In our October “how can we help you?” thread, MT asks:
Is it inappropriate for a job applicant to look at prepared notes to answer questions during an in-person interview?
This is a great question. I did this sometimes did this in interviews and know other people who did too—and in my experience it can seem fairly obvious on the hiring side whether someone is glancing at notes or not. I don’t think it is “inappropriate”, but what I am much less sure about is whether it’s a good idea. Another reader submitted the following reply:
Having been on the other side of the table, I know some colleagues are dismayed when candidates read notes, etc., even for talks. It strikes some as contrived, and suggests that candidate is either excessively nervous or does not have a handle on what they are talking about. But if you are consulting your notes in order to get some fact right in answering a question, then go ahead and do it, as long as you can find the fact. That said, some of us are human (too human :)), and we are just looking for a decent person who is qualified for the job – and much of this can be discerned from a c.v., a few published papers, and a coverletter. Personally, I am a bit sceptical about letters from supervisors, etc., due to inflation. How many young Wittgensteins did Hilary Putnam teach!? Where are they now?!
I am entirely on this person’s side. I don’t see what’s so bad about referring to notes. Interviews are difficult, unnatural, pressure-filled situations—so much so that it can be easy to forget something important or even simply blank out. Notes can be really helpful, then. But, as this reader points out, some of their colleagues seem to look down on those who use notes. So, what to do? Is using notes too much of a risk? I’m not sure.
It might be good to hear from other search committee members to get their take. In your experience, is it okay if a candidate appears to glance at notes, or is it a big “no-no”?
Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More