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Meeting Tips

How to Take Job Interview Notes as a Recruiter

Published
February 21, 2024
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7
Min Read
Last updated
February 21, 2024
Phu Ta
How to Take Job Interview Notes as a Recruiter
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Having to interview countless candidates and trying to remember all the important details in order to find the perfect match is no easy task.

That is why taking good quality notes and organizing them well can greatly streamline your hiring process.

In this blog, we will provide you with tips on how to take great interview notes, no matter if it's an in-person interview or a virtual one.

What Are Interview Notes?

Interview notes are written or digital records taken by the interviewer, serving as a detailed record of a candidate's performance during a job interview.

Good interview notes not only capture the candidate's responses but also offer insights into their qualifications, fit for the job, and non-verbal cues.

Effective note-taking allows interviewers to:

  • Recall specific details about each candidate, which is particularly useful when comparing multiple candidates.
  • Support decision-making with concrete examples and observations.
  • Provide a reference for feedback to candidates and discussions with the hiring team.

Effective Preparation Before the Interview

The foundation of effective note-taking begins long before the job interview. Here's how to prepare:

Research the Candidate

Reviewing the job description and the candidate's resume before the interview can help you tailor your questions and decide what to note down later.

This step helps you understand the specific skills and experiences required for the role and how the candidate's background aligns with these requirements.

Highlight key areas in the job description you want to explore further during the interview and note any achievements or experiences in the candidate's resume that stand out.

This preparation enables you to ask more insightful questions, facilitating a deeper evaluation of the candidate's suitability for the position.

Prepare Questions

Crafting insightful questions takes preparation. Don't just repeat the resume—dig deeper!

Target the Role:

  • Align with Needs: What specific skills does the job demand? Frame questions to assess if the candidate possesses them.
  • Explore Challenges: What unique hurdles does this role face? Design questions that uncover the candidate's ability to handle them.

Leverage the Candidate:

  • Go Beyond Obvious: Don't restate the resume. Probe deeper—ask "why" and "how" to reveal thought processes and problem-solving approaches.
  • Connect Achievements: Identify key projects or skills on the resume. Craft questions that delve into these for specific examples.

Think Beyond the Usual:

  • Challenge (Fairly): Include a few thought-provoking questions, but stay relevant to the role and avoid being intimidating.
  • Open Up the Conversation: Use "how," "why," and "tell me more" to encourage detailed responses that showcase communication style and thinking.
  • Behavior Speaks: Ask about past actions to understand their approach to solving problems and working in teams.

Example Questions:

  • "You mentioned experience with X software. Can you describe a complex project you tackled using it and the specific challenges you encountered?"
  • "The job description highlights strong data analysis skills. Can you walk me through an instance where you analyzed data to solve a problem or improve efficiency?"
  • "Tell me about a time you faced a tight deadline and had to prioritize tasks effectively. How did you manage the pressure and ensure successful completion?"
  • "Describe a situation where you disagreed with a colleague on a project approach. How did you communicate your perspective and navigate the disagreement?"
  • "What motivates you in your work and what kind of environment do you thrive in?"
  • "What are your career aspirations and how does this role align with your long-term goals?"

Create a Template

Develop a structured interview notes template that aligns with the job description.

By preparing in advance, you ensure that your note-taking focuses on the essentials, making it easier to compare candidates later and ensure a fair evaluation process.

You are welcome to use our template below.

  • Pre-populate sections with prompts or checklists for faster note-taking during the interview.

Interview Notes Template

Set Up Your Tools

Prep your tools before the interview to avoid distractions and capture key insights efficiently.

Digital or Analog:

  • Tech-oriented? Charge your laptop/tablet, pre-load templates, and open all the tabs or apps you'll need to use.
  • Prefer pen & paper? Organize your workspace with pens, highlighters, and your custom template printed out.

Alternatively...

Explore note-taking apps with voice recording, transcription, or keyword highlighting for later review.

This allows you to completely automate note-taking. You only need to care about the talking and structure of the interview.

Psst: That's what Wudpecker is made for.

During the Interview

Mastering note-taking during the interview involves a blend of attention and discretion. Here are strategies to enhance this phase:

Prioritize Listening

Focus on the candidate's answer, capturing key phrases and non-verbal cues. Prioritize listening to understand not just the what, but the how of their responses.

