Written by Sally-Ann King | 5th June 2024

It’s important to remember that the goal of a job interview is to find the person who will excel in the role, not just a person who excels at interviews.

Providing interview questions to candidates in advance can significantly reduce nerves and stress, allowing candidates to thoughtfully prepare their responses and better showcase their experience, skills, and personality.

This practice, already common in supporting neurodiverse candidates, is being trialled by companies like John Lewis to make everyone more comfortable during the application process.

Of course, this approach might not be suitable for every role, or for every company, but here’s why it can be beneficial for both candidates and employers.

Benefits for candidates

Improved preparation and performance

Giving every candidate the same interview questions in advance creates a level playing field. This is especially important for those who might not have as much interviewing experience, but possess all the talent and potential needed for the job.

How many times have you answered a question in an interview, only to think of a better response hours later? This extra time allows candidates to reflect on their experiences, skills and relevant examples to form more detailed, well-structured answers, tailored to the specific role.

Reduced anxiety

Interviews can be high-pressure situations where time constraints can make it much harder to concentrate and give answers that demonstrate a candidate’s full potential.

Getting the questions in advance can reduce some of this anxiety for candidates – they no longer need to worry about nerves getting the better of them and can effectively answer questions because they have thought carefully about how they will answer.

Benefits for employers

Demonstrates an inclusive recruitment process

For neurodivergent candidates, who may have difficulty thinking on their feet or processing information quickly, providing questions in advance can help them to come up with meaningful responses that show off their skills and capability for the job.

It shows that you are an inclusive employer and want everyone applying for your roles to do well, by giving them an equal opportunity to present themselves.

Determines if a candidate is a good fit

Surprising candidates in an interview or trying to trip them up is not a good way to see if they would be a good fit for your company. The reality is that most jobs, and especially those that require problem solving, allow you time to think, experiment and the support from others to test potential solutions.

Being able to prepare answers to questions, will not only help the candidate get across what they want to say, but will help you to get a better picture of how they will fit in with your company culture and with the rest of the team. Being less stressed and more relaxed, should allow their personality to shine through.

It will make your company stand out

Providing interview questions ahead of time will leave a lasting impression whether a candidate accepts the job or not, potentially leading to positive word-of-mouth referrals and increased future applications.

Understandably, employers may hesitate to implement this into the recruitment process. 33% of people who responded to a People Management poll on LinkedIn had concerns that sharing questions in advance would remove spontaneity from candidates’ answers.

However, while candidates might be able to prepare and even memorise answers to questions, you can ask follow-up questions to see whether their answers are authentic and based on their real experiences.

It may be beneficial to share ‘situational’ type questions with the candidate such as ‘can you tell me about a time when…’, which demonstrate their abilities and skills, through specific examples. You could keep behavioural questions, such as ‘where do you see your development needs’, back and only ask them during the interview itself. In this case, their answer will demonstrate their self-awareness. A rehearsed answer to this question might not reveal a candidate’s true response.

In short, being transparent about your interview process shows that you are a fair and empathetic employer.

Best practice for implementing change

Implementing this change to interviews is simple but can be hard to make. A transparent interview process will take a bit more planning to choose thoughtful, job-related questions before the interview, but it will save you time in the long run.

We recommend any change to the interview process be openly communicated with candidates, informing them of changes at the very start of the application process and reminding them throughout, so they maintain a positive impression of your company.

You should train your interviewers on new techniques, to ensure consistency. In this case thinking about how far in advance you will provide the questions, what types of questions you will ask and whether you choose to give them a general idea of topics and themes instead is important.

Encourage candidates to leave feedback about their experience and listen to this to help refine your recruitment methods.

Ultimately, it’s important to adapt interview practices to meet your company values, the nature of the roles you are hiring for, the candidates and the candidate experience you aim to provide.

If you would like support exploring alternative methods of recruitment, or a review of your recruitment processes, please contact us and our recruitment expert will be in touch.

We can also develop interview questions, carry out the interviewing for you or train your interviewers. Learn more about our recruitment support here or contact [email protected].