he seemed slightly disappointed that this American woman did know the only correct way in the universe to exchange business cards (wasn’t my first rodeo in the middle east) But also for more substantive issues around how problems are framed, or current fads in strategic planning etc.

        1. BadWolf*

          Is this handing over the business card using two hands instead of casually sticking it out from one hand?

  2. Roja*

    I know I for one would find this really useful. I am just not good at thinking of things on the spot, so the chance to take some time to think through questions would be super. YMMV of course.

    1. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

      Saaaaame. It’s also really handy because it helps me ensure I’m not trying to use the same examples over and over. If i know they’ll be asking about my greatest professional accomplishment, I can think about my narrative around that, and then use a totally different anecdote for a question about relationship-building or attention to detail.

  3. CatCat*

    I’ve had a couple government job interviews were I was given the questions 30 minutes prior to the interview. I thought this worked pretty well . I was able to think about my responses in advance and therefore was better prepared to answer and, because my memory was refreshed, was better prepared for the deeper follow up questions rather than trying to pull up the memories totally blank in the moment.

    1. Alh*

      I work in the federal government (Canada) and this is becoming standard in hiring. I like it, from both sides of the table. As a candidate, it gives me time to gather my thoughts and note a couple of things I particularly want to highlight. As a member of the hiring committee, I am generally hiring for lower/entry level positions, often young candidates just out of school. They give a much better interview when they have time to prepare, and they give more useful, insightful examples that give us a much better sense of how they will be as a employee. They shake off the nerves and come in more relaxed and ready.

      1. MayLou*

        I wish it was the standard approach for UK public sector jobs. The questions are always standardised and behavioural, and there’s no reason not to offer thinking time. I find the social interpersonal stuff in interviews sufficiently hard that it gets in the way of concentrating on my answers, so one time I asked for the questions in advance as a reasonable adjustment for disability. They provided them and it was helpful, but at the end of the interview the interviewer told me I’d interviewed very well and maybe next time I’d feel confident enough not to need to see the questions in advance. It felt really uncomfortable clarifying that it was nothing to do with nerves but was because of my neurodiversity. It was an awkward moment and I didn’t get the job. I won’t be asking for that adjustment again in future, but I wish it was standard practice.

      2. Oh So Anon*

        I work in the public sector in Canada, albeit not the federal government. My particular public sector organization doesn’t provide questions ahead of time, but I’ve interviewed with federal and provincial governments that do. For mid-level positions, I find that the level of detail expected in answers to some questions is far beyond what an interview panel would expect in an interview for a comparable position outside of the public service. Like we’re talking about 10 minutes per question in a 50-minute panel interview. What’s happening in these interviews is that they’re evaluating answers against a ridiculously detailed list of competencies and duties that aren’t necessarily designed to provide a sense

        As a candidate, the public service prepared-question interview style often felt unnatural; as a hiring panel member, I’m glad we don’t do this because it forces a dialogue between interviewers and interviewees.

    2. Venus*

      Yes, they have this at my workplace as well (30-60 minutes preparation, depending on the job). The answers aren’t canned as there isn’t enough time to prepare a detailed answer, yet it did provide me with enough time to think of the right situations to discuss for each question. Once I found a good answer for each question I then went through and added point-form supplemental ideas.

      This format also has the added benefit of allowing me to distribute my many experiences into the most relevant examples. Using Alison’s example questions, my most significant professional achievement might also be the one which had a large volume of work, competing priorities, and I went above and beyond… so having even a bit of time to plan my answers allowed me to think of some great examples and then sort them to ensure they were best highlighted. In thinking about it, I think this is why the questions might have so much benefit to senior roles as well as junior.

      I remember answering one question with what I thought was a great response, and then I realized that it was so much more applicable to another one so I just drew an arrow (to indicate that the answers were switched) and wrote another answer to the earlier question. I had read them all from the start, of course, yet when I thought about some of the details it changed my impression of my experience.