For instance, observe how a candidate reacts to challenging questions. A candidate who remains composed, with steady eye contact and an open posture, may demonstrate resilience and confidence, key traits for high-pressure roles.

Conversely, excessive fidgeting or avoidance of eye contact in response to such questions might indicate discomfort with pressure, which could be a concern for roles requiring crisis management.

Consider them within the context of the entire interview and the candidate's overall responses and background.

Ensure you're fully engaged with the candidate, maintaining eye contact and showing that you're listening. This encourages more open and honest responses.

Prioritizing listening over writing means actively engaging with the candidate, focusing more on understanding their responses and less on capturing every word verbatim. This approach allows you to build rapport, encouraging more open and detailed answers.

It's about striking a balance: jot down only the most impactful points, keywords, or unique phrases that you can expand on later. This ensures you don't miss out on non-verbal cues and the nuanced context of the candidate's answers, which are crucial for evaluating their suitability for the role.

Qualifications You Should Expect From the Candidate

By focusing on these areas, you ensure that your notes cover a comprehensive view of the candidate's capabilities and potential fit within your organization.

Here's what to focus on:

Technical Skills and Knowledge

This includes their understanding of relevant technologies, methodologies and how they've applied this knowledge in practical situations.

It's also about evaluating their ability to learn new skills and adapt to technological changes.

Assessing these areas helps gauge whether the candidate's technical abilities align with the job requirements and the organization's future needs.

Soft Skills and Personality

When taking interview notes on soft skills and personality, focus on how the candidate demonstrates communication, teamwork, leadership, and adaptability.

Observe how they describe their interactions with colleagues, manage conflicts and contribute to team goals.

Assessing these attributes helps determine if the candidate will thrive in your organization's culture and collaborate effectively with the team.

Specific Examples and Achievements

Prepare questions to ask the candidate about specific examples and achievements where the candidate has shown their skills and made important contributions in their previous jobs.

Focus on achievements that showcase their ability to deliver results, solve complex problems, or improve processes.

These examples should illustrate the candidate's expertise, work ethic, and impact in their previous roles, providing a clear picture of their potential value to your organization.

Curiosities and Ambitions

Exploring a candidate's curiosities and ambitions involves asking about their interests, goals, what drives them professionally and what motivates them to excel.

This can reveal their commitment to personal and career development, how they envision their career path, and their suitability for the role and the company's future.

It also helps assess their ability to innovate, lead, or adapt to changes within the industry or organization.

Follow-up Areas

Mark areas where you need more information or clarification for later follow-up, either in subsequent interviews or reference checks.

Marking "Follow-up Areas" means identifying topics or questions during the interview that require deeper exploration, either due to insufficient detail in the candidate's initial response or because they reveal potential areas of concern or interest.

This could involve technical abilities that need clarification, discrepancies between the candidate's resume and interview responses, or intriguing points that could benefit from further discussion.

Highlighting these areas helps ensure a comprehensive evaluation by addressing any gaps in understanding the candidate's fit for the role.

Use Shorthand and Symbols

Using shorthand and symbols in your note-taking strategy during interviews allows for quicker and more efficient capture of important information without disrupting the flow of conversation.

Develop a personal shorthand system or set of symbols that represent frequently used terms, concepts, or evaluation criteria. For instance, a simple "+" or "-" can denote strengths or areas for development.

This could include symbols for strengths, weaknesses, questions to follow up on, or specific skills. This method not only speeds up the note-taking process but also ensures that your notes are concise and focused on critical elements of the candidate's responses and qualifications.

Focus On Key Insights

Instead of trying to write down everything, concentrate on capturing the essence of the candidate's answers, especially how they relate to the job's requirements and the candidate's potential role within the team.

Focusing on key points during an interview involves concentrating on the candidate's responses that directly relate to the job's requirements and the objectives you outlined.

This means paying special attention to details about the candidate's skills, experiences, problem-solving abilities, and how they've navigated previous workplace challenges.

It's about filtering through the conversation to identify the most relevant information that will help you assess their suitability for the role.

This approach ensures your notes are concise yet comprehensive, capturing the essence of the candidate's potential to contribute to your team.

