How to Take Interview Notes Like A Pro
Master the art of interview note-taking to enhance your skills and capture crucial details. Get the expert tips you need to boost your interview performance here!
Interview notes are an essential tool for recruiters who are searching to fill in available positions with top talent.
Although certain candidates stand out through their qualifications and personality from the get-go, you must provide all candidates with equal opportunities to get the job. Keeping track of who said what during the interview process can be a daunting task, particularly when multiple candidates are involved.
If you want to learn how to take interview notes that can help you effectively assess and rank candidates, and make a well-informed selection, keep reading!
What Are Interview Notes?
Interview notes are written records taken during job interviews. These notes capture important information about the candidate, including their qualifications, skills, experience, and responses to interview questions.
They serve as reference tools for hiring managers to evaluate candidates against job requirements and to make informed decisions during the selection process.
Interview notes can include both objective observations, such as technical skills or educational background, as well as subjective impressions, such as communication style or cultural fit.
These notes help ensure consistency, fairness, and accuracy in the hiring process and provide a documented record for future reference or legal purposes if needed.
Why Are Interview Notes Important?
Taking notes during an interview ensures that recruiters do not mix up candidates or overlook critical aspects when making a hiring choice. But that is not all. Here are the top benefits you’ll experience once you ace the interview note-taking process!
A. Help Refresh Your Memory
Even if you have an exceptional memory, it's unlikely that you'll remember every single response you hear from each candidate.
Not only do interview notes serve as a helpful tool for recalling the qualifications of each candidate, but they also allow you to jot down your impressions and assess how well each candidate answered the questions.
When it's time to evaluate and make a decision, these notes become invaluable in comparing candidates and determining who will make the cut.
B. Increase Consistency In Evaluations
As a hiring manager, you must be able to compare candidates on a level playing field.
Interview notes enable you to be consistent in your evaluation criteria by keeping track of the same set of requirements for each candidate.
In addition, interview notes can be shared with other members of the hiring team, which ensures that all team members are assessing candidates in the same manner, which reduces the likelihood of bias or personal preferences influencing the evaluation process.
C. Create a Sense of Fairness and Provide Legal Protection
Interview notes can ensure that hiring decisions are based on merit rather than subjective factors, as they reduce the possibility of forgetting or misremembering important details.
Additionally, they allow managers to justify their decisions to other stakeholders involved in the hiring process.
When presenting their recommendations or justifications, hiring managers can refer back to specific examples or comments made by candidates during the interview, making the decision-making process transparent and fair to all parties involved.
On top of that, if you ever face accusations of bias in your hiring process, these notes can demonstrate the specific qualifications and strengths of each candidate, highlighting what determined your final hiring decision.
What to Include in Interview Notes
Your notes should highlight the candidate's relevant responses and any details that could influence their suitability for the position.
Here are a few things to include in the interview notes:
- Key details about the interview itself, such as the date, time, and location
- Specific responses from the candidate, like relevant skills or past job responsibilities
- Any observations you make based on their answers
- Potential red flags, etc.
What Great Interview Notes Look Like
While the interview note-taking process should be customized to fit the requirements of each company, there are a few qualities that all great interview notes have in common, and below we’ll discuss the most important ones.
Short and Concise
Interview notes should concentrate on the most important aspects concerning a candidate's qualifications, so keep the notes short by excluding information that’s unnecessary for the decision-making process.
Make sure that interview notes are clear and easy to read for other team members involved in the hiring process. This is not only beneficial for effective collaboration but can also come into play in case of any legal issues.
Objective and Pertinent
During an interview, it's important for the notes to focus on the specific job the candidate is applying for and their qualifications for that position.
Steer clear of including anything subjective or unrelated to the job, such as comments about someone's appearance, age, race, gender, disability status, etc., as this can be seen as irrelevant at best, or discriminatory and illegal at worst.
Tools That Can Simplify Taking Interview Notes
Before we share our valuable tips for interview note-taking, be sure you equip yourself with the following tools:
Pen and Paper
Taking notes by hand on a separate evaluation form remains the go-to method for interview note-taking in most cases.
