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interview notes

I was told to never take notes during an interview. I was always afraid to do this thinking it would be a mark against me. Please advise. Thank you for your time. -Catherine


Thank you for the question.  I’m not sure who told you never to take notes during an interview.  I never like to say advice is wrong as I’m sure it was well intentioned and based on experiences from the person who gave it to you, but I will say, for goodness sake, feel free to take notes in the interview—in fact, I highly recommend it!

Here’s my point of view and why I feel that you should, in fact, take notes during the interview:  The interview has become a two-way conversation; you are there to discover if the opportunity is a fit for you, just as much as the employer is deciding if you’re the right fit.

Taking notes shows engagement.  It shows interest.  It shows that you want to remember the things you’re uncovering in the interview for further contemplation later.  If a candidate is not taking some notes during the interview (writing down the names of the individuals they meet with or follow-up instructions at the very least,) I often wonder if they have an exceptionally great memory, if they are nervous, or if they’re just not that concerned with the discussion—I’ll leave you to guess which conclusion I come to most often.

Note taking can also aid you during the interview to cue up additional questions or concerns you may have or to remember to point out particular career highlights if the interviewer made mention of something of importance you can reference from earlier in the conversation. You should also have your own questions prepared to ask.

Now, I won’t say there may not be occasions in certain interview scenarios where it could be frowned upon.  I’m sure if I sat here for awhile I could rack my brain and eventually come up with one or two, but I would say these scenarios are the exception, not the rule.

So, Catherine, feel free to take notes—but as with everything in life, remember to do it in moderation.  Make sure you’re making more eye contact with the interviewer than your pen and paper and you’ll be on the right track.

Speaking of note taking, I had many great notes from the sessions at the annual SHRM conference this week, which you’ll see more of in next week’s content, but here’s a few nuggets to get everyone through the weekend:

One of my favorite quotes from SHRM was from astronaut Mark Kelly, husband to Gabby Giffords, who in speaking of the events on the day Gabby was shot, said, “Sometimes the news pronounces people dead, they shouldn’t do that.  They should leave that to doctors.”

How often do we mix up roles and allow the wrong people to make decisions that should be left to others.  When it comes to recruiting and hiring, always know who the definitive decision maker on your team should be and hold them accountable for their role—otherwise everyone with an opinion will have a heyday trying to make it for them, and this is often where we get into troubled hiring decisions.

Another common theme during SHRM that was overheard in many sessions was in soliciting feedback.  When involving a number of people in the interview process, try to get the junior members’ of the interview team feedback first.  Why?  Because we’re often influenced by seniority with a desire to be in line with our management, and if you are interested in authentic feedback that may be of a different flavor and provide perspective, have the higher ups go last to be sure everyone’s true thoughts come out in the discussion.

Finally, talent communities were a hot topic both in sessions and in conversations.  I personally feel that companies need to continue to push the long-term focus of attracting talent to their organizations and apply more efforts into building out these communities.  Are your organizations leveraging the power of talent communities?  Do you use tools to manage this or do it manually?  And candidates, do you know when you’re in a talent community or how to leverage being in one?

Finally, I leave you with a few inspirational thoughts from Mike and Gabby that I feel go hand in hand and are a good start to any day:

“How good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not an indicator of what you can become.” – Mike Kelly

“Be passionate, Be courageous, Be your best.” – Gabrielle Giffords

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