Should You Use an iPad During an Interview?

If, why, and how you should use tablets.

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It's hard to believe that it was just 2010 when the iPad made its debut. And though it wasn't the first tablet computer on the market, it was the first to garner mass appeal. Two years later, and the marketplace is flush with tablets that allow users to connect on the go, and that manage to make the most-svelte laptops appear awkward.

According to this Staples infographic, 80 percent of users say their tablets have improved their work-life balance. So does that mean it's also possible for these devices to improve your chances of finding a place to work?

It's an enticing possibility to cart your iPad along with you to a first or second job interview. You could use a stylus to jot notes on the screen, or download an app that allows you to record the conversation for future reference. Or perhaps you're planning to use it to give a presentation of your latest work accomplishments. But in spite of the potential, etiquette experts like Diane Gottsman suggest you tread lightly. "I have spoken with many hiring managers and recruiters that say they're not positively affected by an applicant that comes in and opens their laptop to start taking notes," she says.

Tinier tablets don't fare any better. "It's best to leave both devices out of the initial interview process," she says, because they could impede developing a rapport with the interviewer. Gottsman is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, which specializes in corporate etiquette training. According to her, "Even a small iPad or laptop creates a physical barrier between you and the interviewer. Both [devices] require the interviewee to look down, losing eye contact with the hiring manager."

The effectiveness of using electronics to display your work depends on your chosen field. Gottsman concedes that those with creative jobs could find that a tablet is a great marketing resource and interview prop. But even then, you should still have a hard-copy back-up waiting in your briefcase. "Make sure and bring multiple hard copies of your resume, reference letters, and any work samples you would like to have viewed," she says. There are a few reasons to have this contingency plan: One, you don't want to end up in the lurch if your device stops working, and two, "those conducting the interview may have looked at the electronic version of your resume at their desks but would find it helpful to skim through a hard copy and make notes," Gottsman explains. "Or you might have multiple people in the interview and it would be awkward for everyone to squeeze around a little screen."

In summation, there isn't a yay or nay on bringing devices to an interview. But to be on the safe side, keep these four tips in mind:

1. Do your homework. You should always come to an interview knowing background on the company and as much as possible about the position you're seeking. Websites like Vault.com and Glassdoor.com might allow you to perform reconnaissance on the interview experience as well. And Gottsman says: "don't be afraid to ask the hiring manager or the person that contacted you for the interview if there are certain things that the interviewer would like to 'see' in an initial interview."

2. Practice beforehand. You probably already know that you should rehearse answers to the most common interview questions, or that you should do a dry run to make sure that you arrive on time. But if you're bringing electronics to the interview, you also need as much practice as possible with setting up the files you'll need so that you can get to them quickly. Also remember to turn off any alarms and turn down the speakers, to eliminate the possibility for embarrassing distractions.

3. Follow the interviewer's lead. You were unable to get a conclusive answer to whether it would be permissible to bring electronics to a particular interview. In that case, prepare to keep your devices stowed away until or unless you're given the green light from the interviewer. "If you plan to take in a laptop, or have been encouraged to take notes via a laptop, always ask, 'if this would be a good time' to take the opportunity to show your work," Gottsman advises.