Can you bring notes to an interview (and how to use them)

Updated on August 24, 2023
Can you bring notes to an interview

As you prepare for a job interview, you might realize that it would be quite helpful if you could bring some notes that you could use while speaking to interviewers.

It's acceptable to bring 2 to 3 pages of notes to a job interview, especially if they contain questions for the interviewer or insights about the company. While using a notebook is professional, referring to phones or laptops can be perceived as inattentive and discourteous by hiring managers.

If you haven't been to a job interview so far, you might be worried that recruiters might see this as some form of cheating.

On the contrary, well-prepared notes can enhance your interview performance and might even boost your chances of landing the job. But under what circumstances is it best to use them?

Reasons to bring notes to an interview

Is it okay to bring notes to an interview

Bringing notes to an interview will provide you with psychological safety. There is no need to worry about forgetting something that you want to discuss during an interview because it will be in your notes. And there are a few other major advantages.

1. You will appear more prepared for your interview

When the recruiters notice that you have brought your own notes to the interview, it's only natural for them to conclude that you have taken the time to prepare properly.

2. You will be seen as a competent individual

In a formal meeting, such as a job interview, notes function as an “instrument” that is used to work towards a certain goal.

A person who is capable of utilizing such an instrument will be perceived as thoughtful and resourceful. And hiring managers look for such qualities in job candidates.

Another great way to appear more competent in the eyes of hiring managers is to wear glasses to your interview.

3. You will look more promising compared to candidates who don’t use notes

Consider the poor souls who showed up to their job interviews without notes.

How do they compare to you? A promising candidate who brought the important matters they wanted to discuss in writing!

4. The recruiters will think that you have more job opportunities

After one too many interviews, a job candidate would usually have to start taking notes to collect all the important details and compare them later on. Experienced recruiters are aware of this fact.

They will think that you are going through interviews with other companies so they should be eager to present you with a job offer sooner rather than later. And by the way, this gives you a bit of leverage to negotiate your salary.

5. Using them correctly is actually quite useful

And last but not least, using notes during job interviews is actually quite practical.

You will benefit from knowing that all the important details you'd like to discuss are in there and you will be able to quickly fish out the answers to questions that the recruiters might have.

Types of notes you should bring to an interview

Should you take notes during an interview

So, you've got a big job interview coming up, and you want to make sure you're super prepared, right? Well, bringing some handy notes can be a real game-changer! Here's a list of types of notes that'll help you shine in that interview:

1. Your personal intro

Craft a catchy elevator pitch about yourself, showcasing your most relevant skills and experiences. You'll leave a lasting impression right from the get-go!

2. Resume highlights

Jot down the coolest stuff from your resume - like your most impressive experiences, skills, and education. That way, you'll have a quick reference to show off what a perfect fit you are for the job!

3. Any amazing accomplishments

List your proudest moments, like successful projects or times when you totally saved the day at work. These examples will show your future employer what a rockstar you are!

4. Notes on the company

Do a little detective work on the company's mission, values, and what they've been up to lately. Your interviewer will be so impressed that you took the time to learn about their world!

5. Questions for the interviewers

Make sure to include questions to ask at the end of the interview. It'll show you're curious and excited about the opportunity - who doesn't love that? Such questions include:

  • How come this position is open?
  • Why did the previous person who had this position leave?
  • What are my options for career growth in the company?
  • What is the most amazing thing that the company has accomplished this year?

6. The job details

Write down the key requirements and responsibilities of the role, so you can effortlessly link your amazing skills to what they're looking for.

7. Be a STAR

Use the Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR) method to structure your notes. It'll help you answer those tricky behavioral questions like a pro!

How to use notes during a job interview correctly

How to use notes during a job interview correctly

While bringing notes to job interviews is perfectly acceptable, how you use them matters the most. Here are a few examples of how to approach this.

1. Prepare your notes in advance

Take the time to prepare your notes before each job interview. You can even customize your notes in order to best match each company

2. Don't get lost in your notes

When preparing your notes, make sure to structure them in a simple and effective way that works for you.

Use simple phrases, make lists, and circle the most important points.

You can even use a marker to highlight certain details or questions that you'd like to ask. And make sure to go over your notes the night before your job interview.

Losing yourself in your own notes for more than 10 seconds would be pretty awkward and embarrassing.

3. Ask if it is okay to refer to your notes

Highlight the fact that you have brought notes by asking the interviewers if it is okay to refer to your notes. The purpose of this move is to focus their attention on your notes for a moment.

This way, they will know that you have prepared for the interview properly and they will give you a chance, later on, to bring up some of the questions and details from your notes.

4. Don't read entire sentences and answers out loud

The correct use of notes during an interview would be to quickly glance at them when necessary to fact-check something or to find a specific question that you wanted to ask.

Don’t even consider for a moment that you will be asked certain job interview questions and you will be reading answers out loud. This would definitely hurt your chances of being hired.

