Why You Should Write Down Interview Questions

interview tips Dec 02, 2021

When you are in a job interview, do you write down the questions? Do you take a moment to review the question, circle key points and identify any critical items that are part of the question? If not, you are missing out on a very significant opportunity within any interview at any company.

Writing down the interview questions may seem a little tedious and redundant. However, taking a few extra moments to truly understand what is being asked of you can give you a critical advantage.

Item #1—Pen and Paper

I know it’s the 21st Century and we have technology at our disposal. However, you simply cannot be hitting keys on your computer or staring at your phone/tablet during a professional interview (whether in person or virtual). Good old-fashioned pen and paper works just fine, even if you write slow—we all do these days! Remember the writing is for your benefit, not for someone else to read. Get comfortable physically writing down questions as you prepare for your interview.

Item #2—Restate

Because we’re always going to be slower at writing than talking, any question of length will probably need to be repeated. Don’t worry about asking your interviewer to restate the question. Just make sure you are getting the question right. Then, you will restate the question to them after you have finished writing it down. You don’t have to write down the full question exactly word-for-word. Focus on the key points.

Another important tip to remember is if your interviewer starts to get annoyed with you writing down the questions. If this happens, address it directly. Apologize for writing slowly, but let it be known that you are doing this because you want to be absolutely sure you are getting the questions correct.

Item #3—Shortcut

Again, you don’t need to write down the full question. This is especially true with many common behavioral questions that start with “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…” Don’t waste extra time writing down those intro phrases. Focus on the second half of the question and the main topic(s) of the question. This will save you writing time and allow you to stay on point.

Item #4—Identification

Now that you have written down and restated the question, you want to identify the type of question. If it is a behavioral question, you’ll want to respond with the S.T.A.R.L.F. method. (Situation. Task. Actions. Results. Learnings. Follow-up Questions.). Think about what the question is asking and where your example story needs to begin. For open-ended questions, you’ll want to use the C.F.A.S. method (Clarify. Framework. Assumptions. Solution.).

Item #5—Circle the Words!

You’ve written the question down. Now, you need to identify the themes and keywords that will really help you answer the question. This step will literally change everything for you. First, it means you have written down the question, which is good. Second, it allows you to take the time to think through the question. Third, it allows you to slow down just a little bit, which gets you more connected to the question. This helps you better understand what’s being asked and allows you to provide an excellent response.

Item #6—Test It

I always talk about the power of practice. To know if this is an effective strategy for you, feel free to test it. Do a mock interview with a loved one or colleague and practice writing down the questions, circling the words, etc. You can even do a comparative test interview without writing anything to see which is more effective for you. You might be surprised at just how much of a difference writing the questions will have.

Be sure and watch my full video on this subject below. At the end, I provide a screen share exercise to show you exactly what this process looks like.

If you have questions about personal interview training, contact Practice Interviews and sign up on our website for more resources and information. Also, follow my YouTube channel for weekly videos on a variety of interview preparation topics.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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