Here’s a question worth considering, should you really be taking notes during an interview? And if so, when is it appropriate to do so?
Here are some things to keep in mind, when taking down notes during an interview:
Ron Auerbach, MBA
Educator | Career Coach | Job Search Expert |
Author, Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success
The answer is very simple, yes!
An interview is a business meeting. And during meetings, taking notes on what’s being said, proposals being made, ideas you might have, etc is common and highly professional. So as a job candidate, taking notes is an extremely good thing!
Here are some of the advantages you’ll have from taking notes during your interview:
You will make sure you have things correct because you wrote it down.
Remember, it might be a while before you hear back from them. And it’s possible there might be another round of interviews.
So with the passage of time, and other interviews you might have along the way, it’s very easy to forget some things. Having taken notes, you will now have something to remind you of important things from the interview.
It will help you formulate answers to various interview questions because you can jot down some ideas.
And then begin organizing those thoughts in your head to make sure your answer covers those points. You can also refer back to your notes to see if you had already mentioned something. And if so, then either reinforce it or include something else that might apply or strengthen your candidacy.
Maybe you’ll get nervous for various reasons during your interview.
That can lead to wording things in the wrong way, forgetting something of importance, or even misstating something. By taking notes, you can help combat these because you’ll have your thoughts written down.
That will help remind you to mention X, Y, and Z. And help make sure you have things right. You can also have some partial wording to aid in your providing a better answer.
When the interviewer asks if you have any questions at the end of the interview, it’s possible you might not be able to come up with anything for a variety of reasons. Having notes taken during your interview can help you formulate possible questions to ask.
Erica Moore-Burton, Esq.
Principal, Round Hill Search, Inc. |
Author, “The Little Professional P.I.N.K. Book of Success”
Taking notes is a smart thing do to when done well
As a job seeker, I always took notes during interviews over the course of my corporate career. Now, as an executive recruiter and coach, I always advise candidates to take notes during interviews.
However, there is an art to taking notes during an interview and aspects of note-taking that should be taken into consideration.
Taking notes from the employer’s perspective is indicative of the type of person that they are interviewing, adjectives such as detail-oriented, thoughtful, attentive and pro-active will always come to mind when a prospective employer sees a candidate taking notes, which is to the candidate’s benefit.
Be mindful that you are not taking copious notes because then other adjectives such as scattered, forgetful, and disorganized might come to mind.
An employer is always going to be mindful about the things that you take notes about, and will, (whether you realize it or not) be making a note of what you’re taking notes about!
If you sit through a whole interview not taking many notes, and then the conversation turns to benefits, compensation, and perks, and then you start with the copious note writing, then that is going to send red flags to a prospective employer.
Taking notes about pertinent aspects of the role is great, qualities that the interviewer is looking for, and projects that the position will be tasked with, are great.
Another benefit of taking notes is that you can refer back to them at various points in the interview. For example;
“Earlier in our conversation, you mentioned 3 qualities that were important to you, someone that was (refer to notes) creative, innovative, and forward-thinking. I wanted to touch on those qualities and tell you about a project that I worked on recently with my current team.”
If you have really messy and unorganized note taking notes, it could be a detriment to you. Additionally, if you’re a slow note-taker, or often need for people to repeat things, then I would avoid taking notes at an interview.
Ensure that you have your pen and paper ready to take out as soon as you get into the room. If you’re fumbling around for a pen and a note pad, again, that could send signals to an employer that you’re not organized.
Additionally, ensure that your note pad is clean and professional-looking, and you’re not fumbling to get to a clean page in your pad or digging in a messy bag for a pen.
Lastly, ensure that your nails are clean and are polished well. I once had a candidate come in to meet with me and started taking notes, while I was fine with the note-taking, it immediately drew me to his hands. I noticed immediately that his fingernails were dirty, which was a real turn off, and suffice to say, he didn’t get the role.
Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)
How fast do you write?
The answer to that question partly depends on how quickly job candidates can write without losing eye contact with the folks on the other side of the table.
If job applicants can quickly jot down the formal names of the interview team during introductions (so that they can later call them by name), that’s an excellent strategy.
Further, quickly taking very short notes (perhaps as short as a single word to later jog one’s memory) regarding any job-related information that the hiring team may have provided early-on could also be useful subsequently in the Q&A portion of the interview when answering job-related questions.
But be forewarned: Burying one’s head in a notepad – rather than maintaining a reasonable amount of eye contact with the hiring team– can be the (so-called) “Kiss of Death” when answering interview questions.
Becoming adept at fast-paced note-taking is definitely a skill worth mastering!
