Opinions on using notes in an interview

Discuss what to expect in job and course interviews, what topics might be covered, how to manage anxiety, and how to get the desired result!
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Prosopon
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Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by Prosopon » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:29 pm

I'm wondering what people's opinions are on using notes in an interview? I don't mean reading from notes, but using them to jog the memory and as points to elaborate on.

I have used notes in interviews before with no issue but have just had an interview where it did not seem to be perceived well. With less than 24 hours to prepare for this interview I jotted down a few key points I wanted to talk about, and also printed off the supporting statement from my application. I was asked a question which I had prepared for but unfortunately got brain freeze. I explained this and asked if I could refer to my notes. The interviewer seemed taken aback and although she said I could, she seemed very reluctant. After I had answered the question she said, 'now you have used your notes to refresh your memory, can I please ask you to put them away?'

This whole situation really threw me and has made me worried about how it came across. I'm worried this person though I was cheating or trying to seek an advantage, whereas I feel I was utilising an important strategy to help me overcome my nerves. I did not feel able to refer to my notes again even though I felt this would have helped me. I feel quite shaken by the experience to be honest.

If I was interviewing someone I would have no problem with them using notes and would even view it favourably as it shows the person has done some preparation and can make use of strategies to overcome difficulties. This is the first time I have encountered something like this as, like I said, it has never been an issue for me before.

What is your opinion? Do you use notes in interviews? For anyone who has conducted an interview, how did you/would you perceive a situation like this?
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

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lakeland
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by lakeland » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:46 pm

I think it would depend for me. If this had been requested as a reaonable adjustment, I wouldn't have an issue. However, I think in an interview I'd be assessing more than just someone's ability to research something then read it back off a piece of paper. I'd like to think I was employing someone who was able to think psychologically without too much preparation, because in the day to day job, that's something you'd be expected to do.

Also if you were reading from a piece of paper, I wouldn't know if you'd prepared those notes or whether someone else had. And perhaps it wouldn't be fair to other candidates if they did not have notes with them.

Finally, I think if you have notes there, you're highly likely to use them, even when you maybe don't need them. I found this when I was doing a lot of presentations and realised that actually, looking at my notes just confused me,

I hope this is useful - if there is a reason why you need them, by all means make a request ahead of the interview, but otherwise I think I'd be unsure about someone using them during.

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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by miriam » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:53 pm

I'd be okay with it, except if it became a barrier in the social skills I was seeing, but I'd want to make sure the information was understood and applied to my context, rather than just noted from factual sources. We also have a task where we ask people to design a research plan or intervention and then explain it to us, where we expect them to use the notes they make in the preparation time*. My questions are aimed to get candidates to talk mainly about concepts, situations and opinions, rather than regurgitate information, so I don't think referring to notes has been something common. However I've often had people refer to notes when it comes to whether they want to ask us anything at the end of the interview.

*we also have another task that is written that uses some of their time, as we hope to draw on a variety of skills.
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Prosopon
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by Prosopon » Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:05 pm

Thanks for the responses. To be clear, I'm not talking about reading back something that has been researched or regurgitating notes. Those things would obviously not be ideal and are unlikely to be perceived well. I'm talking about using notes as an aid to overcome a brain freeze moment or to ensure I have covered all the points I wanted to make.

In my particular case I was asked about what challenges I think the client group might face. This is something I had reflected on in preparation, making notes of what I wanted to say. Some of this was generated from my own ideas, and some from research as I have not worked with this client group before. I get very nervous during interviews and got brain freeze at this question unfortunately. Strategies such as taking a deep breath and having a drink of water did not help me overcome it, so as a last resort I asked to refer to my notes because I knew I could answer the question, it's just my nerves were getting in the way. I explained to the interviewers that I was experiencing brain freeze due to my nerves.

I could have requested it as an adjustment but after receiving advice on here about being careful over the adjustments I request and not asking for something that I could implement myself within the interview, I decided not to request any adjustments. Seems I cannot win either way!
lakeland wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:46 pm
I'd like to think I was employing someone who was able to think psychologically without too much preparation, because in the day to day job, that's something you'd be expected to do.
Would this be your thinking if recruiting an Assistant Psychologist though? If so, it is a bit disheartening. I've just finished my degree and although I have several years of experience in different areas relevant to psychology, I have never worked directly under the supervision of a psychologist. Therefore I am developing my ability to think psychologically and apply what I have learned with no guidance from anyone else (and obviously within the boundaries of my role). If thinking psychologically is something that is expected with little preparation or research then perhaps this is not the right field for me.
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

lingua_franca
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by lingua_franca » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:31 am