      As an example, my first attempt at describing an experience with a large volume of work and a lot of competing priorities would be obvious to me, and yet the situation was relatively easy to describe because I had a good understanding of my boss’s expectations. Yet there were other times with less volume where the prioritization was much more complex, and would probably show off my problem-solving skills more effectively.

      1. Joielle*

        Yep, this is exactly what they did at a recent state government interview I went through, and I thought it was great. Like you say, it wasn’t enough time to write answers out word for word or memorize anything, but it was enough to think of key points I wanted to hit and jot down a few notes for each. The interview went really well and I was ultimately offered the job (although I turned it down for unrelated reasons).

    3. Cacwgrl*

      I do this with my panels for more permanent positions. we typically hire young, inexperienced recent HS grads and we’re asking them to commit to a career education growth opportunity – think CTE in nature. We can only recruit twice a year but have lots of vacancies with managers who are struggling with delegating hiring authority to anyone but themselves due to the extremely strict program requirements we have to follow once we hire. So panels can be 6-12 people, plus EEO (CRINGE, I know, but at this point, I can’t get them smaller). Some of the candidate have never been interviewed before. I give everyone a set amount of time to review the questions and I tell them when I schedule the time that I need them there 30 minutes early to review the questions first. The questions are specific and can be in depth, so giving them time to see the questions gives them time to think about a meaningful example and they know what question is coming next as we work our way down the list. It’s terrible and terrifying, but it does help us successfully narrow down the pool to people that can hang in this very intense program.

  4. FreddyLongJohns*

    For something as basic as the “Tell me about a time…” or “Greatest strength/weakness” a candidate should be prepared with answers. Those are standard interview questions (even if I hate them). If I was a candidate I’d definitely want to know about company-specific stuff like a skills test, but I don’t think you need to send out something like what OP is asking about unless you’re hiring fresh grads. Even then probably not necessary

    1. SarahKay*

      But there are so many options for the “Tell me about a time…” question – I’m not sure it is easy to prep for all of.

      1. Anonadog*

        Someone asked me once in an interview, “Tell me about a time you used humor to diffuse a difficult situation.” Wish I had had a heads up on that one – talk about oddly specific.

        Maybe I should told a bad joke, have awkwardly laughed and said, “How about right now?”

    2. Combinatorialist*

      I always prep some “tell me about a time…” but just because the category is standard, doesn’t mean that every question of that type is something you have thought about. And I think there is something privileged in the belief that “people should know to prep that.” I don’t think that having received appropriate coaching from somewhere correlates with ability to do the job well, but I think it does correlate well from a certain background.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For standard interview questions, yes. But there can be real value in giving people a head-up like, “When we meet, we’d especially like to hear about a time when you faced a challenge around issues of equity” or so forth — stuff that people may not have been thinking about ahead of time, so that you’re not all sitting around while they scramble to think of an example (and in my example here, where it’s potentially more fraught/sensitive).

    4. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

      Eh, “need” is a strong word! I don’t *need* to do things to help set candidates up for success in an interview, but I’ve found that doing so makes it easier to evaluate candidates, and makes for a better interview experience for both me and the candidate.

      It also evens the playing field, for everyone from regular ol nervous-at-interviews types, to people with hearing problems, to people with neuroatypicalities, to inexperienced people, to people who come from very different professional contexts than I do…

      I don’t *need* to level the playing field for those folks, but I do it because it gets better results or my organization than not doing it!

    5. Drago Cucina*

      Agreed. We were hiring for one position that required the use of QuickBooks. Mentioned in the job ad. We told all interviewees that there would be a 15 minute QuickBooks quiz when scheduling their interviews for late the next week. The number of people at the interview who stated they knew nothing about QuickBooks was surprising.

    6. Artemesia*

      A surprising number of people are not familiar with these questions and reliance on them may be like relying on internships — it selects for wealth, educational privilege, mentoring by friends and family who know how systems work. Plenty of new grads, first grads in family, people without family business connections are not up to snuff on tricks to interviewing. This heads up lets you even that playing field and people who are not good at it won’t be not good because it caught them by surprise.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        I can see that perspective, yet even so I’m not sure it evens the playing field that much when you have applicants whose influencers don’t quite understand the context of those questions in white-collar settings.

