An Interesting Hack for Note-Taking

note taking

TL;DR – When someone you are interviewing over a phone call says something noteworthy, say “that’s interesting”. Record the call, get a transcript of it and search for the phrase, “that’s interesting” in the transcript to retrace all those points of interest. You can thus phonetically annotate a phone-interview.

If you are interviewing someone over a phone call, how do you take notes?

Assuming you don’t intend not to take notes, you could go for the humble pen-and-paper. Admittedly an old-school-cool approach, it has its biggest limitation in taking your attention away from the interview and the interviewee. When you borrow an hour from someone, it is only obligatory that you give her your undivided attention.

Not taking notes and relying on something as fallible as memory is hardly the professional approach to take. If you thought your memory is accurate and dependable all the time, you should read about how inaccurate eyewitness testimonies cause more wrongful convictions than any other factor. Moreover we humans are prone to memory biases that affect the way we encode and retrieve memories, thereby distorting what we had perceived earlier. If this didn’t hit you at an existential level, watch this fascinating TED talk by Elizabeth Loftus with an apt URL, _the_fiction_of_memory.

Recording the phone call is sound advice; no pun intended. But listening to an hour-long recording is easier said than done. If you were to carefully peruse through an hour-long interview, it could end up taking as much time as the interview itself. Though the points you fish out from it would be invaluable, it probably would not be the most efficient use of your time.

Thus the next logical step in making this process more efficient is to get a transcript of the phone call – a text-to-speech record of it. Skimming through a document looking for interesting points can be achieved with greater accuracy and speed than the other approaches above.

With giant strides made by Machine Learning, fully automated transcription services have become as cheap as $0.10 per minute and are accessible for everyone.

That must be it, right? What can be easier than skimming over two pages of a Word document?

Well here’s a neat hack that can make it even easier.

During the interview whenever your interviewee says something interesting, just say, “that’s interesting”. After the interview is over, get the transcript for it. Now when you get the transcript, all you have to do is search for the phrase “that’s interesting” in it. Voila! All that you wanted to pick from the interview will high-lighted in yellow. Neat, isn’t it!

Of course you can use your own keywords to phonetically annotate the interview.

You can head to – a service that provides call recording and transcriptions of those calls. The next time you interview someone over a phone call remember to try out this lifehack.