During faculty campus interview, is it possible for applicants to check their notes from papers or laptops, or should everything be memorized? In other words, are faculty interviews open book or closed book? Does it make a difference for the search committee if applicants want to check their notes? Having the ability to check personal notes would be useful to list all relevant points in order, unless this is not allowed or can affect applicants. In addition, I found that some suggests to prepare notes for phone interviews, however, can such notes be used in on-campus interview?

Examples of using notes while interview:

  • List future research plans - 10-15 points
  • List names of collaborators - 10-15 names
  • Style of teaching - 10-15 points
  • Names and research area of the department faculty members - 15-20
  • 1
    What type of question are you talking about? I can't think of anything I was asked during faculty interviews where notes would have helped? Feb 12, 2015 at 0:45
  • @espertus You can memorize, but would it be bad thing to check personal notes, if an answer was lengthy or require some unfamiliar names or terms?
    – Thomas Lee
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:59
  • 2
    One scenario in which notes could be useful for a candidate is to remember what questions to ask. I had a list of dozens of different questions (not research questions) that I wanted to ask the different people I met during interviews. In some cases, when I was asked whether I have any more questions, I asked if it is ok if I check my notes and people were fine with that.
    – Bitwise
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:55

1 Answer 1


Given the tags, I assuming you are talking about interviewing for a faculty position. (Not that it really matters; my answer would be the same for a graduate interview).

In general:

  1. Having some notes that you look at between interviews -- e.g. on the research of each faculty member who you will meet -- is just fine and probably a good idea. I'd just try to look at them unobtrusively, e.g. in the bathroom rather than while walking across campus with the chair.

  2. I would consider it extremely strange if a faculty candidate turned to notes or to the web to answer a question that I had just asked. Even thinking about the interview as an exam indicates a substantial misunderstanding about the process. You certainly should know things like your own research plans, the names of your collaborators, how you like to teach, etc.

  3. There is an exception, though. If a candidate wants to show me something about her research, a laptop, tablet, or even printed paper can be quite useful. I've had applicants use a tablet to very good effect in answering questions about their work. Not because they don't remember -- that would be the kiss of death -- but because the tablet allows them to call up figures and illustrations that allow them to better explain the findings to me and/or go beyond what was printed in their papers.

  • 1
    Yes faculty position, I updated the question with more details.
    – Thomas Lee
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:09
  • 4
    If the search committee is humane, they may have scheduled some short breaks during the interview day, when you get a few minutes to yourself. You could check your notes then. Referring to notes while talking to people wouldn't really be disallowed, and your interviewers would probably go along with it if you did so, but it would certainly seem weird and off-putting at a time when you want to make the best possible impression. Feb 12, 2015 at 2:33

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