However, it does come with its own set of drawbacks, one of them being that it can be slower compared to using a computer or other automated devices. Another important consideration is that you must exercise caution to ensure that the notes are both accurate and correctly associated with their corresponding candidate.
Laptop or Computer
Many interviewers find that using a laptop to record notes during interviews is both convenient and efficient. Always remember to save your computer notes regularly to prevent any potential loss.
Virtual Meeting Assistant
If you want to skip the note-taking process altogether but still rely on interview notes to make informed hiring decisions, a virtual meeting assistant may be what you need to streamline the entire process.
Here is what a virtual meeting assistant like MeetGeek can help you with:
- Automated meeting recording: Automatically recording interviews should be the default, especially since hitting the record button for every single virtual meeting or interview can quickly become unrealistic.
- Accurate transcription: If you can understand it, so can MeetGeek. Our special NLP algorithms ensure that you get the best meeting transcripts at your fingertips.
- Highlights & keyword detection: Going through hours of recordings or transcripts is no longer necessary when your personal meeting assistant automatically identifies and categorizes every part of your interviews in a reliable, intuitive, and customizable manner.
- AI features: MeetGeek generates an AI summary of your interview that you can easily share with managers or relevant team members.
- Analytics: Recruitment is all about having access to the right data and its interpretation, so a tool that can analyze conversations with job candidates and provide accurate insights is a must.
- Integrations with other tools: With MeetGeek, you can automatically export interview notes to your ATS or in your shared workspace.
- Meeting repository: Turn your recruitment efforts into a cohesive process by having all your interview information stored in one place.
- Free plan: A virtual meeting assistant is not a one-size-fits-all, and this is exactly why MeetGeek offers a free plan that you can later upgrade as needed.
10 Tips to Improve Your Note-Taking Process During a Job Interview
We prepared 10 tips to help you with the note-taking process for your next round of interviews. Check them out below!
Tip #1: Create an Interview Structure in Advance
Map out how you want the interview to progress. Begin by clearly defining the objectives and desired outcomes of the interview to properly lead the conversation.
Only after that can you create a structured interview guide or template to cover all essential areas or competencies to evaluate. This provides a systematic approach and helps to avoid missing important information.
Don’t forget to customize your interview scorecard accordingly, so you can evaluate candidates based on specific rankings, while also utilizing the notes to add comments and relevant observations.
This combined approach enhances the hiring process and ensures that all candidates are assessed fairly.
Tip #2: Use Key Phrases or Codes to Summarize the Candidate’s Answers
Save time during interviews by using codes or abbreviations for frequently mentioned items. This will allow you to quickly jot down important things while keeping up with the conversation.
For instance, you can come up with abbreviations for common phrases like "management experience" (ME) or "teamwork skills" (TS). This will streamline your note-taking process and ensure that you capture all the essential details without sacrificing valuable interaction time with the candidate.
If you use a meeting assistant for note-taking, register these phrases or codes as keywords to allow for easier extraction after the interview. This will also customize the interview notes according to your needs or preferences.
Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask the Speaker to Repeat Themselves
In certain interview scenarios, it can be uncomfortable to ask someone to repeat themselves. However, in most cases, people are willing to repeat what they said so that you can accurately record it. All you need to do is politely ask for clarification.
This is especially important in remote interviews conducted over platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, where sound delays or technical issues can occur. Asking the other person to repeat themselves during a video call is not considered unprofessional, as it helps you understand the information correctly and take notes accordingly.
Hearing a candidate’s answer a second time can also enhance your retention of the information, especially when combined with note-taking.
Tip #4: Ask Questions to Fill in the Blanks
Asking questions during the interview serves two important purposes. Firstly, it helps you gather the necessary information and clarify any vague statements from the interviewee, so your notes can be accurate.
Secondly, it shows your genuine interest in the person and the interview process, establishing a meaningful connection, and demonstrating your attentiveness and desire to learn as much as possible.
