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Is it OK to bring a list of questions to ask the person that is going to be interviewing me? It is hard for me to memorize the questions to ask the employer and they are important and have to be worded a specific way. I know one solution is to practice, but I am asking if it is ok to bring a printed list of questions.

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+1. I am also terrible at remembering. Better yet, I would bring my smart phone and read the questions out of Evernote. Or a tablet if you prefer. Who uses paper anymore? –  amphibient Jan 4 '13 at 19:13
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I always was told not to bring my phone into an interview –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 19:17
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well, your phone is not just a phone anymore -- it is a computer and a notepad. those advices sound outdated. –  amphibient Jan 4 '13 at 19:20
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@crh225 you can bring your phone, but if it "rings" or otherwise alerts, that would be a big negative for me. Better to turn it off, or put it to airplane mode to avoid some of that at least. –  sdg Jan 4 '13 at 19:54
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You should be carrying hard copies of your resume with you in any case. It is not hard to also include a notepad with resumes in a folder/binder. It is totally fine to use your notepad discretely-- sometimes to jot down notes, sometimes to read prepared questions. –  Angelo Jan 5 '13 at 15:29

6 Answers 6

up vote 23 down vote accepted

It's absolutely acceptable to have a prepared list of things that you'd like to cover. As a candidate, I like to have them hand written, personally, and cross them off as we discuss them during the course of the interview.

As an interviewer, a prepared candidate makes a much better impression than an unprepared one. Walking in with a list of questions makes me think that you've actually thought about the company and the position and that you care about something.

However, if you were to bust out with your phone or a tablet, that would be a big negative*. Both of those are pure distraction devices and your attention needs to be fully on the task at hand. While that might seem to be "outdated" advice, consider who you're trying to impress in the interview and recognize that they might not have the same relationship with technological gadgets that you do.

*Unless, of course, you're demonstrating an App, Website or other artifact that you've developed.

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Or interviewer may be of the tablet-using generation -- a paper can be as distracting as a tablet to some generations... I'm saying don't use any note keeping device, but realize that focus on the notes instead of the speaker is a minus regardless of the format. –  bethlakshmi Jan 4 '13 at 21:04
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@bethlakshmi - A tablet cannot be less distracting than paper if you have the same notes on it. But it sure can be more. I agree that paper is better for a situation that demands full attention. –  Nathan Long Jan 4 '13 at 21:29
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@bethlakshmi I grew up with gadgets and still would find pulling out a smartphone or tablet to be insulting - like the interviewee feels no issues with wasting our time. If nothing else, there's always loading time that a piece of paper does not have. –  Izkata Jan 5 '13 at 5:04
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In my last interview I pulled out my phone and that was the most successful part of the interview, but I was showing them an app I had developed. That of course is different from simply fiddling on your phone, so you might want to specify that distinction. –  jhocking Jan 9 '13 at 18:12

Not only is it ok, it's a plus. The better the questions the better the impression. Questions that are specific to the job and the company and better than cookie cutter questions. If you have a list of interviewers upfront (asking for it can never harm) you should look up their profiles: Best are questions that are really specific to the interviewer.

I once interviewed a guy who is probably one of the top 10 in his particular field in the world. It turns out in preparation for the interview he had researched me and the other interviews thoroughly and he had thoroughly prepared very specific questions that were quite specific to my background. I was floored. Now I understand why he is so good at what he is doing.

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I always bring my notes about questions to ask -- on the pad of paper on which I also take notes during the interview. I've interviewed dozens, perhaps hundreds of people and only a small proportion of them come prepared in this way; when they do I take positive notice.

I do not recommend writing these questions out word-for-word and reading from the list; that would be awkward and not reflect well on you. You should be able to "outline" your questions as short notes and then ask them naturally. For example, on one interview my note just said "business model"; I'd already researched the publicly-available data but I still didn't know how they planned to make money, so I asked. Other notes of this type could be "travel", "career path", "team structure", etc.

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Would it seem wrong to directly read from the list? –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 20:54
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Reading word-for-word would seem odd to me; consulting notes while speaking wouldn't. But maybe you should consider shorter questions? For example, on one interview my note just said "business model", which was my prompt for asking how they make money and build business over time. Other notes of this sort could be "travel", "education", "career path", "team structure", etc. What kinds of questions are you preparing that you need to write them out in full? –  Monica Cellio Jan 4 '13 at 21:16
    
It's also possible to put the one or two word summary on the paper, and then have the full question after, in case you need to reference it, (and to have a bit of a security blanket for a stressful situation). –  psr Jan 4 '13 at 23:52

I have been the hiring offical and interviewed hundreds of people. I am never upset by someone appearing organized and well-prepared and having a list of questions you don't want to forget to ask appears organizaed and well-prepared to me.

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Would it seem wrong to directly read from the list? –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 19:46
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@crh225 No, but you really should be familiar with the questions already. Glancing at the list should refresh your memory enough to ask the next one. –  sdg Jan 4 '13 at 19:53
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@crh225 Yes. Consulting the list means you want to make sure you're not overlooking anything important in your research of this job opportunity. Reading from the list makes you look like someone with a terrible memory who can't think on their feet. –  thursdaysgeek Jan 4 '13 at 22:40
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This also lets you "not have any questions because I've asked them all or had them answered" and not be "oh, no questions..." syndrome –  enderland Jan 4 '13 at 23:16

Not job searching related but in the same category. When me and my girlfriend ware searching for a flat to rent (which, if you think about it, is basically the same deal as a job interview) we made a list of questions to ask. And this impressed all the landlords, even though they ware surprised as we ware the first they've seen to do that. So it definitely helps to make you appear more serious and prepared.

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When I interviewed for my job, I brought a list of questions and asked them in order. No weird looks or anything from the interviewer, so it was fine to bring it. Not only that, I also had a second paper with prepared questions and answers :) I was surprised to find out the interviewer asking almost half the questions I had prepared answers for! For those, I simply did lots of research on what interviewers usually ask and what they want to hear (but be honest when choosing what to say!).

If you are interviewing for a job after you have already been working, the questions will most likely be quite different, as you have probably accumulated enough experience to know which questions really matter when choosing whether to pursue the position or not.

Edit:
This was in Finland, but I don't see how it would be different anywhere in the world. Maybe a specific personality might be irked why you did not commit the questions to memory, but I'm not sure you'd like to work with those people anyway...

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