Prosopon wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:05 pm
Would this be your thinking if recruiting an Assistant Psychologist though? If so, it is a bit disheartening. I've just finished my degree and although I have several years of experience in different areas relevant to psychology, I have never worked directly under the supervision of a psychologist. Therefore I am developing my ability to think psychologically and apply what I have learned with no guidance from anyone else (and obviously within the boundaries of my role). If thinking psychologically is something that is expected with little preparation or research then perhaps this is not the right field for me.
What do you understand psychological thinking to be? I see the basic building blocks as curiosity combined with empathy, good observational skills, and the ability to synthesise what you're seeing with what you already know in order to draw meaningful conclusions/ask better questions. Supervision from a CP helps to develop these skills, of course, and everyone's ability to think in this way should be getting deeper and richer with experience. But you can begin to apply the skills in pretty much any context involving people. When you go for an interview, I doubt they're looking for perfection - they just want to see that you have the basic skills in place, so that you have something to build from.

From what you're saying, I think you are seeing interviews as a test of what you know, when it might be more useful to think of them as an opportunity to show how you think. If that service had wanted an expert on their client group, they would have appointed someone who had worked extensively with that client group before, rather than shortlisting you. This suggests to me that they weren't expecting you to be able to give all sorts of detailed factual information on the clients' difficulties, but to see what you're like at deductive reasoning - for example, if you were interviewing for a job in a hospital setting, you might extrapolate from that and wonder about the disruption hospitalisation can pose to a person's life when asked to speak about the challenges clients face. You don't need to know huge amounts about Condition XYZ to be able to do that. It's all about what you can do with the info you have, as opposed to how much info you know.

I would also take the advice and suggestions you get here as just that - suggestions, not hard and fast rules to follow. People warned you against asking for too many adjustments, as that could overwhelm the panel and create the impression that you're less competent than you are. One simple well-chosen adjustment that will make a significant difference to how you perform is not in the same category. Ultimately you are the best judge of what you need.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

lakeland
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by lakeland » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:44 am

Lingua has worded what I would have said better than I ever could. I have predominantly worked in inpatient services, and often other members of the MDT will ask an Assistant Psychologist for their opinion on what a service user might need, or why they might be doing x, y and z. I wouldn't expect them to pull a full formulation and treatment plan from nowhere, but I would expect a bit more than "I don't know." Of course they should then be discussing it in supervision, and making it clear to the MDT that they'll be doing that. I wouldn't expect someone to know all the answers in an interview of course.

Prosopon
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by Prosopon » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:35 am

lingua_franca wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:31 am
Prosopon wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:05 pm
Would this be your thinking if recruiting an Assistant Psychologist though? If so, it is a bit disheartening. I've just finished my degree and although I have several years of experience in different areas relevant to psychology, I have never worked directly under the supervision of a psychologist. Therefore I am developing my ability to think psychologically and apply what I have learned with no guidance from anyone else (and obviously within the boundaries of my role). If thinking psychologically is something that is expected with little preparation or research then perhaps this is not the right field for me.
What do you understand psychological thinking to be? I see the basic building blocks as curiosity combined with empathy, good observational skills, and the ability to synthesise what you're seeing with what you already know in order to draw meaningful conclusions/ask better questions. Supervision from a CP helps to develop these skills, of course, and everyone's ability to think in this way should be getting deeper and richer with experience. But you can begin to apply the skills in pretty much any context involving people.
Yes, I agree on how you see psychological thinking, though would add reflecting on interactions, practice, experiences and self, and applying psychological knowledge to practice. For example in my current role I try to apply Self-Determination Theory to my group activities, thinking how can I use this activity to increase people's sense of relatedness, autonomy and competence. Apart from curiosity (my strong desire/need to keep learning) and an ability to feel and convey empathy, which come very naturally to me, I am still developing the other skills and am trying to apply them to any context involving others.
lingua_franca wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:31 am
When you go for an interview, I doubt they're looking for perfection - they just want to see that you have the basic skills in place, so that you have something to build from.

