Almost all Hiring Managers, myself included, will tell you that not only is it okay to take notes during your interview, but it’s also encouraged. It even looks bad if you don’t!
People are always flattered when you think something they said was important enough to write down and Hiring Managers are no different. We’re almost half-human, you know.
If you write nothing down your entire interview, or worse yet didn’t even bring pen and paper, it can make the interviewers thing several things, none of which make you look good: you aren’t listening, you don’t think what’s being said is important enough to write down, or you simply don’t care.
The Pros of Taking Notes
- It shows you are interested and consider what’s being said as valuable.
- You can use your notes to better personalize your thank you letters.
- Your notes can help you when asking your questions.
- Your notes will help you if you get a second interview.
- It marks you as a professional.
The Cons of Taking Notes
- You may focus so much on what you’re writing that you miss other parts of what’s being said.
- It can be a hindrance to making a connection with the interviewers if it looks more like you’re trying to make a connection with your notes.
- If you look down too much while taking notes, you may come across as not paying attention.
What You Should Write Down
First of all, make it a point during introductions to write down the name of every person on the interview panel. This way, you can refer to them by name when they ask you a question. I’m always impressed by candidates that can do this.
Many times, the Hiring Manager (or someone on the interview panel) will begin the interview by giving you an overview of the job and what they are looking for in the person who will fill it.
If you jot these points down, you can reference them when you’re asked to say something about yourself (which you will be asked in almost every interview). This enables you to customize your elevator story with points specific to that job.
It’s not so much the questions you’re asked that you want to write down, but rather the answers you’ve given to the questions you ask at the end of the interview. If your questions are relevant to that job, the answers they give will help you if you’re asked back for further interviews.
What you should write down are short bullet points, not complete sentences. Your goal is not to be taking dictation.
Tips for Taking Notes
- Always ask upfront if it’s okay to take notes. It looks bad if you suddenly whip out your pen and start writing without saying anything.
- Write quickly and make your notes very brief. A few words at most.
- Don’t break eye contact for long periods while taking notes. Look up and regain eye contact every few seconds as you write.
- Take notes on paper, not a laptop, tablet, or phone. You don’t want technical issues in your interview. Also, it looks bad if you’re a slow typist.
- Don’t just bring a pad of paper. Bring a nice portfolio. It adds a touch of professionalism to the first impression you make.
To close, yes – there are some downsides to taking notes in your interview. But they are far outweighed by the upside and the fact that almost all Hiring Managers look favorably on your note-taking.