What can I learn?
April 5, 2011 11:57 AM   Subscribe

What are my rights concerning notes taken at an interview for a potential job?

I recently went through a long interview process where a lot of notes were taken about my performance. I want to see the notes, but the organization says it won't give them to me. I realize this is par for the course for big institutions like colleges and such, but do I have any legal basis to ask for the notes? I'm not planning on getting a lawyer or anything, but I just want to know.
posted by amodelcitizen to Human Relations (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Was this interviewing for a job where you don't currently work?

Probably not much recourse. Also, one of the underhanded things some places do is that they interview intelligent candidates, asking them how they would solve particular problems. If you give them details, they take that, never hire you, and implement your ideas - basically free consulting you have just given them.

If you are looking for feedback on how you did during the interviewing process, you could always ask the people you spoke with, but they aren't going to give you any notes they took.

Always a good idea when firms start asking for specific solutions to problems they are having to speak in general terms and allude to how you've solved similar problems in the past and that is a reason why they should hire you, as you could help solve the problem as an employee.
posted by rich at 12:02 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's really no theory under which you can claim any legal right to these notes. Sorry.

I mean, IANYL, but still.
posted by valkyryn at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't think of any legal basis you have to obtain the notes. IANYL of course.
posted by bearwife at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it a governmental organization? Would freedom of information requests apply?
posted by procrastination at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2011


No basis at all. It's not as if they were part of your medical records or anything.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2011


Also, one of the underhanded things some places do is that they interview intelligent candidates, asking them how they would solve particular problems. If you give them details, they take that, never hire you, and implement your ideas - basically free consulting you have just given them.


off topic, but is there a cite for this? I can't imagine how this would ever be an effective use of resources.
posted by milestogo at 12:12 PM on April 5, 2011


No, I don't work there. It's not a government agency. I don't have a lawyer or I would definitely ask them.
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:15 PM on April 5, 2011


IAAL, IANYL. I'm assuming you are in the United States.

Think of it this way: why on earth would an employer give you their interview notes voluntarily? There is *nothing* in it for them. If they're smart, they're going to assume that you want the notes as ammunition to sue them.

The only ways you could possibly force an employer to produce them would be: (1) you sue them for something relating to the interview and then you can request the notes as part of the discovery process (you say you don't want to do this); or (2) you had some kind of agreement with them in advance that they would let you see them (unlikely).

This is not going to happen.
posted by slmorri at 12:16 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


IANAL but... No... you have absolutely no right or legal basis to get at their notes about you. If you took notes during the interview, do you think they should any rights to them? It's absolutely ludicrous.
posted by jedrek at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2011


If you took notes on the interview, and they called you up at home afterward and said, "Hey, can you give us a copy of the notes you took?" would you say yes?
posted by emelenjr at 12:21 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would make a decent sized bet that those notes no longer exist; especially now that you asked about them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I hear that. I should probably add part of this question is fueled by the fact that a lot of the notes have been published in a book before, so this was on my mind. I wondered how the reporter got them.
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:27 PM on April 5, 2011


Presumably, the reporter asked. Just as they're not under any obligation to release the notes to you, they're not under any obligation not to release the notes to a reporter if they want to.
posted by brainmouse at 12:30 PM on April 5, 2011


Are you sure there were actually notes being taken? I was on an interview once where the boss was furiously taking down notes every time I gave an answer. I peeked at them when he turned around briefly to get something in a cabinet; the page was full of sketched out little squares and triangles.
posted by phunniemee at 12:32 PM on April 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can't help but notice that your post title isn't explicitly connected to seeing the interviewer's notes.

In the future, if your goal is to answer "What can I learn?" rather than "What did he/she write?", you may want to go about asking in a different way.

Asking to see someone's notes is, in my experience, extremely unconventional. I'd even say it shows a lack of professionalism. In contrast, asking what skills you could work on in order to make yourself more appealing should a similar position open up is something I've run into. Such a question (1) may help you understand the organization's impression of you (as included in the notes) and (2) may communicate your enthusiasm to the organization and work in your favor at a later date.

Of course, this doesn't help at all if your main concern is that you're afraid a reporter will get a copy of the notes and publish them. If that's your issue, I'm not really sure how having a copy would help.
posted by cranberry_nut at 12:46 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd wager that if you were still being considered for the job, you probably didn't help your case for the position by doing this. Seems bizarre to ask.