Career Strategist & Executive Coach, Monumental Me
Use notes for critical things you really won’t remember
Taking notes during an interview can show an interviewer you’re serious and you’ve come prepared. But if you’re going to take notes, you have to do it in a way that doesn’t get in the way of having a good interview.
Good interviews feel like great conversations. There are a cadence and a flow to them. Part of the goal of the interview as a candidate is to create rapport between you and the interviewer.
The major pitfall is that note-taking can create more of a barrier to building rapport when what you want to do is build a bridge.
Be sure note to focus too much on the note-taking and really use it for critical things you really won’t remember.
When you write you usually break eye contact and if you’re doing a lot of writing in your interview, you’re probably not making enough eye contact. This will create distance between you and the interviewer making it hard to make a more meaningful connection.
When we take notes while someone else is speaking a few things happen. First, we already know we break eye contact, but second, we focus on the thought we’re writing down which can cause us to completely miss parts of what the person speaking continues to say. It’s very hard to write one thought down while actively listening to something else. Ultimately it can make it difficult to maintain the flow of the conversation.
So, as long as you can write in some form of shorthand, make sure the act of writing doesn’t cause prolonged breaks in eye contact and you don’t run the risk of feeling the need to transcribe everything the interviewer says, you should be OK!
If you need extra time to process what was just said so you can be sure you don’t forget it try paraphrasing what the interviewer said. “So if I understand correctly, the business had to shift in response to XYZ, and now you’re looking for someone who can really take the lead on this new focus from a marketing perspective and unify all communications?”
This gives you a chance to further process, shows the interviewer you really get the situation, and hopefully makes it easier for you to take less detailed notes because you’ve just internalized what was said.
CEO, HR Search Pros, Inc.
In working with candidates and discussing their interviews, one question always comes up and that is whether or not they should take notes during an interview. Unequivocally, the answer is yes.
Take note of the key details only
With that said, you don’t want to write down everything that is said, but you do want to write only key things down. Before you begin taking notes, I recommend a person ask the interviewer if it is ok.
There are several reasons to take notes during an interview. Here are just a few of them:
- Taking notes shows you are interested in and focused on the interview.
- Obviously, you don’t want to interrupt the interviewer when they are talking. So, you can take notes and, once they are done, you can refer to your notes to help remind you of the questions you wanted to ask.
- You should always make sure you write down the interviewer’s name to make sure you have it spelled correctly. Sometimes, the interviewer will share their phone number and/or email address and you want to make sure you have that info written down correctly also.
- At the end of the interview, you can refer to your notes and repeat back some of the key things that you heard to reiterate how you are a great fit for the role and the company. You can also review your notes and be sure your questions are answered.
- During an interview, there is a lot going on and it is hard to remember everything that is discussed. Taking notes helps take the pressure off of you so you can focus on your answers.
Speaker & Career Mentor, Connect with ME
An interview candidate should always bring a notebook and pen to an interview to take notes
I recommend that a candidate conduct some research online on their potential employer prior to the interview. An appropriate time to take notes is when information is shared by the employer that is not readily available via the company’s website or social channels.
The candidate should come prepared with good questions that will elicit additional information on the company. Two great questions to ask are as follows:
- What are the current challenges of the company or specific department?
- What does success in the particular position look like?
The answers to these questions should definitely be written down.
Jamie Martin, BSc (Hons), PGCert
Managing Director & Founder, Correct Careers Coaching
As a candidate, you should take notes during an interview.
An interview is your time to shine – if you are not prepared and show your interest to your potential employer, you have limited chances of being successful in progressing through the next stages of a hiring process.
Taking notes will show the interviewer that you are interested in the vacancy and company
The benefits of note-taking are as follows:
- Record and remember the finer details.
- Showing your professionalism and business acumen.
- Making notes will prompt you in asking further questions.
- It provides an opportunity to clarify with the interviewer – any information that was misheard or misunderstood.
Your interviewer will be impressed you took notes during the interview (especially if your competition was not doing this action). Rarely a candidate is hired from a one-stage interview. Note-taking is terrific preparation for the next interview stage!
From the notes you have retrieved during the first interview, you can demonstrate your level of knowledge about the role and the company to your second stage interviewers.
Your notes will also aid in gathering any further information needed following the first interview – you would have had time to process these thoughts from reviewing your notes at home.
Director, Successful Release
Every candidate should go into an interview prepared to take notes
There are a few reasons why this is such a good idea:
An interview is still a meeting.
