How to Take Effective Interview Notes

Conducting interviews to find and hire top talent is a major challenge for most organizations. Taking good interview notes is important. The conversation can be recorded and documented using interview transcription services. Transcripts are shareable, searchable, accessible and secure and can help HR managers make the hiring decision. Nevertheless, many managers also use a laptop or take notes by hand. Regardless of the medium used for note-taking, knowing how to do it effectively is important for a successful recruitment process. 

Interview notes provide valuable insights about prospective candidates. Leveraging and analyzing this data can help HR managers evaluate candidates and make the right hiring decisions. In fact, according to a Forbes article, recruiting and hiring will become more data-driven as the digital revolution continues. The article notes that in 2022, companies are working hard to gain and retain a competent workforce in the face of a general talent shortage by focusing on proactive engagement, advanced screening, flexible workplaces, D&I and data-centric recruiting.

Importance of Documenting Job Interviews

When you are interviewing many candidates, taking notes and documenting answers to interview questions is crucial to distinguish between them. Key reasons why documenting employment interviews is important:

  • Helps recruiters recall what happened or was said in the interview and in discussions with others who vetted the same person
  • Helps make a clear distinction between the capabilities of candidates
  • Provides a basis for scoring and selecting candidates
  • Demonstrates commitment to nondiscrimination and fairness in recruitment and hiring
  • Boosts candidates’ confidence that they are being properly assessed

The looming challenge businesses everywhere are facing in 2022 is the struggle to find and retain top talent, according to Forbes. That’s why recruiters need to hone their interview skills and hiring processes. Taking quick and effective interview notes can help managers make a confident assessment of all the candidates.

Strategies for Effective Note-taking at Interviews

Basic Do’s
  • Put the candidate at ease: As the first step, you should build rapport with the candidate. Putting them at ease will help them provide the correct information without any hesitation or long pauses. Inform them at the outset that they too can ask questions. 
  • Explain why note-taking is essential: Tell the candidate that you are taking notes to remember what they said.
  • Listen actively: Stay engaged in a positive way instead of just reading questions from a list. Maintain eye contact, listen intently, and ask follow-up questions. 
Taking Good Interview Notes
  • Ask questions from a pre-prepared list:  Ask questions in the following order: fact-based and behavioral and situational or hypothetical questions (Inc. magazine). Fact-based questions relate to the candidate’s technical skills and experience. Behavioral and situational questions are those that will give you an idea about how the candidate would react to or handle stressful situations, e.g., “Can you tell us about a goal that you were unable to meet and how you handled the situation?” or “If a conflict arose between two coworkers during a project, how would you handle it?” Make sure you document the answer correctly.
  • Be brief: It’s not necessary to take down every detail. The focus should be on correctly documenting the candidate’s qualifications and specific skills. 
  • Ensure legibility: As other persons may be involved in the hiring decision, make sure the notes are legible. This is also important in the case of litigation.
  • Document only relevant matters: It’s important to document only matters that are pertinent to the candidate’s qualifications and their relevancy for the position. Be accurate and document the meaning of what someone says. You don’t have to note down every “and,”  “the,” “also” and “but”.
  • Ask the candidate to clarify anything that was misheard: Ask the candidate to repeat anything that was not clearly communicated or misheard. It can happen that the candidate’s response is unclear or that he/she was talking too fast. In that case, ask them to say it again. You can say, “That sounds important, can you please repeat what you said”. Without clarity in communication, it can be hard to make the right hiring decision. 
  • Mark the positive points: After the interview is done, examine the notes and highlight the main points. The best time to annotate your notes is immediately after the interview.

Once you have finished asking the questions, discuss the position to be filled. Ask them why they think they would be a suitable candidate for it and how they can contribute to the organization. Make sure to leave space to make notes on these matters.  

As mentioned earlier, there are various options to take notes such as using paper and a pen, making a soft copy on a computer, or recording the conversation and getting it documented with the help of an online transcription company.  Using interview transcription services is a practical option for HR managers as it will allow them to focus on the job at hand – finding and hiring top talent for the company.