Interview Etiquette: What Type of Pen is Best?

How important is the writing instrument you use on a job interview and will it have any consequential impact?  Maybe or maybe not.  If you pull out a plastic ball point that looks like it has been run over by a car or chewed by a dog, your interviewer may get the impression that you do not care about the small details.  However, if you use the same type of pen, clean and right out of the box of twenty, you may be viewed as fiscally responsible and living within your means.  Depending on the circumstances, using an extremely expensive pen may send the message that you are “trying too hard” or that you should consider being more conservative with your funds since, after all, you are unemployed and looking for a job.

People tend to make judgments based on what they see, and your pen, along with the rest of your image can send the message that you are either trustworthy and responsible or flashy and lack common sense.  Certainly, when you are already in a position of power, a good quality writing pen conveys a positive image, but if you are just starting out and your pen costs more than your first months paycheck, you may want to think twice before using it to take notes at your interview.

Following are some do’s and don’ts when determining what type of pen is best to use when projecting a confident, professional image:


  • Do select a pen that is reliable and does not skip or leave smudge marks on your finger
  • Do write with a fine point or roller ball as opposed to a cartridge pen that could possibly leak in your purse or pocket
  • Do make sure the pen has enough ink to get you through note taking at the interview
  • Do select a writing pen that mirrors the rest of your professional ensemble
  • Do, when interviewing in a creative field, choose a pen that makes a unique and creative, yet tasteful statement (with the emphasis on “tasteful”)
  • Do hold your pen like an adult, between the index and middle finger, anchored by the thumb
  • Do use black ink for professional correspondence


  • Don’t use a promotional pen (especially from a competitor) when applying for a job
  • Don’t use colored ink such as pink, orange, yellow, or green
  • Don’t use red ink as it appears punitive
  • Don’t use a pen that has been chewed on or broken
  • Don’t fidget with your pen by clicking the “open” and “close” mechanism
  • Don’t wear the pen behind your ear or in a pocket protector
  • Don’t forget your pen and ask the interviewer if you can borrow theirs

Good luck on the interview and remember to use your pen to send a thoughtful thank you note within 24 hours of the interview.



Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Sagar Lekhwar says

    Very informative! I would like to know more on use of ink colors to be used on workstation. Especially when you are the signing authority & have to sign different types of Statutory documents as approver & recommender. Use of Black & Blue ink is very common but often seen use of ‘Green’ in offices those are signing documents as approval (especially govt. Documents). Suggestions?


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