        Here’s an example: my mother has a pink-collar job with minimal autonomy – you do what you are told, and you’re not expected to ask questions. A job interview question about handling conflict is something that seems really off to her because most types of conflict that would happen at her job are things that would be pretty problematic. She probably would have mentored me to say that I never experience any conflict at work, which we know isn’t a good answer to that question, because conflict can include dealing with an unhappy customer, or wanting to approach a job task differently than a team member would. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have probably taken her interview advice as a new grad, even knowing the questions beforehand.

        The difference comes down to whether you think that point of these questions is to show that you’re self-reflective and can work through inevitable challenges, or to demonstrate that you never have challenges and can keep out of people’s hair. When it comes to behavioural questions, I think a lot of people are working with a very different language and expectations around soft skills. Some people are in jobs that expect compliance whereas a lot of what we discuss on AAM is folks in jobs that ask for more self-reflection. People who have trouble telling which perspective is the prevailing one at a given job will have trouble with the interview regardless of whether they get questions beforehand.

        1. M. Albertine*

          I have never gotten the questions beforehand in an interview, but I HAVE gotten questions where an expectation of a job was explicitly stated, then followed up with a “tell me about a time”. For example “someone in this position would be responsible for handling customer complaints. Tell me about a time you experienced an adversarial situation and how you handled it.” Giving context about the purpose of the question was helpful in shaping my answer as to how I would be a good fit for that aspect of the role.

  5. Little Pig*

    I recently did an interview where the company told us the themes they would be asking about: think leadership, cooperation, overcoming difficulties. I brainstormed and prepared a few stories in each of those categories, and as a candidate, I loved it. I did a lot of reflecting about what I learned from the different experiences and how it related to the given job. It also saved me from that terrible pause when they ask about something super specific, and I would rack my brains in a panic trying to come up with something even remotely relevant.

    The interviewers at this particular interview dug really deep into each story, like, how did you present that issue to your boss? Why didn’t you solve the problem in this other way? How did that person react? It was still a difficult conversation, but at least I was prepared for it.

    1. Kiki*

      Yes! So often the first thing that pops into my head is not the best example of something. It’s really nice to be able to think through different possibilities in advance. Unless the job involves a lot of thinking on your feet and quick answers (C.J. Cregg from West Wing), keeping the questions a surprise isn’t really testing anything valuable

  6. Bostonian*

    I really like the examples provided for follow-up questions. I know that asking follow-up questions during an interview is generally a good idea, but I still sometimes have a hard time in the moment coming up with them. Sometimes a candidate answers and it’s obvious the information that is missing that I need to ask about, but for the most part I struggle with this. I’m bookmarking this article for this reason!

    1. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

      I’ve struggled with this too in the past, and I’ve found a few that are almost always helpful:

      1) who else was involved? What was your role relative to theirs? Who did you need to seek information from?

      2) What happened next? What was the result? (This one is surprisingly often left out of answers)

      3) If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

  7. Belle*

    I love this, and it can be really useful for disabled candidates, too. Knowing what to expect can be key for success, especially for neurodiverse candidates.

    1. Aquawoman*

      +100. I can prepare for a lot of questions but if there’s a surprising “tell me about a time when…” that is very difficult for me to answer on the spot. There’s already an issue with interviewing that being good or bad at interviewing doesn’t necessarily track to being good or bad at the actual job, only enhanced if you’re testing people who are more inclined to deliberative thinking than on-the-spot thinking.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*


      And, just like so many things that are good for folks with various disabilities, it’s good for the non-disabled folks too — the heads-up shows respect for the candidate’s time and effort by making sure that they can show their best, not their best-in-the-moment.

      An interview is NOT A TEST. It’s a conversation for a long term (working) relationship.

