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Interview Aids: How Cheat Sheets Should—and Shouldn’t—Be Used

Each interview requires thorough preparation. That preparation can sometimes take the form of written notes and aids. Here are three different types of cheat sheets and guidelines on when they are appropriate:

  1. Notes on the organization. As you prepare, you will gather information on the institution. This will include basic history, key players, mission, values, and culture. These notes should be reviewed before your interview. As you do so, you may consider creating a bulleted list to reference during a phone or video interview.

  2. Annotated résumé. Your goal in an interview is to connect your experience with a particular position. It can be a productive exercise to note the specific skills and experiences in your résumé and the ways they make you qualified for this position. Review this before an interview. You may find it helpful to keep on the desk during a phone interview to guide your answers.

  3. A list of questions. Regardless if an interview is phone, video, or in-person, a prepared list of questions for your interviewer is a must. This list shouldn’t be static and should adapt to the contours of the interview as it takes shape. Having a prepared list communicates intentionality and thoughtfulness to your interviewers.

Finally, it bears recognizing that any written aid should only be used to help you engage more fully in an interview. If you are constantly looking down or seem tied to your notes, you will not be able to appropriately connect with your interviewer.