Every interview is at its core a professional meeting. The interview is your first, and perhaps only, opportunity to demonstrate how you show up in a business meeting.
It’s expected that you would come to a meeting prepared to take notes and an interview shouldn’t be any different.
You should be asking questions and recording the answers.
A good interview will include you asking several questions to your interviewer. It should be more of a conversation than an interrogation and you should come prepared with several good questions to ask.
Naturally, you would want to record the answers to these questions, and taking notes is the best way to do that.
Taking notes demonstrates that you actually care.
If you spend thirty minutes to an hour with someone during an interview and don’t write a single thing down it’s very easy to look like you weren’t listening or don’t care.
There is often a lot of important information that comes out during an interview about the company, the job, and the interviewer that is worth writing down.
Even taking brief notes shows that you believe what has been said is valuable and that you’re taking the conversation seriously.
It’s better to ask your interviewer first
When it comes to whether or not it’s appropriate to take notes during a job interview, it depends on the situation.
If you bring out your notes with a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer about the company or to reference some facts about the employer, it’s definitely encouraged because it shows you walked the extra mile to research the organization, and that you’re genuinely interested in the position.
That being said, if you want to jot down a few notes during the interview, you may want to ask the interviewer first if they are fine with it. If they are, you’ll only have a better chance to decide if the opportunity is right for you, but you’ll also win some extra points by showing you take the interview seriously.
Owner, Kilbourn Marshall
It is always wise to take keynotes of what the interviewer is saying
The question should be ‘Why would you not take notes during an interview as a candidate?’
Taking notes during an interview signals that you are engaged, interested, and paying attention to the interviewer[s]. Candidates should certainly have notes in front of them during the interview that they prepared ahead of time.
It isn’t necessary to take notes during the portion of the interview where the interviewer is asking you questions. However, anytime you are asking a question of them, it would be wise to take note of what they are saying to let them know that you actually care about the question you asked them and aren’t simply going through the motions.
In an incredibly competitive job market, employers will be more apt to move forward with candidates who showcase their interest in the company, the team, and the role. Part of showing interest is actively listening to what they have to say.
What better way to actively listen than to take notes of what they are telling you?
Career Expert, Zety
Absolutely. Job interviews are known to be stressful and overwhelming, leaving you brain-fogged and hardly remember the details of the conversation. That is especially a case when you take part in a few different recruitment processes attending multiple interviews.
It’s in good taste to ask the recruiters if they are okay with you taking notes
If the recruiter talks about the company or a role you’re applying for – you do want to write this down to have something to refer to. Of course, you’re not aiming to catch every single word – small notes or bullet points are okay.
Taking notes during an interview also shows the recruiters you are genuinely interested in a position and in whatever they have to say.
Also, you sell yourself short if you don’t ask questions on your own. It is not only the time for recruiters to decide if you are a good match but also your opportunity to decide if you want to join this specific team or a company.
So ask smart questions and take notes. Again, the recruiters will appreciate your curiosity and diligence.
Co-Founder, Authority Hacker
We see a wind range of candidates and we’ve noticed, particularly as an online business who conducts online video interviews, note-taking is surprisingly common. I would definitely encourage it, but my advice would be the following:
Make your note-taking intentions clear
If you do decide to take notes during your interview, it’s important that you make it clear exactly what you’re doing and why. Don’t just whip out your phone and start making notes mid-interview, but rather explain to the recruiter “I would like to make a note of this for future reference” and be upfront about what you’re doing.
It’s a great way to show initiative and I would always look fondly over people who want to take notes, but don’t forget to explain why and how you’ll be doing it!
Career Expert, My Perfect Resume
When interviewing, you should definitely take notes
Though certainly not mandatory, it most definitely behooves you to do so. Why? Because it pays to jot down the key points, answers, and further questions that you might want to review later.
Depending on the length of the interview and the number of people you meet with the higher the likelihood that something noteworthy will come up. In addition, it can earn you some brownie points as well. Taking notes shows that you’re detail-orientation and engaged in the conversation. After all, if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be writing anything down.
Consequently, taking notes during an interview is simply a good practice with no drawbacks. It can save you a lot of time later on down the road not to mention being able to reference a relevant detail (in a thank you letter) that can separate you from the other finalists.
Director of Operations, MyCorporation.com
It’s a perfectly acceptable practice to take notes during an interview
I like to see prospective candidates take notes during their job interviews. I have seen many candidates take notes during their interviews. They bring a small notebook along and jot down notes as they ask questions and the interviewer responds.
The notes are always quick, key points — nothing that makes you pause the interview to write down everything that is said in verbatim.
