Give Candidates Interview Questions in Advance to Increase Accuracy

February 24, 2015

Here's an idea I've started advocating: Give candidates all of the interview questions ahead of time and make sure the hiring manager listens to all of their answers.

The big idea here is to have the candidates present their answers using this Performance-based Interview PowerPoint presentation with the interviewer actively engaged in having the candidate explain their answers. This video explains how this is done.

Now, before you ding me and think these are just the ramblings of a cynical old man, let me make the case for why the idea has merit. At a minimum, you might want to try it out on your next few interviews and compare the before and after.

10 Reasons to give candidates the interview questions ahead of time

1. Candidates will be judged on their past performance, not their presentation skills.

Since everyone will have the questions ahead of time as well as the format for how to answer them, the assessment focuses more on the quality of the accomplishments the candidate chooses to demonstrate his or her past performance. Interviewers will use evidence-based fact-finding to validate the candidate’s accomplishments.

2. Hiring managers will automatically ask the right questions.

Few managers are fully trained interviewers. Some overvalue their intuition, others overvalue the candidate’s technical proficiency, and many ask inappropriate questions. The logical flow of the presentation format gives all interviewers the right questions, in the right balance, at the right time.

3. Objectivity will increase.

Forcing managers to focus on the candidate’s presentation prevents them from going off script, ensuring all candidates are asked the same questions. This reduces bias due to first impressions by making it difficult for interviewers to ask softball questions to those they like and curveballs to those they don't.

4. Job expectations will be clarified before the person is hired.

As you’ll notice in the template, the questions are based on the preparation of a performance-based job description ahead of time. By describing jobs this way, candidates will be judged on what they've accomplished that's most comparable. Clarifying expectations upfront has been shown to be the #1 driver of employee engagement.

5. The answers can't be fabricated.

Each of the questions involves evidence-based fact-finding to ensure the candidate's answers are supported by facts and specific details. Since the candidate has had a chance to review these details ahead of time, there is no excuse for not remembering important details.

6. You won't need to interview as many candidates.

Unqualified candidates will opt-out from the process once they realize the time involved to prepare their presentations and the depth of information needed. Just by agreeing to participate, candidates will have demonstrated their true interest in the job.

7. The Performance-based Interview is fully validated.

The Performance-based Interview has been validated by one of the top labor attorneys in the U.S. as fair, in full compliance with all state and federal labor laws, and more objective and predictive than the traditional behavioral interview.

8. You'll be able to find and recruit stronger active and passive candidates.

The best people are always looking for career moves, not lateral transfers. Since the questions all revolve around job expectations, candidates will quickly recognize the career opportunity inherent in the job.

9. The process levels the playing field to increase diversity hiring.

By focusing on past performance rather than skills and experience, the candidate pool is expanded to include those who have done similar work. This type of performance-based filter is non-discriminatory.

10. You'll maximize quality of hire by addressing all soft and hard skills in relationship to real job needs.

It’s relatively easy to assess technical skills and generic competencies. Relating this to the actual job, the team requirements and cultural fit has always been the challenge. The Performance-based Interview template, in combination with our Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard, bridges this gap.

While at first glance it might seem odd to give candidates the interview questions ahead of time, it actually might be odder not to. By not giving candidates the questions and structuring the process, you leave the questions asked and the assessment of the answers up to the interviewer and the collective judgment of the hiring team. This adds more randomness into an already problematic process. Unless everyone at your company is a great interviewer and they always agree on candidate quality, the likelihood of hiring the right person is slim. Giving the candidates the questions ahead of time might just be the right answer.