  8. Sleepytime Tea*

    I agree with Alison on all of this, with the exception of if it is a position where speaking off the cuff or being able to think on your feet quickly are particularly key. If so, you won’t get as much of a feel for how well the interviewee can do those things if they have that extra prep time. On the flip side, if as Alison suggested you only give a few of the questions ahead of time, and so they still do have to demonstrate their abilities in these other areas in the interview, then you get a good feel for the differences between what them prepared vs. them having to speak with quick thinking looks like. Not to mention, if you do give some questions ahead of time and they still flounder, you can get a feeling for whether or not they took time to prepare and such.

    As a candidate, I would LOVE to receive any important questions ahead of time so that I could make sure I provided a well thought out answer.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Also, they can have canned responses for the questions you give them, even if those are all the major questions you ask, but those can also be a springboard for follow-up questions, which you won’t give them a heads-up about. Keep in mind, too, that the think-on-your-feet skills in the actual job may not translate directly to the think-on-your-feet in an interview.

  9. SSM*

    We do and it is awesome. It shortens our interview times, we don’t have to hear “that is a great question” over and over again, and it is easy to tell who is really invested and who is phoning it in.

  10. bdg*

    The last interview I did, I was given a few broad topics, but two questions I was given word-for-word, and then asked to prepare and present a presentation on them. The job required a good deal of presenting/communicating, so it was important to test that in candidates. But on the interviewee’s side, I’m glad that I was able to think through my answers for those two questions and pull out themes– I would have struggled to do that on the spot.

    I haven’t heard of other interviews like that in my industry, but I thought it was a really good way to handle it. It covered a lot of things all at once.

  11. librarian*

    I received a long list of interview questions, a few days in advance, for a phone interview for my current academic librarian job. I was told that we wouldn’t go through all the questions, and we definitely didn’t. There were some off the cuff questions as well. As the interviewee, it was so helpful especially early in my career. This was six years ago so I don’t recall if I prepped answers for every questions (I’m thinking not) but it definitely helped me be more thoughtful about the whole process.

  12. paperpusher*

    In my experience interviewing for public service jobs, questions are often provided a half hour or 15 minutes in advance. I love it, because I’m a person who, when asked to name an animal starting with E off the top of my head, will panic for three minutes before saying eggplant.

    It’s also really helpful because they’re expecting you to hit certain points in your answer, and are unable to ask follow-up questions so if you panic a bit and go off-topic, or just give a bad example, you will be scored down with no chance to recover.

    I’m not the believer in those questions that other people are, though. I can imagine where maybe they work when you are able to ask thoughtful, probing follow-up questions, though I think that many interviewers are as bad at thinking on their feet as interviewees are, and are also prone to be wowed by the most eloquent speakers regardless of content. But in my experience, the worst team players may be able tell a beautiful story about how well they work with others and invite contributions from all members of a team, because they actually believe that’s how they work.

    1. SarahKay*

      I love your ‘eggplant’ example – I am just the same. And then as soon as the pressure is off, I’m all “Elephant, eel, eagle, etc – how did I not think of these at the time?!?”.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        You are my tribe! I hate being put on the spot, and always think of a good answer the next day.

      2. PhyllisB*

        I love this, Sarah Kay!! Just reading the question I could not think of an animal that begins with “E”. Then I read your response, slapped myself on the forehead and went, “Of course!!” So if just casual reading this could cause a freeze up I can see how it would in an interview.

  13. NotAnotherManager!*

    I kind of waffle on this one. I like to make sure people know what their interview process will look like – is there any sort of skills assessment, with whom will they be meeting, how much time do we expect this to take, etc. I’m a little leery of providing a list of interview questions because I am typically interviewing for positions where being able to think on your feet is a critical skill. I have a format that I typically stick to for interviewing, and one of the introductory parts is laying out the four skills that I think are most indicative of success for the position. After a basic ice-breaker question, we start with the skills-related questions. The exceptional candidates will have noted all four down and start proactively describing times when they demonstrated those skills, the excellent ones will answer the related tell-me-about-a-time questions with a solid, on-point answer, the ones I probably don’t want to hire will tell me they don’t have an example because that’s not something they like to do or that they would decline to take on a task they’d never done before.

