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Studying for Job Interviews isn’t cheating April 1, 2008

Posted by Imran Ghory in job interviews.

Teacher: Does anyone know why breaking mirrors is bad luck ?
Boy 1: [long boring in-depth explanation]
Teacher: Well done that’s exactly right have some merit points
Boy 2: That’s not fair, he’s cheating, he’s been reading up on it.
Teacher: That’s not cheating, that’s the point of school

Some of the respondants to my earlier posts on interviewing seem to be of the opinion that studying books which teach you to do interviews is a form of “cheating”, that reaction caused me to remember the above scene from my childhood.

Interviews are just like any other test, studying up is expected and necessary. Sure if you’re good you can just breeze into a test without preparation and get an ok mark. But interviewers mark to a curve.

If you’re not on the top you’re not going to get in with an “ok” mark. A quick look at Amazon reveals a staggering 1152 books on interviewing – improving interview skills obviously isn’t a small market.

It’s arguable that interviewers should take into account how good the person genuinely is and not how well they perform in an interview. That’s actually very hard. You can tell if a candidate is reciting an earlier memorized answer, but a lot of the time you can’t tell if the candidate has just practiced a lot of interview questions.

The other solution to equalizing the impact of studying beforehand is to tell everyone to study up and let that balance everyone out, and that in part is what I’m trying to do here.

When I was a student and looking for my first job I interviewed with a number of software development companies, in most of the interviews 70-80% of the questions asked were straight out of one of the interview books I had read. I can only imagine how the other candidates who went into the interviews unprepared coped.

Of course improvement doesn’t occur in a void, if a candidate practices it won’t just improve their interview skills it will also improve their underlying skills which is what the interviewer is trying to measure.

Most companies wouldn’t hesitate to reject an interview candidate who hadn’t read up on the company beforehand. Shouldn’t that extend to interviewing skills in general ?

After all learning to interview well shows motivation, self-study skills and preparation. Three things which are notoriously hard to measure in interviews. Even if I could easily identify candidates who’ve practiced for the interview, I’m not sure I wouldn’t consider it a plus rather than a negative.

A bad candidate with good interview skills isn’t going to seem like a good candidate in interview (at least in technical interviews where “all-talk” candidates typically fall down, regardless of how much they’ve tried to memorize). It might however make an average candidate seem good – but then I think I might prefer an average candidate who’s motivated, self-studying and well-prepared over a good candidate who survives on pure talent alone. It would certainly be a close call.

So if you’ve got an interview coming up, then take a moment to go down your local bookstore or browse through Amazon and pick up a book to brush up your interview skills.

Because if you don’t you may lose the job to someone who did.



1. Ben - April 1, 2008

Typo: “loose” should be “lose”

EDIT: fixed, thanks –Imran

2. John Ike - April 2, 2008

Luck: Preparedness towards opportunity.

If a person does not prepare, either they are a natural (rare) or I would not want to hire them. By preparing, they already have a sense of purpose, know the company, will not come off as hesitant as much, and be able to concentrate on other aspects of the interview. Not having this momentum already puts you in a weak position.

An employer, on the other hand, should recognize that people are prepared, and pose tests of ability that is not concentrated on basics and has a few surprises.


Developer @ http://www.jobbank.com

3. Rob W - April 4, 2008

You should definitely prepare for an interview. Think about it — what are you kicking yourself about after a poor interview/phone conversation/argument/etc.?

That you could have given a much better answer if you hadn’t been forced to come up with something on the spot.

If you spend some time thinking about the kinds of questions you will be asked at an interview, you aren’t cheating. You’re still presenting your personal experiences, opinions, skills, etc.. — but with a little prep you’ll be able to do yourself justice instead of depending on luck for what pops into your head at the moment.

If you’re rehearsing invented stories and bullshit, there’s a problem (and for both of your sakes I hope the interviewer sees through it) — if the best you have is BS, it’s time to step back and get a little perspective.

4. www.codingthewheel.com - May 4, 2008

The question is, is it cheating to take a Microsoft certification (or any other certification) and memorize the answers ahead of time by going to one of the numerous sites out there that exist specifically to make these kinds of tests easy to pass.


Mark - March 11, 2010

It seems silly to call that cheating if the source is legitimate.

Perhaps the MCSE exams are easier to memorize for (I don’t know), but other exams such as CompTIA’s A+ or Cisco’s networking series (CCNA, CCNP, CCIE etc.) have a great volume of in-depth material to understand as well as a hands-on test with hardware.

If you have your certificate, maybe you can go get a job, but you may lose it very quickly once it becomes apparent you don’t understand what you’re doing.

5. Murfreesboro Homes For Sale - April 23, 2009

I would like to take that one step further, is it cheating studying for any test? Anytime you study something it is the objective to remember the things you read, so does that mean I cheated on nearly every test I have ever taken due to the fact I studied?

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9. troldon - November 18, 2017

How is it spiritual to prepare for an interview? A spiritual person accepts things as they are and is in peace with it. Why pretend to be more intelligent than you actually are? Why not peacefully work as a janitor if you can’t get into any tech company?

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