Interview Questions… In Advance?

Worried that interview questions may be filtering out shy but strong candidates, some firms are publishing them in advance. Will this lead to better hires—or more inauthentic candidates?

They are the bane of almost every job search—vague and tired interview questions such as “What are your weaknesses?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” They are particularly bothersome to Gen Zers, experts say, who find them pointless and judgmental.

But now comes a unique idea for the hiring process: companies providing interview questions in advance, by publishing them online. The new approach, which has been taken up by the likes of a major recruiter and a large retail chain, is aimed at leveling the playing field by providing all interviewees with the same information, while assuaging Gen Zers. And while traditionalists frown at the notion, some HR pros say that sharing questions prior to interviewing candidates might not be a bad thing—as long as hirers stay focused on the skills the firms need. “It rewards the diligent, the prepared, and the thorough,” says business psychologist James Bywater, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. “That seems like a win.”

Responsible, diligent, and conscientious employees tend to perform well at work, he says, but other good employees, such as introverts and neurodiverse workers, are notorious for struggling with surprise interview questions. About half of applicants say they want questions ahead of time, according to LinkedIn data. Still, experts warn that some candidates will turn to friends—or worse, ChatGPT—to create false impressions of themselves. What’s more, publishing interview questions won’t work for roles that don’t require smooth talking and quick thinking as two critical skills. For those roles, which may range from sales cashier to consultant, assessing an applicant’s ability to think on their feet is crucial.

Web-savvy hiring experts point out that the process is, to some degree, no longer in firms’ hands: Companies need to assume that interviewees already know the questions. “You can already find interview questions on sites like Glassdoor, so it’s moot,” says Maria Amato, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. She says companies could officially distribute them to all applicants to ensure fairness.

Longtime hiring pros say that there’s a middle ground to this approach that will reasonably meet the needs of most roles. It structures the interview in two parts. In the first part, questions are provided in advance, which allows all applicants to prepare ahead of time. “It establishes a level playing field, which I really like,” says Dennis Deans, vice president of global human resources at Korn Ferry.

In the second part, candidates will be asked follow-up questions, often called “probing questions,” which cannot be provided in advance, because they depend on real-time answers. “That’s where applicants will think on their feet,” says Shanda Mints, vice president for RPO analytics and implementation at Korn Ferry. It’s in the probing questions where applicants will need to demonstrate their ability to successfully engage in a back-and-forth conversation.

This is particularly pivotal with young people, who as a generation are known for witty texts, yet struggle with face-to-face conversations with strangers. “It’s a life skill,” says change and communications guru Alma Derricks, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. “If you can’t build a dialogue, you’re gonna have a hard time building relationships in the organization.” 


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