    1. Old Millenial*

      That’s my take away too. Rather then sharing the questions I would prefer companies be up front about their process.

      Of course I could be bitter because a company I applied to sent me 6! spammy emails in 3 days to fill out a personality test….when it was not originally on the app.

  14. Thornus*

    I had an interview once where the first 15 minutes were them giving me all of the questions they were going to ask and letting me write notes about how I would answer. I liked that! They then proceeded to work only off of those questions and asked zero follow up. I did not like that.

  15. Matilda Jefferies*

    I have a small sample size, but I’ve recently noticed a trend where candidates are asked to come in fifteen minutes before the start of the interview to review the questions. I’ve found it to be really helpful to organize my thoughts ahead of time – and it would seem to strike a good balance from the interviewer side as well, where the candidate has enough time to prepare but not enough time to over-prepare.

  16. Anonymous #73*

    One caveat to this: I’ve done things like this from the other side, and trying to remember what you had planned to say can trip up an interviewee. When that happens, the interview can tailspin (in the worst-case scenario), leaving the applicant with the feeling that their time was wasted with a test unrelated to the job. That’s not to say that you should avoid giving candidates any information like this, just to let you know that this can select out people based on something that may not be related to the job.

  17. De Minimis*

    I had one for a governmental position where they gave me the questions while I was waiting to be called in. I was given about 10 minutes to review them and then letting them know I was ready to go in for the interview. I liked it, I think it helped me give better organized responses than if I’d had to just do it off the cuff.

    Honestly though I much prefer structured conversation over formal interview questions.

  18. Sleepy*

    I’ve never tried this but I’m definitely going to! I usually interview inexperienced candidates and there’s some questions which I never really get satisfactory answers to. I’m excited to see if I get better answers after they have a chance to reflect.

    I also have some “red flag” questions which I wouldn’t provide ahead of time because I want to see how they instinctually respond. These are questions where your answer must show an awareness of the professional norms of the field and if you have to research or think about it, you’re not ready.

  19. Rey*

    I’ve never tried this, but it sounds like the results have been positive! If my boss doesn’t currently do this, what is a good way to pitch this? I’m thinking about doing it first in interviews for student interns (which might feel lower stakes). To be clear, I would definitely need to tell him, because he sometimes sits in at the last minute and I wouldn’t want the middle of an interview to get derailed if he was shocked or surprised (because it’s so different from our current practices).

    1. hbc*

      I changed up our job posting dramatically based on an old AAM post, and I approached the owner by saying something like, “Hey, I just read this interesting article about job postings. I’m going to try to incorporate some of the ideas into our next one and see how that turns out.”

      If he’s a bit resistant to change, you could probably emphasize the trial nature of it. “I’m thinking of giving them questions X and Y in advance, the rest will be the usual way. Then we’ve still got the bulk of the interview if we don’t like the results of prepping.”

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I think “test driving” it with your interns is a great idea – if there’s any group of candidates that would benefit from the additional prep time, it’s probably them!

  20. Blisskrieg*

    I’m very thorough, but I also try to put people I’m interviewing at ease. (Nerves are one of the reasons I try to put people at ease, because I think I don’t hold being anxious against anyone and I figure I can get a more accurate assessment if they are comfortable). I’m often at a loss though, as to why some of the candidates flub fairly standard interview question. I do look at the standard interview questions as a pulse check with how in touch they are with professional norms. 30 years ago, before google, I would be much more inclined to forgive an interview faux pas–but now there is SO MUCH info on how to prepare for an interview (for example, in response to the question “why are you looking for a new opportunity?” a blunt “I hate my boss and coworkers” would be an odd response).

    For that reason, I’m less inclined to share interview questions ahead of time–although I like the idea of using it for more junior positions with people new to the workforce.

  21. Scott M.*

    I haven’t had to interview for a job in almost 30 years. But I admit, I might be hard pressed to come up with answers for these kinds of questions even if I was given advance notice. Perhaps I need to start writing down stories now in case I lose my current job.

