Why You Shouldn’t Look At Your Notes During A Job InterviewJ.T. O’Donnellon June 12, 2023 at 6:00 pm Work It Daily


Should you look at your notes during a job interview? A lot of people have different opinions on this. Personally, as a career coach for 20+ years, I don’t recommend looking at your notes during a job interview. And this is the simple reason why…

It’s Distracting

@j.t.odonnell Replying to @torzamorris Can I look at my notes in a job interview? #interviewprep #interviewhelp #jobinterviewtips #jobsearchtips #interviewtips #interview #interviewquestions ♬ original sound – J.T. O’Donnell

Looking at your notes during a job interview is extremely distracting. For example, if I were giving you advice in person or via video call, but I was either taking notes or looking at my notes while talking to you, how would you feel about our connection? Probably not very good.

I don’t think looking at your notes sends the right message when you’re trying to have a conversation during a job interview.

Now, you may think that your only other option is to memorize your interview answers. That’s not true. In fact, you shouldn’t be memorizing at all.

Instead of looking at notes or memorizing your answers, research the most common behavioral interview questions you’ll likely be asked in the interview. Write out your answers to them. Read them back to yourself, and do that every day for a little while until you haven’t memorized them, but the storyline of them has been committed to memory so that when you’re asked a question, your answer comes out naturally.

Now, in addition to that, there’s something that I teach at Work It DAILY called the “Experience + Learn = Grow” model. When you write the answers to these behavioral interview questions out, you want to follow a beginning, a middle, and an end. (Storytelling!)

What did you experience?What did you learn from that experience?How have you grown from that experience and how are you going to use that on the job?

This is what employers are looking for. You’re a service provider. You’re a business-of-one. They’re trying to understand how you are going to serve their needs, why they should pick you, and why you’re going to give them the best return on investment (ROI). This process—researching common behavioral interview questions, using the “Experience + Learn = Grow” model when writing out your answers in advance, and reading them until you know the stories you want to tell—will get you to a place of comfort where you’ll be able to just look at them and have a conversation.

The hiring manager is a person that you’re trying to connect with. This is a potential future co-worker. You are at that interview to make a friend, make a colleague, in a sense. So, you want to connect. And looking at your notes while you’re trying to answer their questions—this is not connecting.

If you have such bad interview nerves that you feel like you need notes, my advice to you is to learn how to do better interview prep. You not only want to do the prep to ease your interview nerves but to be able to sit there and connect with the person you’re talking to.

In the hiring process, it’s all about connection! That’s why looking at your notes during a job interview will do more harm than good.

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