Supplemental Questions: Pros & Cons

by Sarah Porter, Head Editor, INALJ California

Supplemental Questions: Pros & Cons

sarahporterCurrently, I am procrastinating answering supplemental questions on a job application, by writing a blog about supplemental questions.  If you are anything like me, then you are probably procrastinating by reading this blog when you should be answering supplemental questions. After reading this, you will check Facebook and watch a video of a puppy licking a baby. Regardless of how you feel about supplementary questions, you will eventually get back to finishing them, because they may help you land your dream job. Here is my list of supplemental questions pros and cons:


Supplemental questions give applicants an opportunity to showcase their qualifications in a more comprehensive way than listing skills does.

Applicants have more time to articulate and edit their experiences than they would in an interview.

When there are many applicants with similar qualifications, supplemental questions may help the hiring committee narrow the candidates down to the ones most eligible for the position.

Supplemental questions weed out the applicants that are too lazy to answer the questions.


Redundancy. Many of the questions asked are the same types of questions that will be asked during the interview.

Answering supplemental questions can be very time-consuming, which can create stress and time conflicts for candidates that already lead busy lives.

Sometimes I wonder if it is worth the effort. I recently applied for a position, and an automated system ranked my application based on keywords.

Some job postings are looking for a pool of applicants, when there is no specific job available at the time. If the library does not know what it wants, it’s impossible to craft your responses to show that you would be a good fit for the position.

In some cases, I have found supplemental questions lacking in quality. There are redundant questions, awkwardly phrased, and/or vague questions. It’s hard to answer a question when you are not clear about what is being asked.

There are potentially hundreds of applicants spending hours of time on lengthy supplemental question responses, when only a handful of candidates will have the opportunity to come in for an interview. If I were on a hiring committee and had the power to influence the application procedure, I would propose that if we decide to ask supplemental questions, then we ought to add more steps to the hiring process. We could first narrow the field based on resumes and cover letters, and subsequently ask supplemental questions to only the top candidates.

What do you think about supplemental questions on job applications?

  2 comments for “Supplemental Questions: Pros & Cons

  1. Tina
    February 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Thank you for your post. I am giving myself a breather from answering the supplemental questions because I did a first run, off-the-cuff draft just to see what would come out. At the end of it, I felt totally exhausted and a bit vulnerable because I think it’s hard to strike an appropriate balance between pandering and being direct. I haven’t looked for a job in years and this is the first time I’ve come across supplemental questions, not to mention having to put so much time into an online job application in addition to framing my resume and cover letter, making sure everything jives. And yes, all of these items are required for this listing, but I’m going to do it because I really want the job. I guess that’s part of the reason why prospective employers demand so much from applicants nowadays? To see who’s willing to put forth so much effort? Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Maria
    January 24, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I totally agree! I am eager to answer them, but it is sooooooo time consuming! 🙁 Everything is on my resume and cover letter. Ugh! I am a bit frustrated right now. I looked this up because I wanted to know if I should answer in short or long responses. Thank you for your insight though, keywords are critical.

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