Retail giant revealing interview questions to candidates in advance

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Would you feel more prepared for job interviews if you knew which questions were going to be asked?

John Lewis, a 160-year-old retail giant based in the U.K. with 80,000 employees, has revealed interview questions for job candidates on its website in advance to make the hiring process more equitable. The new development applies to all roles from grocery store assistants to corporate managers.

Questions range from “Tell me about a time when you’ve had to learn new tasks or processes quickly” for entry-level roles, to “When have you successfully influenced a person or team to agree with your point of view, despite their initial resistance” for managerial roles.

“Interviews can feel daunting, and for some — particularly those who are neurodiverse — nerves can seriously impact performance,” Lorna Bullett, talent acquisition lead at John Lewis Partnerships, told CNBC Make It via email.

Bullett explained that it will give candidates the opportunity to prepare and “confidently demonstrate what they can do.”

People are divided on whether this development is beneficial because there isn’t a standardized process for interviews, Khyati Sundaram, CEO of recruitment platform Applied, told CNBC Make It.

Sundaram said her first instinct when hearing about the news was positive because it’s increasing accessibility for “people who would be coming from different walks of life.”

But she warned that revealing job interview questions in advance isn’t a “silver bullet” and there are some caveats.

Candidates may use ChatGPT

Since OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022, people are testing the limits of what the AI chatbot can do, and many are using it to cheat in the job application process.

In fact, some Gen Zers are using ChatGPT to generate cover letters, Shoshana Davis, a career coach, told CNBC Make It previously. Davis highlighted that employers had told her that they were “getting hundreds of the exact same cover letters word for word.”

Sundaram warned that there’s always going to be a “risk” that candidates could put the interview questions to ChatGPT and just verbally recite whatever answer it comes up with.

John Lewis states on its website that the questions are just a guideline as to what may be asked and that there may be additional questions.

Bullett acknowledged the concerns around AI-generated responses saying that the interview process will still be “rigorous” and that “candidates can expect follow up questions based on their initial answers.”

She added: “Interviewers can very quickly get a sense of whether their answers are authentic and based on real experience by asking probing follow up questions and technical questions prompted by their answers. “

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use ChatGPT at all, according to LinkedIn career expert Charlotte Davies.

“Generative AI can be a really helpful tool for job seekers which they can use as a jump-off point for preparation,” Davies told CNBC Make It.

“It’s intended to give a solid first draft for someone to review and make their own during the interview process, which is a critical step in evaluating candidates and assessing their skills and experience.”

It makes the process fairer

Bullett said that by revealing interview questions, the company can attract candidates from a variety of backgrounds.

“Anyone who has ever recruited will know that there are sometimes candidates who would be capable of performing to a high standard in a role but don’t always give the best performance at an interview,” Bullett said.

Davies noted that in addition to neurodiverse candidates, it will support Gen Z and young people who lack interview experience and perhaps soft skills like communication.  

“A transparent interview approach could be particularly beneficial for Gen Z candidates and young professionals applying for their first job, who might be lacking confidence when it comes to the interview process,” she said.

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