Should you bring notes to an interview? (With tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have an interview coming up, you might wonder whether it's appropriate to bring notes with you to help. While it's often a good idea to bring notes to an interview, there are specific situations where it might be better to leave your notes at home. Preparing notes can be a great way to organise your thoughts and calm your mind before an interview. In this article, we answer 'Should you bring notes to an interview?', explain how to prepare interview notes and outline what else you can bring to an interview to help you feel prepared.

When should you bring notes to an interview?

The answer to 'Should you bring notes to an interview?' is multifaceted, and there are many situations where it's acceptable to bring notes to an interview. In these situations, arriving at an interview with a thorough, well-organised set of notes makes it clear to the interviewer that you've prepared for the meeting and can help to create a good first impression. Bringing notes can also help you feel more optimistic about an upcoming interview since you're better equipped to deal with challenging questions. Here are some instances where it's a good idea to bring notes:

Behavioural interviews

You can bring notes to a behavioural interview to help you prepare for questions about your previous experiences. In a behavioural interview, the interviewer asks about past situations you may have faced in the workplace to gauge your ability to deal with different situations. When creating notes for a behavioural interview, brainstorm a list of challenging or noteworthy situations you've previously encountered at work and reflect on how your actions affected the outcome of these situations.

Video interviews

You can have access to an unlimited amount of materials during a video interview thanks to the Internet, but it's still useful to have a pre-written set of notes to hand. Referring to prepared thoughts is quicker and easier than searching the web for the answer to a question. It also ensures that you don't look distracted when talking to the interviewer.

Asking questions

It's always a good idea to bring a list of questions to ask during your interview. Preparing them beforehand ensures that any questions you ask are thoughtful and well-structured and signals to the interviewer that you're keen to learn more about the role. Use your prepared questions as a guide, not as a script. Don't be afraid to ask questions that only come to mind during the interview.

Related: Questions to ask during your interview

How to prepare notes for an interview

You can prepare notes for an interview by drafting answers to questions and scenarios you think the interviewer might ask you about. Preparing notes can be a useful exercise to help you structure your thoughts before an interview and to highlight any areas that may need more preparation. Perform the following steps:

1. Researching the company

When making notes for an interview, it's important to include detailed research about the company you're applying to. Interviewers often ask candidates to give a brief explanation of what they think the company does during the interview, to ensure that the interviewee understands how the company works. Referencing projects, campaigns or initiatives specific to that company is a great way to show that you've done your research. A company's blog or social media pages are useful resources to see their most recent updates.

2. Brainstorming previous experiences

When preparing interview notes, it can be useful to brainstorm a list of past experiences you've encountered in the workplace. For example, the interviewer may ask you to name a time you worked well in a team, or ask how you've previously dealt with a challenging coworker. It can be helpful to structure your notes according to the STAR technique, where you list the Situation, Task, Action and Result of a specific situation.

Related: How to use the STAR interview technique in competency-based interviews

3. Refer to the job description

Referring directly to the job description in your interview notes is an easy way to ensure that they stay on topic. Write down the person specifications and responsibilities the company listed in the vacancy. Next to each point, note how you believe your skills and experiences match this requirement and make you the right person for the job.

4. Make notes instead of scripts

When preparing notes for an interview, make sure to keep your notes concise and relevant. Bullet points can help to structure your thoughts into smaller pieces that you can refer back to easily during an interview. If your prepared answers are too long or wordy, it can create the impression to an interviewer that you're following a script, instead of engaging authentically with the questions.

When to avoid bringing notes to an interview

There are certain situations where you may wish to avoid bringing notes to a job interview. These situations include interviews where they're assessing how well you can think on your feet, such as during an on-the-job interview. It's also wise to leave your notes at home if they're on your mobile phone instead of paper. Here is some guidance for when to avoid bringing notes in different scenarios:

On-the-job interviews

Avoid bringing notes to an ‘on-the-job' interview, where your prospective employers expect you to perform tasks that are part of the role you're applying for. During an on-the-job interview, interviewers wish to see how you react to real-world situations and bringing notes may make you seem incapable of thinking for yourself. Carrying notes around with you may also be difficult depending on the task you're doing, causing them to be a hindrance to you.

Group interviews

Avoid bringing notes to a group interview. Group interviews are an efficient way for employers to interview several candidates at once, especially if they're looking to hire more than one person. It's unnecessary to bring notes with you to a group interview since you're likely going to be completing on-the-spot tasks such as problem-solving challenges. Employers are looking at how well you can communicate with others and work as part of a team, not how well you can recite prepared answers.

Mobile phone interviews

If you've taken notes on a mobile phone, laptop or another device before the interview, it's better to leave them at home. Taking your phone out during an interview can look rude or unprofessional, and it can distract you or the interviewer from the conversation. If possible, it's a good idea to write your notes out on paper before the interview instead.

Related: What is an interview panel?

What else can you bring to an interview?

Whether you bring notes to an interview or not, several other items can be useful to have with you during an interview to ensure you feel prepared:

  • More than one copy of your CV: It's always a good idea to bring at least a few copies of your CV to an interview so you can give one to everyone on the panel. Having your CV to hand helps you to easily refer to your relevant qualifications and experiences, and can remind you of specific examples related to your performance in previous roles.

  • A copy of your cover letter: If you submitted a cover letter as part of your application, it's a good idea to bring a copy to have in front of you during your interview. The interviewer may refer to specific situations or examples that you mentioned in your cover letter, so it's vital to remember these details and be able to discuss them at length.

  • A notebook and pen: It can be useful to bring a notebook and pen with you in case you decide to take notes during your interview. Writing brief notes during your conversation can signal that you're paying attention to what the interviewer is saying and helps you to remember any points you might like to bring up later in the interview.

  • A bottle of water: If you get nervous during interviews, it can be useful to bring a bottle of water to ensure you stay hydrated and alert. While interviewers often offer candidates a glass of water before the interview begins, it's safer to bring a bottle of water just in case.

  • A copy of the job description: A top tip is to print a copy of the job description for the position and bring it with you to the interview. It can be useful to refer directly to the specifications or role responsibilities when answering interview questions, and signals to the interviewer that you have a solid understanding of the role you're applying for.

  • A portfolio of your past work: If you're applying for a creative position, it can be useful to bring a folder of your previous work with you. Providing visual examples of past projects is a great way to support your interview answers with real-world evidence and show your interviewer what you're capable of.

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