Career Advice

Is it Acceptable to Take Notes to an Interview?

min read
Mikaela Thompson

Going blank in an interview is something that happens to the best of us. Yep, it has happened to me. It was after a tiring workday and I should’ve been feeling confident with the right qualifications, experience and skills. However, I turned up already flustered from trying to navigate the streets of an unfamiliar area getting lost several times over before stumbling into the right building. Faced with an unexpected interview panel, my mind was far from focused and ready to go.

The first few getting-to-know-you questions were fine, then suddenly, an interviewer’s question thrust me into the serious professional arena before my mind had caught up….it went blank! Not a great look and certainly didn’t clinch me a job offer! I found myself wondering, if I’d prepared some notes and taken them in with me, would I have avoided this dumbstruck response which ultimately did me out of a job? 

This begs the question, is it professionally acceptable to bring notes to your interview or a rookie mistake? Let’s look at the pros and cons of notes and consider the professional implications from the employer’s point of view, as well as yours.

The Pros: 

  • It demonstrates to the recruiter that you’ve prepped well for the interview so you’re unlikely to be a ‘tire kicker’ and likely to have a genuine interest in the position and company.

  • It may show the company that you’re potentially a diligent employee, as long as your notes are typed, well-organized and on clean paper.

  • It will give you, as the applicant, a sense of security, confidence, and calm as well as, being helpful if you want to refer to data to support your application during your interview.

  • If you have a medical disability that impairs your recall, notes will allow you to participate in the interview fairly.

  • It’s a fairly common practice these days to ask applicants to prepare a professional presentation for an interview, such as, data analysis, budget projections, strategic initiatives etc., so of course it’s expected you will bring along notes, charts and other presentation material to speak to in this type of interview.


The Cons:

Typically, the short answer to whether taking along notes to an interview is going to fly with the interviewer, is ‘no’ if you’re going in person. Other reasons are as follows:

  • They’re distracting. Randomly whipping out your phone to check for information or stopping mid-sentence to rustle through a wad of paper to find the relevant support for your answer, will destroy the flow of the conversation and be perceived as messy, disorganized, and unprofessional. Personal scribbles on bits of tatty paper will also alert an employer to the likelihood of you, as an employee, being in a constant flux of disarray in front of clients.

  • The employer may be concerned that your memory retention and recall are poor conjuring images of you as a befuddled employee, lost within the fast-paced business world – not desirable traits!

  • Typically, notes are written out as stand-alone facts. However, employers aren’t interested in figures and facts being parroted off out of a context. They’re much more interested in prospective employees being able to interpret these and draw conclusions related to the context of the question asked. Since you won’t know the questions ahead of the interview, your notes won’t be able to account for question relevance.

  • Since your notes represent questions not yet asked or known, this could result in you skewing the question to fit your answer. This will be appraised as you not being able to answer the question and won’t impress the interviewer! 

  • Bear in mind, many interviewers favour asking specific questions in a number of ways. This may be to see if you can adapt answers to reflect the nuances of the phrasing. In these cases, stock answers recorded in your notes won’t suffice nor show how ‘on the ball’ sharp you are.

Now you’ve weighed up the pros and cons of bringing notes to an interview, check out some more key tips to help you nail your next interview here

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