Interview notes are supposed to be the candid reflections of the interviewer and their impressions. If they gave them to you, they'd be less likely to be candid in their written reflections and it would hamstring the interviewing process.

They aren't obligated in any way to give you them and I'm surprised you thought this was even a possibility.
posted by inturnaround at 12:50 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never heard of people asking for notes from their job interviews, and I've never heard of employers being in any way required to provide those to you. If you're notable or prolific enough that notes from your job interviews are published in books, then you might want to ask potential employers for something in writing stating that they won't share notes from your interviews with any third parties.
posted by elpea at 12:50 PM on April 5, 2011


I'm confused.

this question is fueled by the fact that a lot of the notes have been published in a book before, so this was on my mind. I wondered how the reporter got them.

So, was your interview information/experience published in a book by a reporter? How do you know it was you?

Still, unless the published comments were disparaging and personally identifiable, there really isn't anything you can do. If, however, you're looking at defamation of character because they published or shared their notes on you externally, that's a different matter.
posted by rich at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2011


No, I was saying they've made their notes public before to a large audience, so I didn't feel it was too out of line to ask. The book was not about me and I was not mentioned in the book.

I agree that it was probably unprofessional to ask, but at that point, I hadn't gotten what I wanted and I was looking for feedback. I agree I could have worded it better and asked instead how I could've improved.

Thanks for the tips/reality checks.
posted by amodelcitizen at 1:07 PM on April 5, 2011


If a state institution, then you may have a right, I think, maybe under FOIA.

At least I can tell you when we interview at my state institution, *everything* we write down is collected for the record, even if scribbles in the margins. Of course as a result we studiously avoid writing anything down, so it's a bit counter-productive, but anyway...
posted by idb at 1:29 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone's right, you have no right to see the notes, but I wonder if you could get in touch with the reporter and ask for them?
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:33 PM on April 5, 2011


If a state institution, then you may have a right, I think, maybe under FOIA.

Good luck with that. FOIA and analogous state statutes generally only apply to the public actions of state actors, e.g. public meetings, contracts, etc. You generally can't get what amount to sensitive HR documents this way. Otherwise every single bit of information the government has about its own employees would be accessible to anyone who bothered to ask.
posted by valkyryn at 1:39 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just a note on interview etiquette;

Get contact info fram each person you meet with. Email, correct name spelling, address.

If you have their snail mail address, send them a thank you letter. If just email, send them an email. Reiterate your skills for the job and your excitement for it.

If you don't get the job, and you had a decent rapport with one of the people you met with, drop them a private note and ask if there was anything in particular that did you in, just for your own growth, and thank them again for the opportunity.

If you hear nothing, let it drop. If you hear back, thank them and then let it drop.
posted by rich at 1:44 PM on April 5, 2011


I'd be willing to bet that if they made interview notes available to an author that they checked with the interviewee first.
posted by ged at 1:45 PM on April 5, 2011


Following on valkyryn's comment above, the law in North Carolina explicitly states that records related to an application are confidential.

In fact, there are certain sections of my own personnel file that I'm not allowed to see.
posted by ES Mom at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2011


Yeah, no, you have no recourse other than hoping they're astonishingly generous, at least as far as I know.

At my (public) organization, notes from interviews are subject to sunshine laws. But I've never heard of a private firm having to turn any such thing over.
posted by SMPA at 2:53 PM on April 5, 2011


A little late in the game here, but if you are interested in what was noted during your interview, I'd say that is quite normal ("omg...what are they *writing*?!?!") However, if it helps, when I conduct interviews, I am culling from a list of questions (and other questions usually branch out of those), and usually what I end up jotting down are any clarifications that are asked for during the interview...(if there was something unclear on the resume, etc.).


So, nothing earth-shattering, just a few keywords...with some extra underlining...and maybe some stars....a smiley face...a couple of squares....a flower....because most of it's usually mostly getting stored in the noggin anyway!
posted by foxhat10 at 7:16 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, with the federal government, you are entitled to see the notes (they are filed) if you file a formal grievance or EEO complaint.

But re this specific topic, I think Cranberry_nut makes a good point. Sometimes how you frame a question determines the outcome.
posted by GeniPalm at 9:21 AM on April 6, 2011


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