Using an Interview Cheat Sheet

Have you ever stressed that your mind could go completely blank during an interview? It is a nightmare scenario, but fortunately, there is something you can do to ensure you will recover quickly, even if blind panic should set in. This is by taking a 'cheat sheet' with you to your interview.

Your 'cheat sheet' is nothing more than a single-sided, typed piece of A4 paper sitting alongside your resume. In all likelihood you won't actually need to consult this document during your interview. Even if you have to refer to it during the interview, employers won't think badly of you if they notice you glancing quickly at a professional-looking document.

Preparing your interview 'cheat sheet'

Revisit the key selection criteria for the organisation and position you are being interviewed for. If you are unsure which specific qualities they are seeking, see here how to undertake a Job Analysis. 

 Remind yourself of the most-frequently-asked interview questions. If necessary, see our Sample Interview Questions for ideas.

Think through your ideal response for each of the above, outline your answers using only brief notes or a handful of dot points. With a little further refinement, this document will become your finished interview 'cheat sheet'.

Formatting your interview 'cheat sheet'

The following format may be helpful when structuring your summary answers. For each point in turn include a:

Heading - list either one of the job selection criteria that you've identified (Step One), or a likely interview question (Step Two).

Summary - highlight the key words and phrases that you'll use to trigger more detail in your mind

Example - include a specific example as part of your answer will often help to demonstrate your skills, abilities, experience, knowledge and/or achievements. Consider using a technique such as the STAR model to structure your examples.

'Cheat sheet' examples

Note: fuller detail is given in the following examples so that they make sense to you - your own 'at-a-glance' examples must be considerably shorter. 

Question: 

Tell me a little about yourself ...

Summary: 

Bachelor Arts, UNSW; well-developed research, analytical & presentation skills; 1.5 years retail experience; enjoy IT trouble-shooting for friends & family; flexible & outgoing personality; seeking help desk/call centre position. 

Example (not essential for opening question)

Question: 

What would you say are your main weaknesses?

Summary:

Sometimes too much attention to detail; therefore used to lose sight of big picture; subsequently realised importance of project planning phase.

Example:

Last year's ASX online sharemarket competition; traded $50,000 'paper portfolio' over 10 weeks; also 25 hours/week job but spent late nights researching stocks; fun, learned lots, rated top 50 in youth category, but missed uni assignment deadlines & application closing dates for companies' vacation work experience placements; taught me importance of balance so performance doesn't suffer in key areas; now achieved by planning weekly timetable across all commitments; resulted in improved grades, still finding time for extracurricular interests & getting enough sleep too!