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Using pre-scripted answers to interview questions

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Are pre-scripted answers a ‘good thing’ to roll out in interviews? Here are the good, and bad, reasons for using them.

Search the web for ‘common interview answers‘ and you’ll find countless results (51million when I last searched.) It would seem many are advising it, and many are doing it. Heck, even I have written many posts about how to answer questions in interviews and performance appraisals.

Eric Brown in his post Stop Using Pre-Scripted Questions in an Interview pleads us to not use this approach (read Eric’s post to get his views on why this is BAD), and as someone who has interviewed many people, I agree that listening to pre-scripted answers to the common interview questions is a painful burden felt by every interviewer, nowadays.

The problem is, as an interviewer in these situations, we have to ask ourselves who am I interviewing here? The person in front of me, or the guy who wrote the pre-scripted answers? It is very tedious to wade through an interview when facing a textbook in a suit. In fact it’s more than that – it doesn’t have the effect that the interviewee is hoping for, because interviewers can see straight through the script.

Look, like you, I want to prepare, and give my best in an interview. I’ll take every workable advantage I can employ to get that job, or that promotion. Who wouldn’t? So where do pre-scripted answers provide help, if at all?

How to use (and not use) pre-scripted ‘answers’.

I can see myself now, stood in the mirror, rehearsing my answers word-for-word. How eloquent, and pointless they will sound. And what a dork I will feel.

It is almost impossible to respond to a question with a pre-scripted answer without sounding like you’re reading from the lines of a play. Try it – and listen for yourself. If you’re going for an acting job, then fine, go right ahead. But for most other interviews, coming over as a voice-over actor won’t get you the job. It doesn’t sound natural, or spontaneous.

Practising and then repeating pre-scripted answers verbatim is a folly – you won’t convince anyone. Even if you do (because you’re a great actor) then what do you do when you’re asked to elaborate? Or delve a bit deeper into something you have just said? You’ll start umming and aaahing like a high-school kid on a first date. The contrast between your rehearsed answers and your off-the-cuff responses will be remarkably obvious. You will prove you lack substance beyond your first answer.

No, please don’t use pre-scripted answers like that.

Pre-scripted ‘answers’ should be used as a guide, ONLY.

It’s just like Eric Brown says: Pre-scripted interview questions are great to give you ideas on what topics you want to cover, but make the interview your own.

These stock answers provide us with assistance in understanding the question and methods of providing the answer:

  • When we find a well crafted pre-scripted answer, we then clearly see what the question is asking from us.
  • Use them to stimulate your own thoughts, and your own answers.
  • They can raise your awareness to common questions you didn’t expect might be asked.
  • Look to them to identify perspectives on the question that you might not have looked at yourself.
  • Remember the skeleton of the answer, but add your own words in real-time.
  • And that an interview should focus on our aptitude, capabilities and job achievements.

Make them your own, and use them only to frame your answer that you make specific to the job you’re interviewing for, the employer, and of course, your own personality. That HAS to come through – or the whole interview will lack authenticity.

Do you use pre-scripted answers in interviews?

How did they work for you? Did delivering them feel natural? Did you get the job? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

 
This post is part 16 of 18 in the series Interview Preparation

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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