I have been preparing interview questions and talking with a friend that has 30 years of experience in the workforce and has been CEO of several fortune 500 companies.  He gave me some advice I wanted to run by this community.  He suggested that I allow 10 minutes or so before the interview for the candidate to read through the questions I am going to ask during the interview.  The position is entry-level in the company and typically the candidates are nervous and I would like to calm them down a little and get a better read on them.  I am also new to management and this will be the third hiring process that I am working through.  Thank you.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 I've not heard of candidates being given the questions to be asked before the interview, although I've heard it suggested that a favoured candidate was given the questions and a list of key words to include in their response (i.e. cheating).  I can't rule out ever doing it (maybe before a technical interview where you're going to ask scenario based questions you might give them the scenario) but it's not something I'd expect to be common.

The nearest I've ever come across is where a person specification (basically a list of skills and attributes the person would be expected to have and where that will be tested, e.g. Application Form, Interview, Practical Test, References &c) has been created and it is sent out as part of the application pack.  A candidate should expect at least one question covering each item indicated as being tested at interview (some items may have multiple questions and some questions might cover a number of related items) and could probably surmise the questions (there's only so many ways you can word the question "Tell me about how you approach problem solving") but wouldn't be given the questions in advance.

If you think the candidates are going to be nervous and want to counter this then maybe open up the interview with a brief chat about the job and their background.  You may find that a smart candidate answers some of your key questions during this chat.



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"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


jib88's picture

I would counter that a good candidate should be able to make themselves calm and comfortable in a stressful situation. I don't need to find the people who are going to be sharp only when they are prepared and know what's coming - I want people who can perform under stress and pressure. My work isn't cookie-cutter, and I need people who are dynamic.

That said, if someone is entry-level I'm probably going to cut them more slack on nervousness.

mdave's picture

I have used the approach of informing candidates that their ability to give short prepared remarks is critical to the position and provided them the question and instructions (3-5 minutes, please cover these 4 points regarding topic X (usually their most significant professional acheivement or something similar)) for a prepared question about a week before the interview. I continue to be surprised  that the answer to the "prepared" question often does not differ much from the blind questions. It tells me a lot about the candidate's organization, preparation, being able to follow instructions, and being able to take a strong hint (I provided the question and parameters for pete's sake).

buhlerar's picture

You don't have to follow MT for very long to realize there's a lot of bad advice out there, so in some ways it's hard to know whether some faux pas by the candidate is really a good barometer for them.  Mark often equates the interviewing process to a college football player having to play tennis in order to get into the NFL.  The skills you need to do well in interviewing are not always directly related to success in the job, so if the candidate is told to be evasive or clever when asked about a weakness, are you impressed with their preparation or turned off because they somehow should have just inherently known not to trust the WSJ for career advice, etc.?

I just started a new job a couple of weeks ago, and before interviewing me the company recruiter explained in some detail the behavioral interview process they used and told me what kind of answer they expected (specific accomplishments I'd achieved, including results, etc.).  I was impressed with them right away because 1) I recognized many MT best practices in their approach, 2) I knew they'd probably use MT-like principles to make a hiring decision (so the process was not such a black box), and 3) as a result, they probably had a lot of quality people working there because they had a good hiring process.  On the other hand, I knew the other candidates would have the same information (i.e. I wouldn't be competing in the Land of the Blind) so I felt a little more pressure than usual.

I can't recall ever hearing M&M say to forewarn candidates about the process (or questions) but they are clearly in favor of a very rigorous (even "picky") approach, and sharing more details in advance seems to be a way to raise expectations.  Maybe not with every question, but to me seems a good way to judge them using a more standard set of criteria.