Interviewing Myth #2: Take Very Few Notes

The authors and trainers behind this myth have gotten the false notion that taking notes will mostly show candidates the top of your head, and you need almost constant eye contact to maintain rapport: “Notetaking looks bureaucratic. For all the candidate knows, you’re doodling.”

Baloney! Well, okay, there is an exception – if it’s just a 20-minute courtesy interview, taking very few notes is understandable because you’re “chatting to get to know each other.”

But the myth is baloney for long interviews. Almost constant notetaking during long interviews is necessary so that after the interview you can review your notes, jog your memory, connect the dots, and notice patterns of successes, failures, and needs. To accurately rate the candidate on all important competencies, take a LOT of notes.

Topgrading Interviews are long and thorough so that they don’t miss anything important. That’s how hundreds of companies have achieved 85%+ high performers hired. ( The Topgrading Interview is chronological, covering the education years and then 10 standard questions about every job, plus plans for the future. Topgrading Interviews can take from 45 minutes to 5 hours depending on the job.

taking notes during an interview

We know from training managers and interviewing candidates that no one can remember enough details from long interviews to accurately rate people on all competencies UNLESS they take a lot of notes. Hire/no-hire decisions without a lot of notes become based on vague “feelings” and mis-hires are apt to occur.

Taking almost constant notes builds rapport. Interviewers conspicuously take notes when candidates are describing their successes, accomplishments, and likes about each job. Candidates like that! Interviewers are more subtle when recording failures, or temporarily stop note-taking if the candidate shares some wrongdoing, a death in the family, or something else you would be expected to remember. Some interviewers take notes with a pen on a note pad; that’s “old school” but works for me. Most interviewers today (like my president, Chris Mursau) type their notes on their computers and are so good at typing they don’t have to break eye contact very often. But Chris looks down about 50% of the interview just to give the interviewee a break.

I hope these tips help you avoid costly mis-hires!

Interviewing Myth #1: Don’t Interview Behind Your Desk

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