Doing this shows that the candidate is listening. It also shows that they are interested in the job and passionate about working in this role. Taking notes during interviews often leads to candidates asking their interviewers thoughtful, relevant questions. They may already have a few questions prepared in advance that have been jotted down in that notebook.
Glancing quickly at these questions provides the candidate with a reminder that they still need to ask certain questions and to avoid forgetting about that before the interview ends.
Notes may also be a helpful reference point moving forward
You may refer to your notes when writing a thank you email to the interviewer after the interview ends. These notes will include information, such as the date the interview was held, the name of the interviewer, and the position you applied for, which may be noted when drafting the email.
Mention that it was a pleasure to meet with your interviewer for the job. Add in one or two items you took notes about in regards to the job to help your email stand out and draw attention to the fact that you took notes throughout it.
Have a clean page open and remember to maintain eye contact as often as possible
When it comes to an interview, one of the most important things that you can do is show that you’re paying attention and that each detail that is provided about the potential role is of utmost importance to you.
One thing that you can do to show your enthusiasm is to ask questions in the interview about things that aren’t completely clear, or request more details if you want to see the bigger picture.
But, if you really want to illustrate how important retaining this information is, it wouldn’t be unusual to jot down a few things to remember in a nicely-bound journal or datebook that you have out and ready to go when you walk into the meeting.
As with anything, presentation is everything, so forego using an old notepad already containing other information. Have a clean page open, and quickly take notes when needed, while still remembering to maintain eye contact as often as possible. Don’t get so caught up in writing everything down that you forget to be a participant in the interview as well.
President and CEO, Custom Solutions, Inc.
Type up your notes
The answer to me is absolutely and I’d take it one step further. I’d type up my notes. Most of us can type faster than we write and we can read what we type. I know I can’t read my handwriting. Plus many of us can type while maintaining eye contact as a few typos won’t hurt us and we can correct later.
These are the key things to remember:
- Ask permission to take notes. Most people feel more comfortable asking upfront and it sets the stage.
- Turn your computer so it doesn’t act as a podium between you and your interviewer. It should be off to the side so you have a direct line of contact with the person you’re talking with.
- Ideally, don’t sit across from each other. Sit diagonally or in some format that creates more of an informal conversation.
The key reasons for taking good notes are:
- You will have accurate detailed information to follow up on.
- When you send a follow-up letter to your interviewer, you will be able to reiterate key points and ensure you provide the interviewer with what they need to help them feel you are the best candidate.
Managing Partner and CEO, Shapiro Negotiations Institute
Taking notes ensures that you don’t miss anything, so it improves performance
Specifically, it allows people to listen and not just wait their turn to speak. It also signals that you are organized and taking the meeting seriously, both are great ways to be perceived.
We highly recommend taking notes in all of the communication-related training that we do for those two reasons, among others. I also suggest it as a Managing Partner that hires for our team.
CMO, Hill and Ponton Law
Notes can help you remember information during the interview
As a candidate, having an interview could make you absorb so many things such as your job description or your position, company profile, or considering questions for you to review after the interview, which could be hard to recall without written documentation.
Jotting down notes while having an interview could give an impression that you really want to dig deeper for a certain topic so you could not commit mistake quoting it again if it’s a must.
Marketing Manager, ZAGE
Taking notes is definitely an advantage
While you certainly should limit the note-taking to a certain extent, there are some clear advantages to it.
You’ll be nervous and likely to forget
Being nervous during an interview is only natural, it’s a special situation. However, this will make it most likely you’re going to forget things.
Everyone who has ever managed to forget a name while introducing themselves knows this very well. Using people’s names enhances their connection with you.
It’s also likely you will not get other details (think vacation days, work hours,…) that might later be relevant to the job. Spare yourself having to ask about those later and just write them down.
Lastly, the mere act of holding on to a pen and being able to take notes sparks confidence.
You’ll show that you’re organized
Taking notes is a sign of active listening. By bringing your notebook you show that you’re organized and know how to handle things.
Save your questions for later
Sometimes random thoughts and questions pop into our heads. We just can’t help it. Those, however, do not always fit the current topic or level of discussion. Note down your thoughts and get it off your mind. This lets your brain get its focus back.
Co-Founder, Upward Exits
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to taking notes during an interview
During the interview, you should stay focused and alert to what the interviewer is asking. For some, this may mean taking the occasional note to help them remember what the interviewer is asking.
However, if you are the type of person who might start playing with the pen or pencil in your hand, that can easily become a distraction during the interview and it would be best to not take notes at all.
