Memorizing interview questions and answers is not an effective tool for interview preparation. Yes, there are endless books available that claim to offer “expert interview answers”. But don’t fall for it. In fact, memorizing expert interview answers from a book or online interview tips can cost you the job. Keep reading to understand why.
500 Interview Answers.
I was conducting an Interview Skills Boot Camp for retiring officers at a US Navy Base. We had just finished the first hour, and everyone had a quick ten-minute break. I like to make myself available for individual questions during a break, and one of the officers approached me for advice. He had his first civilian interview coming up, and had been using a book to help him prepare. It was a pocket-sized book of 500 “expert interview answers” to interview questions. He wanted my advice about which ones he should try to memorize. I sighed, and gave him the one answer he did not expect: “None of them.”
Don’t memorize “expert interview answers”.
First, those expert answers are not your answers. The purpose of an interview is to sell the interviewer on YOU – all the unique talents, skills, abilities and experience that you offer. A generic answer from a book, or online, will have no specifics about you. And a great answer is ALL about specifics.
Second, you can memorize 500 answers – and you may get completely different questions than the ones whose answers you memorized. If you rely upon memorized answers, you will be lost if you get an unexpected question. And most likely, you will. Always expect the unexpected.
Third, and most importantly, reciting a memorized answer comes off as robotic, inauthentic and not likable. Your interviewers have experience. They know the difference between an authentic thoughtful answer and a recited answer. Even if you were a theater major in college – even if you used to be an award-winning actor – your interviewers will know. When you are reciting a memorized answer, everything about your demeanor, tone, affect and body language is different from when you give an authentic answer. Your interviewers are trying to get to know you, and your refusal to give an honest and spontaneous answer will not be appreciated.
Don’t memorize your own answers.
Which bring me to this: Don’t even memorize your OWN answers.
First, when you prepare, avoid writing out your answers as complete sentences. Interviewing is a verbal communication skill, not a writing skill. Your interviewers want to see how you think on your feet, how you react in the moment. If they wanted your scripted answers, they would ask for them in writing and not waste valuable working hours doing in-person interviews. And here is the major reason to avoid memorizing answers: a candidate who is reciting memorized stuff is simply not as likable as the candidate who is giving honest, thoughtful and spontaneous answers. So use bulletpoints to keep your message on track and practice speaking naturally as you give your answer.
Invest your time wisely.
I looked carefully at the book the officer gave me, and my heart broke just a little. How many other job seekers, I wondered, were out there were wasting precious preparation time memorizing “expert interview answers”? The good news was that I knew that in a few hours, this officer would have all the tools he needed to give his own effective answers to any interview question. I only hoped that he would also be able to get a refund on that book.
If you are looking for interview questions and answers, please don’t waste your time and money with someone else’s interview answers. Instead, look for a coach to help you articulate the unique value and fit you offer for a particular position. Investing your preparation time and resources wisely can make all the difference in landing the job. (For additional information about how to prepare for your next interview, check out more of my free tips: https://impressiveinterviewing.com/free-tipsquestions and