Should I Bring Notes to a Job Interview?

Career Blog


Candidates can unwittingly put themselves on the back foot if they sit empty-handed in front of a seasoned interviewer. That posture is more akin to a detective’s interrogation than a collaborative discussion between potential colleagues.

Often people who prepare notes never need them. To capitalize on your effort and balance the conversation scale, ensure you have the following at the ready:

  1. Research: A summary of the company, specifically its offerings, customers, and competitors. This knowledge will help add specificity to the discussion. 
  2. Your Approach: An outline of how you would handle the role in the first 30-60-90 days. Hiring managers value proof points over theory so providing actual examples of work product as well as a strategy for delivering it can help them picture you in the job.    
  3. Questions: A list of 3-5 meaningful questions for the interviewer. If you are meeting with multiple people, it’s often helpful to tailor your inquiries to their area of expertise. That said, having all parties answer the same question on a broad topic like company culture could prove insightful. 

Make Your Pitch

Though it’s becoming less common, many interviewers begin the discussion with some version of the “tell me about yourself” question. This is another area where preparation and even a note or two about your elevator pitch can come in handy.

When asked, succinctly summarize your brand (what you’re known for) and offer a quick anecdote illustrating how you earned that distinction. This is an excellent way to jump start the conversation and weave in various proof points that make your case.

Watch Your “WEs” 

Finally, your sense of balance and poise shouldn’t end as the conversation continues. In a world of self-promoters, it’s refreshing to find a candidate who acknowledges the efforts of others when talking about their work. That said, it’s important not to inadvertently dilute your contributions.

In all cases, be specific about your role in the accomplishment and detail exactly how you achieved it by noting the situation you faced, the action you took, and the results you secured. Having a balance of “I” and “We” examples prepared will help you set the right tone in an interview.  

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Check out my latest book The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi or LinkedIn

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

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