From what you're saying, I think you are seeing interviews as a test of what you know, when it might be more useful to think of them as an opportunity to show how you think. If that service had wanted an expert on their client group, they would have appointed someone who had worked extensively with that client group before, rather than shortlisting you. This suggests to me that they weren't expecting you to be able to give all sorts of detailed factual information on the clients' difficulties, but to see what you're like at deductive reasoning - for example, if you were interviewing for a job in a hospital setting, you might extrapolate from that and wonder about the disruption hospitalisation can pose to a person's life when asked to speak about the challenges clients face. You don't need to know huge amounts about Condition XYZ to be able to do that. It's all about what you can do with the info you have, as opposed to how much info you know.
This is not correct; I do not view interviews in this way. I am not trying to be perfect and do understand they are looking for someone willing to learn and develop. I try to convey this but am failing miserably due to extreme anxiety. I do not try to impress with my knowledge, and I do not memorise facts. Currently in interviews I am simply trying to express myself in a coherent manner, which frustratingly is not happening. I will always prepare and research for interviews. If I have been shortlisted for a job in an area I have little knowledge of, I will read up on it to help me prepare and I will reflect on what I read and try to apply my existing knowledge. To not do this makes no sense to me.
lingua_franca wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:31 am
I would also take the advice and suggestions you get here as just that - suggestions, not hard and fast rules to follow. People warned you against asking for too many adjustments, as that could overwhelm the panel and create the impression that you're less competent than you are. One simple well-chosen adjustment that will make a significant difference to how you perform is not in the same category. Ultimately you are the best judge of what you need.
I know it was a suggestion and was willing to try it. I did not view it as a "hard and fast" rule. I am not attaching blame to anyone, merely venting my frustration that nothing seems to be working to help me overcome or manage my interview anxiety. As I thought I had explained in the other thread, I do not ask for a long list of adjustments. The things I listed are things I have tried at various different points, not all in one interview.
lingua_franca wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:31 am
Ultimately you are the best judge of what you need.
But clearly I'm not! I am struggling badly to perform well in interviews and have been seeking advice and guidance on here to help me. I cannot figure out what I need.

The problems I am experiencing are unique to the interview situation. The way I am presenting in interviews is so far away from how I am in my current job and in my interactions with clients/carers/colleagues that it would be laughable if it wasn't so incredibly frustrating and upsetting. I get brain freeze which makes it hard to answer even the simplest questions, feel shaky and cannot express myself coherently. This never happens at work, even when facing stressful situations. I think I have developed an interview phobia and I am feeling pretty distressed and bewildered about it to be honest. I want to start working in a psychology-focused role and know I would be good at it, but interviews are proving to be a massive obstacle.
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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maven
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by maven » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:21 pm

Sounds like you need to get help to address your anxiety, rather than interview adjustments?
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by persephone56 » Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:53 am

I agree with Maven. Nobody likes interviews but they shouldn't be causing an individual such a degree of distress either.

Have you tried doing mock interviews, or just role-playing them? It might even be helpful to role-play it from the perspective of the interviewer, to get a sense of what it feels like to be in that position, and how you view the interviewee.

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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by Spatch » Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:11 pm

It brought to mind that scene in the Untouchables, where Sean Connery and Kevin Costner need to recruit a new team member.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8mHfcpMQsI

Note it's not the actual answer given (and for the record I would never advocate anyone pull a gun on an interviewing panel), but it's the self possession and attitude that gets Stone on the team. It often plays out like that in real life, only usually less dramatically.
Shameless plug alert:

Irrelevant Experience: The Secret Diary of an Assistant Psychologist is available at Amazon
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Irrelevant-Expe ... 00EQFE5JW/

Prosopon
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by Prosopon » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:08 pm

I've had feedback for my third AP interview. I didn't get the job but the feedback was incredibly detailed and helpful. Apparently the content of my answers was strong but not structured enough. The interviewer said that I gave similar answers to the person they gave the job to, but I unfortunately did not express myself as well as this person. She went through every single question with me, highlighting what I did well and suggesting things to improve. She has advised me to prepare for interviews by thinking of the general structure of potential answers and then using this to elaborate on in the actual interview. This has helped me to realise that I am doing better than I thought I was and the interviewer actually said that I am a strong candidate. I'm definitely going to take her advice on board about structuring answers and hopefully this will help me to feel less anxious in my next interview. If this doesn't work then I will look into seeking help.
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

lakeland
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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by lakeland » Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:02 am

Sounds positive and it was very good of the interviewer to give such detailed feedback. Good luck for the next one!

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Re: Opinions on using notes in an interview

Post by Opetha » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:28 pm

I'm sorry to jump in here belatedly, this was a question I was wondering myself recently.

I'll start by confirming that I too experience a (probably) abnormally high level of anxiety during interviews.

I make notes in preperation for an interview, then usually condense them down to a few pointers. I typically take a pen and notebook just in case I will need to make any notation. Sometimes, just having the notebook in my hand is a security blanket, even if I don't open it.

I think personally, if I wanted to refer to my notes I would ask the interviewer(s) do they mind whether I consult my notes, and if I do use them, refer very briefly (for a memory prompt perhaps) then continue talking without looking back down again.

I have never conducted interviews before, I honestly don't know how it would be perceived, but I think I personally would be pleased to see that someone had taken the time to make notes, and if they asked permission to utilise them I wouldn't mind ... so long as they didn't just read from a script, which I know youre not suggesting.

Maybe this is something we could request information about during a feedback session, post interview?

Just my personal thoughts, take them with a pinch of salt lol

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