The crucial thing to remember is what is going to give you the very best edge in securing the job you are going for. If that means taking notes – do it! If you feel it is not appropriate or the ‘right look’ for that interview – don’t do it!
Head of Content Marketing, BeeKeeper
Prioritize the connection with the interviewer rather than taking note of details
During an interview, the sole responsibility of the person being interviewed is to connect with the interviewer and showcase their skills in the most creative, dynamic way possible.
First impressions are everything, so showing confidence by keeping eye contact and answering questions immediately and with conviction is of high importance. That’s a little difficult to do when you’re scribbling away on a notepad, don’t you think?
While it might be in good form to remember key points and details, if you are called back for a second interview or straight into orientation, those are good moments to make sure that you take in everything so that you can apply the information moving forward.
However, during an initial interview, it’s imperative to connect with the interviewer, let your personality shine through and show just why you’re the right candidate for the role. The rest can come later.
Owner, Atlanta House Buyers
Don’t write out sentences
When considering taking notes during an interview, don’t think of it as a college lecture. You don’t want to be taking notes the entire time. The success of the interview hinges quite a bit on how well the people interviewing you think you will fit into the culture they have.
When you’re taking notes, you break eye contact consistently, you disengage from the conversations, and you create voids in the conversations while they wait on you to finish taking your notes.
If there are a few key items you want to include in your follow up email to reiterate how well suited you are for the job, then jot down 3-5 word phrases on the back of your extra resume copy that you have. Use these notes to just jog your memory later on.
Founder, ESL Authority
As a candidate, I firmly believe you should take notes during an interview within reason. If you’ve spent any time preparing then you likely have some questions to ask the company and it’s normal for those to lead to extended conversations and even more questions. Jotting those new questions down for later is not only a sign that you’re organized but also that you’re interested enough to dig deeper.
Additionally, these ‘new’ questions are also a great thing to include in your email follow up and are perfect for continuing the conversation and signaling that you want the position.
As someone who has done both interviewing and hiring, I appreciate when an applicant has follow up questions – these tell me they’ve invested the time to think about the company and I always want to hire people who check to make sure we are a good fit.
CEO & President, Simple Life Insure
Write down small keynotes
There isn’t a reason not to write notes during your interview but it is important to remember that an interview really about getting to know people, and you want the conversation to have a natural flow as this helps highlight your communication skills.
Don’t let taking notes detract from the conversation you are having with prospective employers, and make sure that what you are writing is short, and doesn’t overtake what you are saying.
It is likely that if too many notes are taken, you can actually create awkward silence, as people wait for you to finish writing. Instead, write down small keynotes, and allocate time immediately after the interview to go through and expand on.
CEO, Robben Media
Taking notes during an interview is not a trait of high performers
In almost any job I can think of, it pays to be (and be perceived as) mentally competent. If you’re taking notes on questions or employer answers, you’re not impressing anyone and may distract yourself from having a productive conversation. If anything, it may create the perception that you’re a little mentally slow.
Think about it, waitresses get complimented for taking orders with no notepad. They’re seen as a class above the note-takers. The same is true for job candidates.
If you’re really anxious about missing a detail, feel free to take notes immediately after the interview. Or send a follow-up email to confirm the next steps.
No matter what, don’t spend more time looking at a paper than into your interviewer’s eyes.
Founder and CEO, VidCruiter
If you prepare and you are truly a good fit for the position, there should be little need to take notes during a job interview.
Taking notes can show interest but it can make you appear forgetful and distracted
This is especially true when being interviewed over the video, which is now so commonplace since many of us are working remotely.
It’s best not to take notes during a video interview since the interviewer cannot see what you’re doing off-screen. They may think you’re looking at “cheat” notes, and you don’t want that. You want to appear competent and confident.
Whether you’re being interviewed online or in-person, if you choose to take notes, keep them brief, and make sure the interviewer(s) are comfortable with the note-taking beforehand.
Review your notes shortly after the interview and make use of them in a follow-up email to thank the interviewer(s) for their time and consideration.
Director of Operations, WikiLawn Lawn Care
The answer will largely depend on the person doing the interview
I’d say most interviewers are fine with it, so long as you let them know ahead of time and clear it with them. Some companies may discuss sensitive information in interviews and may not wish to allow information to be recorded in any way, and you need to respect that.
It’s also important to take notes in an unobtrusive way.
What we don’t want to see is you constantly taking down notes and not engaging with the interview beyond that. This is doubly true if you’re taking notes using your phone, which I wouldn’t recommend. The interviewer may get the wrong impression.