5. Don't rely on your notes too much

Last but not least, don't be too reliant on your notes. It would be preferable if, most of the time during the interview, you spoke directly to your interviewers.

Simply place your notes in front of you and glance at them from time to time if you require some specific details.

Should you take notes during an interview?

It is ok to take notes during an interview. And you will definitely stand out if you do it. This way you will seem engaged and interested in the position. By taking notes during the interview, you communicate that you are a well-organized and precise person.

But you also need to consider the fact that the act of taking notes might be seen as a sign that later on, you will be comparing your scribings from the different job interviews you've been through.

Keep that in mind if you are trying to present yourself as somebody who really wants to work for a specific company.

Taking notes during an interview is just fine if you are doing it efficiently without taking too much time and slowing down the interview

Why it is important to take notes during an interview

It is important to take notes during a job interview if this is just one of several interviews you will be going through in the upcoming days. You might start to mix things up and become confused after the third one or so.

Don’t take chances, and simply take notes during your job interviews so you can refer to them later on.

This way, you will be able to compare salary numbers, employee benefits, responsibilities, and other position-related details. Later on, you will be able to reject certain job offers due to salary or other factors.

Interviewer taking notes during an interview – what does it mean?

It is generally a good sign if an interviewer is taking notes while they are interviewing you. This means that they consider you as a potential new recruit.

Later on, they will refer to their notes when it is time to make a hiring decision.

On another note, recruiters have to interview other candidates as well, so notes are almost mandatory for them.

In the end, if things don't work out, here are a few helpful tips on how to tell a recruiter that you are not interested in their job offer.

My experience as a hiring manager with candidates who bring notes

As an experienced project manager at a prominent international tech company, I've had the opportunity to interview countless job candidates for various positions over the years.

Throughout my career, I've noticed a pattern: candidates who bring notes to their interviews truly stand out from the crowd.

Allow me to share some of my experiences with you.

It was a sunny afternoon when I found myself in the midst of back-to-back interviews for a critical position on my team. The day was filled with a diverse group of individuals, each with a unique set of skills and experiences.

However, one candidate in particular caught my attention.

Let's call her Anna. She walked into the room with a calm and confident demeanor. As we exchanged pleasantries and settled into the interview, I noticed she had a small, neatly organized notebook with her.

At first, I was slightly puzzled, but as we dove into the interview, the purpose of her notes became clear.

Anna effortlessly referenced her notes to highlight her impressive accomplishments and offer tangible examples of her skills.

She had prepared a concise summary of her resume, which she used to showcase how her experience aligned perfectly with the position we were discussing. Her ability to answer my questions with such precision was truly remarkable.

As we moved on to discuss the company, Anna demonstrated her knowledge of our mission, values, and recent projects.

It was evident that she had done her homework and used her notes to reinforce her understanding of our company's goals and culture. Her enthusiasm and engagement left a lasting impression on me.

When I asked her about her approach to problem-solving and how she had tackled challenges in previous projects, she expertly employed the STAR method, using her notes to guide her through each step of the process. (In fact, this is how I first learned about the STAR method!)

Her stories were captivating and showed a deep understanding of the complexities involved in managing projects.

Toward the end of the interview, Anna flipped to a section of her notebook containing a list of insightful questions she had prepared for me.

Her curiosity about the company, the team, and our future plans demonstrated her genuine interest in the role and her eagerness to contribute.

As I reflected on the day's interviews, it was clear that Anna's use of notes had set her apart from the other candidates.

Her preparation, attention to detail, and ability to reference key information made her stand out as an exceptional candidate.

And that is why I hired her!

In my years of interviewing, I've found that candidates who bring notes to interviews not only demonstrate their preparedness but also showcase their dedication and passion for the role.

These candidates, like Anna, often rise to the top of the list, leaving a lasting impression that resonates long after the interview is over.

Frequently asked questions about bringing notes to a job interview

Can you use notes during a video interview?

You can use notes during a video interview as long as you just refer to them from time to time rather than read entire answers out loud. Even if you situate your notes in a way that they won't be seen by your interviewer, or better yet, have a window open on your screen, reading answers out loud can sound unnatural, and your interviewer might pick up on that. Simply take a quick look when you need to, don't try to hide it, and use the reminder from your notes to formulate your own answer.

Can you use notes during a phone interview?

Using notes during a phone interview would be quite easy, and it is perfectly acceptable. Still, don't be tempted to read entire answers and phrases out loud. There is no point in trying to hide the fact that you are using notes either – a recruiter wouldn’t mind. And here you can check the signs that suggest your phone interview probably went quite well.

When is it appropriate to bring notes to an interview?

It is appropriate to bring notes to job interviews when you have certain questions about the job and the company that you'd like to ask the recruiters. You can also write down important details about your work experience that you’d like to share.

When is it not appropriate to use notes during an interview?

It won't be appropriate to use notes during a phase of the job interview that is supposed to showcase your ability to speak. Such as a simulated conversation with a customer, for example.

Written by:
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co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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