If you are preparing for an interview, you might wonder if it's appropriate to bring notes with you to help you during your meeting with the interviewer. However, there may be specific interview situations where you should avoid bringing notes with you, especially if your notes are designed to help you answer the interviewer's questions.
In the event you have an interview coming up that seems like it would be inappropriate to bring notes with you, there are several other items you can have with you instead. In this article, we discuss when it's appropriate to bring notes to an interview and when to avoid it, what items you can bring with you instead.
When is it appropriate to bring notes to an interview?
There are times when it is appropriate to bring notes with you to an interview. If you have a list of questions to ask the interviewer or a few extra highlights about your skills or experience, these can often be perfectly fine to bring with you. Additionally, it can be a good idea to bring an extra copy or two of your resume or CV to an interview.
Essentially, the appropriateness of having your notes with you can depend on the interviewer you are meeting with, however, the following information can serve as a guideline for bringing notes with you to your interview, including when you:
- Ask the interviewer questions
- Provide a copy of your resume
- Use notes for talking points
- Ask questions about the job
- Take notes during an interview
Ask the interviewer questions
It is acceptable to bring notes with you to an interview if the notes contain the questions you plan to ask your interviewer. You might also include questions about the company that you were unable to answer from your research. Showing up to your interview prepared with questions can show that you are eager and motivated to learn about the position and the company. This can actually increase your chances of being contacted for the next steps in the hiring process.
Provide a copy of your resume
It can always be beneficial to have a few extra copies of your resume in case other professionals at your interview would like to see it. It can also be appropriate to take short notes on which points you wish to highlight or discuss during your interview. Referring to your resume or CV during an interview can also help you stay focused on your relevant qualifications and experience and avoid detailing irrelevant information.
Use notes for talking points
If you have a list of specific talking points that you want to discuss during your interview, it can also be acceptable to bring these with you. For instance, if you found out that the company you are interviewing with has a specific tech problem that you can solve, you might write that down to refer to when talking with the interviewer.
These types of notes can be beneficial because it can show that not only have you done your research but that you have taken initiative to identify ways that you can help the company. This demonstrates your enthusiasm for the job as well as your preparation.
Ask questions about the job
It's also highly beneficial to bring a list of questions you would like to ask the interviewer. You might be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer, and referring to a list of things you would like to know about the company, extra details about the job or other important information that you may have been unable to find during your initial research on the company is helpful.
Take notes during an interview
It can also be perfectly acceptable to take notes during an interview. If you are thinking about doing this, you might want to double-check with the interviewer as you arrive at your meeting that it is okay for you to take notes during your conversation. This can also show your motivation to learn about what will be expected of you if you are hired as well as your ability to recognize when you need more information.
Learn more: How to Prepare for an Interview
When should you avoid bringing notes to an interview?
Bringing notes with you to an interview can also be inappropriate in certain situations. For instance, if you have a list of all the answers you plan to address the interviewer's questions with, it can be a good idea to leave those at home. Relying too heavily on notes like these can actually make you seem unprepared and that you haven't researched the job details or the company. There are several other situations where it can be inappropriate to bring notes with you to an interview, and some scenarios include:
- Relying on notes to answer interview questions
- Using notes in a behavioral interview
- Bringing notes to a situational interview
- Using notes taken on your cellphone
Relying on notes to answer interview questions
It can be perfectly fine to arrive at your interview with a list of questions you plan to ask or some highlights from your resume, however, relying on notes to answer your interview questions can make you look unprepared and unprofessional. Interviews serve as discussions and interactions to gauge a candidate's qualifications for the job, and your interview should be treated as a two-way conversation. When you rely too much on your notes for answering interview questions, you can become distracted from building a genuine connection with the interviewer through your natural conversation.
Using notes in a behavioral interview
Unless you plan to ask specific questions about the company or job requirements, you should leave your notes at home for a behavioral interview. Behavioral interviews rely on questions that get you talking about your specific experiences, and interviewers want answers that are authentic and not read from a paper.
Using notes in a situational interview
The purpose of situational interviewing is to see how job candidates might solve a problem with little to no preparation. This can help interviewers gauge candidates' analytical and problem-solving skills, and bringing notes that give you answers to these scenario questions can take away from showing off your ability to provide a solution under pressure. Succeeding in this type of interview can depend on how well-prepared you are, however, relying on notes to get you through the interview can take away from highlighting how you make quick decisions.
Using notes taken on your cellphone
It can also be highly inappropriate to rely on notes that you have taken on your cellphone or another device. Taking out your phone every time you need to prompt yourself with answers can distract both you and the interviewer and can take away from conducting a genuine conversation. Additionally, using your cellphone even for referring to notes can make it seem like an interruption to the interview and risk your chances of being hired.
What should you bring to an interview instead?
There are several items you can bring with you instead of detailed notes that can help you appear prepared and eager to meet with the interviewer. Some items you might consider bringing with you include:
- Pen and notepad for taking notes
- A portfolio of your past work
- A list of professional references
- Your business cards
Pen and notepad for taking notes
You should have a pen and notepad handy in case you need to write down any specific details about the job or company that you were unable to find through your research. Additionally, it can show good interview etiquette to make sure that the interviewer is comfortable with you taking notes.
A portfolio of your past work
It can also be beneficial to bring a portfolio with you if it showcases your skills and work experience. For instance, a graphic designer might bring a work portfolio to a job interview as evidence of their skills and expertise. Bringing your portfolio can also show your interviewer that you are motivated and excited to share your accomplishments with the company.
A list of professional references
You may also bring a list of references with you, including their contact information and any letters of recommendation you may have. This can help in the event the interviewer wants to communicate with your past colleagues and employers. Similarly, a letter of recommendation can be an effective addition to your resume.
Your business cards
If you have business cards with your contact information and professional title, you should bring these in case you want to distribute them to other individuals within the company. This can help you appear professional as well as established in your career and may impress the interviewer enough to request one.
Related: 7 Items to Bring to a Job Interview
What other items should you bring to an interview?
Aside from the important documents like your resume, portfolio and references, there are several other items you might bring with you to your interview:
- A folder or notebook
- Your ID or driver's license
- Any college transcripts
- Breath mints
- Company contact information
A folder or notebook
You might also consider taking a folder or notebook with you to carry the paperwork you bring and any forms or documents you receive during your interview.
Your ID or driver's license
You should also have your driver's license or other government-issued identification. The hiring manager or human resource manager may want to make a copy for their records.
If you are just entering your career, it can also be beneficial to have an official copy of your transcripts or other indicators of your college grades. This can showcase your commitment to learning as well as indicating your skills.
You might bring breath mints or a breath freshener spray just in case you feel you need it. This can help boost your confidence because you will be less worried about how your breath smells when you're speaking with the interviewer.
Company contact information
You should also write down or print out the company's contact information including an address and phone number. It can also be a good idea to have driving directions prepared so you know exactly where you are going. If something happens on your way to the interview, like a traffic jam or car accident, you can have a way to contact your interviewer to let them know.