Are you an avid note-taker? Taking notes comes in handy in countless situations. Training, webinars, conference calls, planning sessions, progress meetings, job interviews, sales calls... the list goes on. Essentially, if you're having a conversation and there's any chance you're going to need to prepare beforehand or recall what's being said afterwards, it's wise to take organized notes.
Writing notes is more than being able to recall a conversation. Ask anybody who takes a lot of notes, including Eagle's founder, Kevin Dee. He's blogged about the benefits of note-taking on multiple occasions, including this post which highlights the top 10 reasons he takes notes regularly. Keeping records of your meetings doesn't mean you need to be a courtroom stenographer, jotting down every single word that each individual says. You'd miss the entire meeting and won't get to contribute! This post on Meister's Creativity & Productivity Blog prioritizes the types of points you should write down:
Facts (names, titles, roles)
Issues (problems that need to be solved)
Decisions (what has everyone agreed will happen)
Action Plans (who's responsible for doing specific tasks)
Questions and Answers (what was asked and what responses were given throughout the meeting)
This framework is valuable because it catches all of the points you may need to reference, without missing out on discussions and debates that bring the team to these final points.
Taking Notes in a Job Interview
Some of the more important meetings you have as an IT contractor are job interviews, both with recruiters and clients. These are what will secure your work for the next period of time and you need to come across as prepared and professional. Job interviews are one-on-one and the main goal is to have a discussion. That means that as important as it is, your note-taking cannot take priority. Continuous writing or, worse, having your head behind a laptop (please don't bring a laptop to take notes), would destroy the personal connection you depend on for a successful interview. Instead, experts in this field recommend you jot down quick notes during the interview, but then schedule a few minutes immediately after your interview to go to a coffee shop and write everything down in more detail. The notes you do take can follow Meister's recommendations that are listed above.
Facts - The people you're meeting with, their titles, specific details about the job would all be helpful later on.
Issues - This could be the client's issues that you're being interviewed to solve, but might also be issues for you to solve later such as errors or additions required in your resume or lack of qualifications that were identified.
Decisions - Not many decisions happen within the interview, but if you discuss next steps, which jobs the recruiter will submit you to, or who you should be dealing with moving forward, these are important notes to remember.
Action Plans - Possibly the most important note to take because you must do what you say you will. Whether it's follow-up on a certain date, send an updated resume, or refer a colleague -- if you said you'll do it, then do it. You should also write down any actions the interviewer committed to doing.
Questions and Answers - Of course, you want to record the answers to the questions you asked the interviewer. You can also use this section to record the challenging questions you were asked so you can be better prepared next time.
Speaking of questions, prepare some notes ahead of time and write down questions you'll want to ask the interviewer. You might go one step further and write down speaking points and quick notes to ensure you hit everything properly during the conversation; however, some experts warn against that type of preparation. They argue that answering questions from notes makes you appear less confident with the subject matter for which you're interviewing and, therefore, less qualified for the role.
The majority of us write notes in some sort of way, but the detail and style of notes we write differentiate person-to-person. What kind of note-taking practices work best for you?