Taking interview notes is one of the most essential skills for interviewers. Let's cover everything you need to know about notetaking during interviews, including what to write and what to avoid. We will also discuss best practices for making the most of your note-taking experience so you can capture the needed information to make the most informed hiring decision. Being careful to take appropriate interview notes ensures fairness in all aspects of your hiring process. In addition, if properly documented, these notes can be used as proof by outside mediators or investigators so that anyone accused of discriminating against applicants has their side heard fairly and objectively.
There are some things you should specifically avoid noting in an interview and others you want to make sure you capture. Focus your notetaking on relevant experience and skills to the job position and leave out irrelevant information or personal details. Do take note of areas where the candidate's knowledge, attributes, and skills align with the job description. Do not take note of hobbies, physical appearance such as race or gender, disabilities, or personal details such as family or children.
Develop a repeatable system that works for you. For example, circling key attributes of the job description, starring questions you would like to follow up on, and creating shorthand abbreviations will help you take notes quickly. Let the candidate know you will be taking notes. Keep your notes out of the candidate's view to allow yourself to jot notes honestly without worrying about hurting the candidate's feelings.
Do not write everything word-for-word. Instead, focus on critical data. Make sure you are engaging in the conversation and are not so distracted by notetaking that you cannot have a normal conversational flow.
Do not hesitate to make personal observations. If a candidate looks nervous, has negative body language, or bad-mouths a former employer, make note of it. The key is to focus on behaviors rather than demographics or items noted above that are not relevant to the job.
Take notes in a separate notebook or electronically rather than on the application or resume. Any notes taken on official documents such as the resume or application form may be considered discoverable if the candidate asserts that they were passed over due to discrimination.
Well captured notes will help you distinguish between candidates and help you plan follow-up questions. They provide helpful support to document hiring decisions and can bring others up to speed who missed the interview. Careful and thorough notetaking can also protect yourself and your company against accusations of discrimination in hiring practices.
Contact us if you would like to review your interviewing and note taking practices.