Many of us have done it: left an interview and thought ’why didn’t I say that?!’ when thinking of an answer given to a question.

Even if someone spends a lot of time preparing, it’s still possible to be caught out by something they weren’t expecting. Or for nerves to strike, and something to be forgotten.

An interview is not always a comfortable situation for students and graduates; and there are reasons why they may not always do their best. Sometimes even the most confident can underperform, as the example in this blog shows.

But they are asked to think of the best examples that they can give on the spot.

One of the main reasons is so interviewers can see how they think on their feet, and this is understandable. But the answer itself would usually be the most important thing.

Especially when it’s about something that has a direct relation to the job; perhaps an example of where they did something technical.

The idea is to see who is most suited; but there is a risk that it may show who is the best at interviews, which is a different scenario to doing the job.

Someone may have done something that fits perfectly with what you are looking for; but they may not give full details (or worse, may not mention it at all). So, you could miss out on them.

So, what can be done? A couple of years ago, I discussed in a blog that some questions may be best given to candidates before the interview. It’s something I had seen suggested before, and others have spoken about it since. But it’s never really taken off.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Particularly for students and graduates, who usually have limited experience with interviews.

If the ability to think on their feet is important, then a question or two could be kept back; maybe ones that aren’t specifically related to the job duties.

But some time to think about the most important questions should result in more comprehensive answers being given; and a better comparison of respective abilities.

It may seem a little radical to some, and I can see why some employers may not want to do it. But I think it’s at least worth considering.

Matthew Parry

Director. SME Graduate Employment

Email: matthew@sme-graduates.co.uk Telephone: 0370 7749500

The specialist graduate recruitment agency for SMEs