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Andrew Arkley|November 16, 2023

Can You Take Notes Into An Interview? Our Guide

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They can be long, often lasting 60 minutes, so beforehand any nervous candidate might be wondering – can you take notes into an interview?

Getting an invitation to a job interview is no mean feat. These days, most typical job adverts on LinkedIn will receive more than 200 applications, with only a few candidates invited to an interview.

Nearly half (47%) of candidates submitting up to 10 applications tend to get one or two interview invitations, according to Jobera.

Want to get more interviews booked? As the saying goes, if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle – apply to more companies and eventually you’ll get more interviews!

Then it’s time to get yourself fully ready for the opportunity – here’s our guide on how to prepare for an interview.

But beyond preparing answers to common questions and deciding what to wear, one of the most frequent queries about interviews is whether you can take notes into them or not.

In short, you can… However, there is a limit to how many pages you should bring and it also depends on what the purpose of the notes is.

In this article we’ll share some advice on good and bad notes to take into interviews.

Best notes to take into an interview

The best notes to take into an interview are a list of questions you want to ask – for example, about the company or the role.

It should be straightforward to put all your questions on one side of A4 and you may need much less. Usually, there won’t be time to ask lots of questions and you may also find out the answer to some of them in advance through a little research.

Now if you only have one or two questions to ask, you may not need to bring any notes with you at all. Either way, we recommend having a couple of questions up your sleeve in case the interviewer ends the session by asking “do you have any questions for us?”

By asking a specific question that other candidates may not think of, this part of the interview is a great chance to show your research, knowledge and interest in the company.

In contrast, not having any pre-prepared questions to ask could make you come across as a little disinterested.

Not sure what to ask? Here’s our guide on great questions to ask in a job interview.

Turning to some pre-prepared notes to ask insightful questions can be a good way to convey your interest in the opportunity and demonstrate that you’ve done some homework.

Other good notes for interviews

Here are some acceptable types of notes to bring into an interview:

  • Questions for the interviewer
  • Copies of your CV (with one annotated for yourself)
  • Notes for a presentation

Sometimes in a second interview, they might ask you to give a short presentation you’ve prepared in advance. In this scenario, it’s fine to bring some notes – but not too many, as you want to make good eye contact while presenting.

And it never hurts to bring some copies of your CV. When there are several interviewers, at least one of them should be familiar with your CV, but others in the room may not be and so, you can give them a copy if they ask.

You could also keep one for yourself to help you recall specific achievements or situations in your career. This is particularly useful if you’ve had years of experience.

It’s ok to make a few small annotations on this CV copy – extra statistics on a campaign for example, if there wasn’t enough space to include these the first time around.

Don’t make extensive notes on your CV though as this will look like you’ve prepared rigid answers to the interview questions you’re expecting. This brings us onto examples of bad notes to take into an interview.

Bad notes to take into an interview

Before an interview, it’s a good idea to prepare for common questions that they’re likely to ask you. Practise answering these confidently, originally and succinctly.

By all means make notes to help you practise and prepare, but don’t bring these to the interview. Ideally, answers to the questions you receive in an interview should come across as spontaneous and taking into account any nuances the interviewer added.

In contrast, checking notes while answering questions in an interview gives the impression that you’re not sure what to say. It suggests that you’re lacking confidence and need to rely on notes to answer their queries – it will put you a step behind other candidates who don’t do this.

But what about a few notes in a document on your smartphone? Nope, we don’t recommend looking at your phone during an interview either.

On top of suggesting you’re not confident about your answers, looking at your phone in an interview implies you’re distracted and not fully focussed on the conversation.

And what about using notes during a video interview? You might think that the interviewer won’t notice, but you’d be surprised.

If they see your eye looking away from the screen, they’ll either think you’re distracted or looking at notes. Having notes on the same screen as your video call is risky too and again, you want any answers to sound spontaneous.

What to bring to an interview

Things worth bringing to an interview include:

  • A pen and notepad
  • Copies of your CV
  • Recent work examples (if relevant)

The notepad is for taking notes during the interview. As mentioned, in your notepad it’s also fine to have a few written questions you want to ask the interviewer.

Similarly, you could lightly annotate one copy of your CV if it will help you remember a key statistic or talking point.

And of course, feel free to bring anything else that’s relevant – a laptop if you’re giving a presentation, written references if you have these, a cover letter and so on.

If you’re bringing a few things, put them in a smart bag or a folder. Don’t have your hands full, keep them free for shaking hands!

Summary: Can you take notes into an interview?

As a general rule, you can bring notes of questions you’d like to ask an interviewer and a lightly annotated CV.

It’s not a great idea to take pre-prepared notes that will help you answer the questions you’re expecting – keep those answers sounding spontaneous.

After the interview, want to work out if it was a good or bad one? Here’s how to tell if an interview went well.

Plus, find out how long it takes to hear back after an interview and the different ways to follow up.

Need some help lining up more interviews? We can write your CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile too – please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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