After the Interview

Following the interview, organizing and reflecting on your notes is key to making informed decisions:

Review and Expand

Soon after the interview, review your notes to expand on any shorthand or clarify observations while they're fresh in your mind.

  • Expand on any shorthand or abbreviations used during the note-taking process, ensuring clarity and comprehensibility for future reference.
  • Add context or additional details to the points noted, including impressions on the candidate's non-verbal communication or examples they provided.
  • Reflect on and document any initial thoughts or feelings about the candidate's fit for the role that may not have been captured in the moment.

Score Candidates

Utilize your notes to score candidates against the job criteria outlined in the job description. This helps in objectively comparing candidates.

After reviewing your notes, assign scores to candidates based on the predefined criteria aligned with the job description. Consider factors such as:

  • Relevance of work experience and achievements.
  • Fit with the required skills and qualifications.
  • Alignment with company culture and values.
  • Potential for growth and contribution to the team.

This structured approach helps in objectively comparing candidates based on their qualifications and interview performance, facilitating a fair and informed decision-making process in the hiring journey.

Discuss With the Team

After individual evaluation, sharing and discussing your notes with the hiring team is necessary. This collaborative step allows for:

  • A broader perspective on the candidate's fit for the role and the company.
  • Consideration of diverse viewpoints, which can highlight different aspects of the candidate's potential.
  • Reaching a consensus or identifying areas where additional information may be needed.

Share and discuss your notes with the hiring team. Diverse perspectives can illuminate different aspects of the candidate's fit for the role.

This post-interview reflection enhances the accuracy of your evaluation, ensuring that decisions are well-informed and based on comprehensive interview notes.

This collective review ensures a well-rounded assessment of the candidate, leveraging the insights and experiences of the team to make the most informed hiring decision.

Conclusion

Taking notes is a skill that enhances the hiring process, ensuring you capture the essence of each candidate's interview.

By preparing thoroughly, engaging actively during the interview, and carefully reviewing your notes afterward, you can make more informed decisions.

Remember, good note-taking is not just about what is said, but how it's said, and how it aligns with the role in question.

Let these strategies guide you in documenting insightful, useful notes that lead to better hiring outcomes.

FAQs

Can I Bring a Laptop or Tablet to the Interview for Note-Taking?

Yes, using a digital device for note-taking can be efficient, especially for organizing and storing notes. However, ensure it doesn't distract from the interview. Communicate with the candidate to ensure they're comfortable and understand you're using the device to take notes, especially if recording is involved.

How Can I Ensure My Notes Are Unbiased and Objective?

To maintain objectivity in your notes, concentrate on recording observable facts and key points that reflect the candidate's competencies and responses. Employ a structured note-taking template that corresponds with the job requirements, facilitating a fair evaluation of all candidates against the same criteria, which helps in reducing personal biases.

Consider leveraging tools like Wudpecker for recording meetings, which can then produce a transcript and summary. This approach not only aids in capturing the essence of the candidate's responses without relying on paraphrasing but also ensures that the evaluation is grounded in what was actually said, making it easier to verify information and maintain impartiality in your assessment.

Should I Share My Interview Notes With the Candidate?

Generally, interview notes are for internal use to help make hiring decisions and should not be shared with candidates. However, feedback based on notes can be provided, especially if it helps the candidate understand the decision or improve.

How Detailed Should My Interview Notes Be?

Your notes should be detailed enough to recall the candidate's responses clearly but concise enough to allow for quick review. Focus on capturing key points, specific examples, and anything that stands out about the candidate's fit for the role.

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Interview Notes Template

Candidate Information

  • Name
  • Position Applied For

Qualifications and Experience

  • Summary of relevant work history
  • Key skills and qualifications related to the job description

Competency Evaluation

  • Specific questions aligned with job competencies
  • Candidate's responses and examples provided

Soft Skills and Cultural Fit

  • Observations on communication, problem-solving skills, and team fit

Overall Impression and Recommendations

  • Summary of candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement
  • Recommendation for proceeding with the candidate
How to Take Job Interview Notes as a Recruiter
Min Read
How to Take Job Interview Notes as a Recruiter
Min Read
How to Take Job Interview Notes as a Recruiter
Min Read
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