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The Importance of Note Taking During Interviews

February 11, 2021

By Sheila Hoover, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Notes – it seems we write notes in almost every aspect of our lives.  Grocery shopping, honey do, chores, etc.  I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write it down, I will most likely forget it.  Studies have shown, the more we humans write, the more we are able to retain.

Have you ever completed multiple interviews for a position over a two-week time span and remembered all the details about each candidate without referring to your notes?  Now imagine sitting in front of a lawyer who is asking detailed questions about those same candidates.  Are you able to answer the questions in full detail with confidence?  How about your hiring manager?  Can they answer the lawyer’s questions in detail?  If a hiring discrimination suit is placed against your company, are you able to defend your hiring decision and detail the reasons why you selected the candidate you did, and why you did not select the other candidates?

If you answer no, or even maybe, to any of these questions, this can present a problem for your company.  Even if you are able to argue that you hired the best candidate, without any details of why you did not hire the other candidates there will be a hole in your company’s defense. 

What could have been done differently?  Take good interview notes that will help your team remember details about the candidates, including why the decisions were made.

Take note – pun intended – of these six note taking tips:

  1. Date, Time, Name, & Place:  Include the date, time, place, and candidate name for each interview. If it was a virtual interview, be sure to clearly state that detail.
  2. Note the Question and the Answer:  Preferably, you are using an interview guide to ensure you ask the same questions to each candidate interviewing for the same position.  Keep notes for each question that explain the answer from the candidate and why it was good or not so good. 
  3. Be Objective and Detailed:  Using comments like “He is not a good culture fit.” Or “I didn’t like her answer.” Are too vague and subjective.  Provide more detail in your notes, “Mike understood this answer and was able to outline the steps he would take to complete the assignment.”  This provides more context and will more likely trigger a memory later.
  4. Focus on the Facts:  Make sure decisions are being made based on the candidate’s ability to perform the job as described in the job description.
  5. Note Something Memorable:  I tend to remember clothing better than faces, or small talk.  Note the color or type of shirt that was worn, or that it was a snow storm the day of the interview.  Do not take note of anything that can be perceived as discriminatory such as ethnic clothing, gray hair, or physical details about the candidate.
  6. Finalize Your Notes:  Take time after the interview to review your notes and add any additional information that is important to the interview and will help make the final hiring decision.

After each hire, file all the notes from the interviews into your job folder so they are easily accessible, whether it is in your ATS or a physical folder.  This is also helpful if you have the same position open in the near future, and you had a second-place candidate.  You can pull that candidate’s file and hopefully shorten your time to fill.  Not every requisition needs a brand-new search.

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