Note Taking During Interviews

Note Taking During Interviews

To take notes, or not to take notes: that is the question.  Many job seekers might have been wondering about what to do about note-taking during job interviews.  On the one hand, you want to write down important items that come up during the conversation.  On the other hand, you don’t want to seem inattentive and distracted, or miss out on other important things your interviewer said while you’re busy writing down her last sentence.

The pros of taking notes during interviews include:

  • Show that you’re paying attention.
  • You won’t forget important details about this job.  It doesn’t make a good impression if you have to ask the potential employer the same questions repeatedly.
  • Your follow-up will be more powerful when you refer to discussion from your interview.

But note taking can be overdone.  When that happens, here are the cons:

  • Fail to make personal connection. If you’re absorbed in writing everything down, you look at your notebook more than the interviewer.
  • You can’t fully listen when you’re writing.  You might miss out more important things that are being said or a question the interviewer asks.
  • You might seem too detail-oriented.

When you can reach a good balance, note taking during interviews can be a very good practice for job seekers. Keep the following suggestions in mind so you get all the benefits for your note taking and avoid the potential negatives:

  1. Prepare yourself before the interview. Check out the Jobfully blog posts on defining yourself and pre-interview preparation.
  2. Avoid seeming distracted by your notes by coming to the interview with possible questions already written down. This makes you appear more prepared and reduces the amount of items you need to take note of.
  3. If you’re writing everything down, it probably means you don’t know how to correctly take notes. Write down only important facts. Make sure you are actively listening, making eye contact, and contributing to the discussion.
  4. Finally, put those notes to good use! Make sure you follow up and reflect on your interview to really impress your interviewer.


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3 thoughts on “Note Taking During Interviews

  1. To Jordan,
    You’ve put together a really excellent post. Taking notes during an interview can show that you are interested in what the interviewer is saying and will also help you remember all the details of the job, however it could restrict conversation if you are focusing more on writing, which is more important to an interviewer than remembering everything they say exactly.
    Best wishes,

  2. From my experience as an interviewer, I agree with Jordan Veres.

    Candidates should set out a copy of the job description, resume and cover letter to reference during the interview, anyway. Notepaper and pen can be placed with them.

    Having questions already written out looks professional and helps candidates remember all of their questions.

    I would limit notetaking to one or two words when something comes to mind while someone is speaking or to remind oneself of the various parts of a multiple part question (as it is easy to forget more than the part one addresses first.)

    Writing down a note or two for EVERY question gives the impression candidates can’t recall anything unless it is written down. This would make them unsuitable in most fast-paced work environments. The same holds true for taking notes EVERY time someone speaks.

    The paper and pen we bring should contribute to being prepared and looking professional vs. serving as a crutch we need to get through the interview.

    1. Robin,

      I agree with you, especially on the last part. Having a pen and paper there to appear professional and to jot down a few notes during the interview adds a nice touch, but scribbling notes like crazy gives the interviewers the impression that you not only have trouble remembering things, but that face to face interactions may not be for you. Thank you for your commentary!

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