Tip #5: Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
When conducting interviews, pay attention to non-verbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language, as they can provide valuable insights and enhance the quality of your interview notes.
These cues can also indicate the interviewee's level of interest and engagement in the conversation. Signs of attentiveness, such as leaning forward, nodding, or maintaining eye contact, show that the interviewee is actively involved.
On the other hand, signs of disinterest, like fidgeting or avoiding eye contact, may suggest that certain topics need further clarification or adjustment.
Non-verbal cues can also help you understand the interviewee's emotions and attitudes toward specific topics or questions. Incorporating these observations into your notes can add depth and context to the interviewee's responses.
Stay alert and avoid distractions by using a meeting assistant for note-taking. This way, you’ll be able to focus on conversation and non-verbal cues fully.
PRO TIP: If you notice a discrepancy between the interviewee's verbal and non-verbal cues, use prompts or probing questions to explore further. Asking if there's anything else they'd like to add or if they're feeling uncomfortable discussing a certain topic can help uncover deeper insights.
Tip #6: Capture All Relevant Details — Even If You Didn’t Specifically Ask About Them
When taking notes, you must capture any significant details that arise naturally during the conversation. Pay attention to additional information volunteered by the candidate. Candidates often share key information that could be useful, even if you didn't specifically ask about it.
If the candidate shares a story or example that highlights their skills or experience, write it down. These anecdotes can serve as valuable references when you're making the final decision on who to hire or when discussing the candidate with other members of your team.
PRO TIP: If the candidate touches on a subject that you didn't specifically ask about, don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions. For instance, if they briefly mention their experience with a specific software tool, ask them to delve into their proficiency or any notable accomplishments associated with that tool.
Tip #7: Prioritize Listening Over Writing or Typing
When you're taking notes, remember that your focus should be on the other person, not just on writing down the candidate’s responses. While it's tempting to try to capture every word, doing so can cause you to miss important nuances in their response.
To add to the problem, if you can’t maintain eye contact, candidates can quickly assume you’re not interested in what they have to say, and the interview will only go downhill from there.
Try to balance listening and writing by recording key points rather than trying to document everything. The bulk of your time should be spent actively listening and forming an overall impression of the candidate.
Active listening can become a breeze with a virtual meeting assistant like MeetGeek, which automatically records, transcribes, summarizes, and analyzes your interviews.
Tip #8: Review the Notes as Soon as Possible After the Interview
After the interview, take some time to expand on your notes before you forget any important information. This will prevent you from feeling rushed and allow you to capture all the relevant information. Or even better, get a meeting assistant like MeetGeek to help you remember all the details shared by a candidate even weeks after the interview.
If you have a hiring team, consolidating everyone's notes into one document can be beneficial. It allows you to compare the candidates more efficiently, see how others interpreted their responses, and identify any patterns in your reactions. This consolidated document can also serve as a basis for discussion when it comes time to select the final candidate.
As you gain experience taking interview notes, you'll develop your own system to make the process more efficient. Reflect on which parts of your notes have been most helpful in making hiring decisions, and consider what additional information could improve your decision-making process.
Tip #9: Help Managers Make the Best Hiring Decisions Through Your Notes
If you're a recruiter, it’s your responsibility to assist managers in making the best hiring decisions by providing them with objective, accurate, and insightful information.
Avoid subjective language and base your assessments on the candidate's actual words and behavior during the interview. Include any specific concerns or reservations you may have.
This way, your notes can be valuable recommendations for the next steps, such as conducting additional interviews or extending an offer. If you’re still figuring things out or if the flux of candidates is too abundant, recording your interviews can give managers a clearer idea of how they should proceed.
Upgrade Your Interview Notes Today with MeetGeek!
Interviewing multiple candidates for a job and struggling to recall the specifics of each interview is no easy task. Good interview notes allow you to capture important details and insights about each candidate, making it easier to compare and make informed decisions later on.
To streamline the entire process, try MeetGeek for free and experience the convenience and efficiency of having your personal virtual meeting assistant!
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