  22. Lady Kelvin*

    In my interview for the job I started Monday I knew they would be asking about conflict with team members because I currently work on the team as a contractor and one of the members has driven several people (women) away to other offices. Its a federal system so they don’t do anything about his behaviour but have to make sure the new people coming in can work with him. I was ready to talk about my experiences dealing with conflict since he and I work closely and there is often conflict between us…and then he’s on the interview panel. So I was scrambling for a different example. Thankfully the lead interviewer knew my predicament because she’s the one who I go to talk about how to mange our relationship and she kinda talked me through some hypothetical situations and I passed with flying colors. Although after the interview I realized there was another coworker I had conflict with and he ended up fired so I could have made a joke about that (which they would have found funny, in this case).

  23. Carlie*

    Giving them one or two questions ahead of time is lovely – it can really ease a candidate’s overall nervousness to know that, no matter what else happens, they have a couple of good solid answers prepared.

  24. Kc24*

    One of the last places I worked would tell candidates the interview is at X but we need you to be here 20minutes early for admin etc. For those who arrived early, they were given the questions. I think this was a great approach as it struck a balance between giving the candidate a chance to prepare but not too much time that they could completely rehearse.

  25. BossLady*

    I had an interview today. Went fairly well I think. I was super glad they gave me a sheet with their top questions on it 30 minutes prior in the waiting room (which they had told me to expect). I get that some positions require quick thinking and the ability to answer something immediately, but many don’t. A lot of jobs you generally have a little thinking time before you have to respond to major issues. I appreciate a few minutes to organize my thoughts. I’m sure I could have done it without, there wasn’t anything I wasn’t expecting fro the position description, but it made the whole thing more relaxed and I was able to be more conversational with them, which I think was nice on both sides.

  26. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t think you need to supply the questions ahead of time unless you’re asking about something really specific that they may need to look up or prepare additional data in order to answer. Generally, that’s probably more for managers or technical fields mostly.
    And if you’re giving a test, give notice of that and an approximation of time to do it in case the person needs to come back or take the day off.

  27. Clementine*

    I agree with this approach. From the jobseeker’s point of view, you might not get any advance questions. But with proper research, you can still prepare almost as if you had. Think through your career and schooling. Think of difficult, challenging, and sticky situations you have managed to resolve, work around, or endure. Write these down. Think of some questions that might reference these situations. “Tell me about a time when your team members didn’t pull their weight,” for example. If you have thought through and rehearsed your scenarios, and you have thought about and Googled possible questions, particularly STAR-based ones, you can be thoroughly prepared.

  28. Nick*

    In my last position, the interviewer gave me a basic rundown of the types of questions she would be asking, and coached me on how she wanted me to answer. “No hypotheticals, nothing lofty, provide real, actual examples and answers to the questions…I do not care if the answer is from something that happened in high school, I want a real, in depth answer.”

    I got the job.

  29. feminzagul*

    I work in local government and it’s HR standard to give people 10 minutes to review all of the questions prior to the interview. You actually are required to give them a copy of the questions and a copy of the job ad to review in that period and I think it’s extraordinarily helpful. I’m honestly very nervous for interviewing anywhere else in the future that doesn’t have something similar. My job/career path is not about thinking very quickly on your feet and I absolutely hate being caught off guard in an interview.

  30. Dzhymm*

    I’m curious as to why this is even a question. It’s a job interview, not a final exam. I don’t see any harm in letting the candidate know exactly what you’re going to be asking about; to me that’s a welcome bit of transparency. Three months ago I interviewed with a major company, and while I wasn’t told in advance what the exact questions might be, I was given a lot of material on the “management principles” that they like to see in job candidates, with the understanding that interview questions would be chosen with these in mind. I aced the interview and that’s where I’m working now. Are people worried that if the candidate knows the questions ahead of time they’ll be able to perfect their masterworks of short fiction?

  31. Hershele Ostropoler*

    On top of everything else, it would be a green flag that they aren’t cultivating an adversarial workplace environment

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