People often ask me if it’s a good idea to memorize their exact responses to interview questions. They say when they sit down at the interview, they freeze up and can’t think of anything to say. This can be detrimental to your interview, so what is the remedy? Should you be memorizing your interview answers?
In general, it’s best not to memorize exact interview responses. Although you can benefit from preparing your interview answers ahead of time, memorized interview responses can come across as cold and inauthentic.
What Are The Benefits Of Memorizing Your Interview Answers
Although in most cases I find memorizing interview answers is not a beneficial practice, there are some upsides that a few of my clients swear by. These are usually the people who freeze up in an interview when they don’t know exactly how things are going to turn out. This is actually very common for individuals when they just get started interviewing. They’re fine when simply talking about what they’re interested in and what they’re good at, but when you put them in a room with an interviewer who says “tell me about yourself”, they don’t know where to start.
It’s in these situations that memorizing a handful of key interview questions such as “tell me about yourself” or “what is your greatest weakness” has the potential of giving you the confidence to give a well-thought-out answer, even if it feels a little rehearsed. It also can ensure that you don’t panic and give a horrible answer.
Having a few memorized responses to the most common interview questions can also show the interviewer that you’ve taken the time to prepare for the interview. That’s something that every interviewer loves to see in a job candidate.
What Are The Downsides Of Memorizing Your Interview Answers
While there are certainly benefits to memorizing your interview responses, there are plenty of downsides to discuss as well, which I think outweigh the benefits. The first and most obvious downside of memorizing your interview answers is that you’re much more likely to come across as dry, inauthentic, or even robotic. This of course comes down to your delivery of that answer, but even if you can deliver it in a way that feels authentic, you’re still going to run into other potential roadblocks.
The biggest issue I find with memorized interview responses is that they often are written with one very specific interview question in mind. For example, let’s assume you’ve written and memorized the perfect response to the common interview question “why do you want to work here?” This is one of those interview questions that can take on several different forms, all related, but different enough that an answer from one version will need to be slightly modified in order to really fit that version.
In this example, if you walked into that interview ready to answer “why do you want to work here”, yet the interviewer asked “what interests you about this industry”, you would find that your “perfect response” doesn’t fit so perfectly with this version of the interview question.
When we memorize a response, we tend to memorize a script from start to finish, and that can make it very difficult to pull different pieces out and modify them into a coherent answer on the fly. These types of slight variations between questions are extremely common and have a major impact on what a good interview response looks like for the question asked.
What To Do Instead Of Memorizing Your Interview Answers
Despite what I’ve said, I do recommend that you sit down and write out good responses to each of the most common interview questions ahead of time as you prepare for your interview. This will also include five good stories in the S.T.A.R format for your behavioral questions. The purpose of this is not to memorize your answers word for word, but to start generating a collection of answers that highlight your skills and accomplishments.
Especially with the behavioral questions, it’s important to write them out ahead of time in the S.T.A.R format because it can be very difficult to turn your stories into that format on the fly, even if you have them memorized. Notice here I recommend having five good stories, not necessarily a memorized response to each specific behavioral question.
Most of your stories will be able to be modified with little tweaks here and there based on the question asked. Your greatest accomplishment could be the same time you overcame a struggle or had to deal with several tasks.
That leads into my overall strategy here for planning out your interview questions, and that’s to prepare stories and bullets, not exact responses.
Use Bullets, Not Memorized Answers
In the previous example, we discussed the two versions of a similar question: “why do you want to work here” and “what interests you about this industry”. If you had simply memorized an answer to “why do you want to work here”, you would likely struggle to articulate a good answer to the question “what interests you about this industry.”
Instead of memorizing an exact answer to that exact question, what you could do is research and prepare ahead of time, 3 – 5 areas of this company and this industry that you are interested in. Extra points if you can relate those company or industry ideas to your value proposition. By doing this you’ll not only be able to formulate an answer quickly to the question “why do you want to work here”, but any and all variations of that question that might be asked instead.
The solution here is to break up each response into a few key bullets that you can remember easily, so that no matter which version or variation of common interview questions is asked, you’ll be able to come up with something relevant. This interview strategy makes you a much more dynamic interviewer.
By coming up with a few great S.T.A.R formatted behavioral responses, and having a few key bullets for most of the other common interview questions, you’ll be able to face almost anything that the interviewer is going to throw your way, without being bound by a memorized script that only applies to certain interview questions.
When Should You Memorize Your Interview Answers
This is the approach that I recommend for most of the interview questions that come with several variations, but there are some questions like “tell me about yourself” that are going to be similar every time. With those, I do think there’s a benefit to creating a well-thought-out response ahead of time and memorizing it. If you’re interested in how you can do that for your next interview, be sure to check out the video below where I break down that infamous interview question into four simple steps to create a memorable response that is sure to help you land your dream job.