You’ve undoubtedly spent plenty of time thinking about what you’ll wear to your upcoming interview or how you’ll answer tough questions, but what you bring to an interview matters just as much. Coming prepared with the right set of materials will help you convey a professional appearance and ensure your interview is poised for a successful outcome.
Here is a comprehensive list of what to bring to an interview–and what you absolutely shouldn’t bring–in a moment, but first, let’s address why planning in advance is an important aspect of your job interview.
Preparing for your interview matters
It’s easy to get caught up rehearsing the perfect answer to questions like “what’s your biggest strength?” or “why are you the right fit for the job?” After all, a clumsy response to one of these questions would make a bad impression. But there are other things that could reflect poorly on you before an answer even leaves your lips.
Your interviewer or interviewers will begin assessing your candidacy from the moment they first see you. It may not even be intentional; it’s human nature to judge a book by its cover. Research has shown that in all kinds of situations, from social gatherings to shopping for a car, our unconscious mind makes assumptions about the people we’re interacting with based on the impression we get within the first few seconds of meeting them. If that impression is a negative one, it takes between six and eight additional meetings that are made up of positive interactions to undo it!
So, walking into an interview with a friendly smile, a presentable outfit and a neatly organized briefcase will put you leaps and bounds ahead of someone who walks in with a worn-out backpack and rumpled clothing. What you bring to an interview is a major part of how you present yourself, and it matters more than you might think in helping interviewers assess you positively.
What should I bring with me?
1. Copies of your resume and cover letter
Though you probably submitted these documents digitally when you applied, don’t assume that your interviewer will have printed them out or will remember your specific details from the many applications they’ve received. It’s still best practice to come prepared with printed copies of your resume and cover letter. Three to five copies is a good number to have.
2. Notebook and pen
We highly recommend coming prepared with paper and a writing utensil to take notes. You can also use the notebook ahead of time to jot down the major talking points you want to hit on and keep them handy during your interview, as well as compiling a few questions for the hiring manager.
3. List of questions
Most interviews wrap up with a chance for the interviewee to ask a few questions of their own. This is a chance for you to gather information, but this part of the interview is also one more component the hiring manager is assessing you on. Instead of winging it, prepare some well-thought-out questions that reinforce your interest in the position and company and have them ready to go in your notebook.
4. List of references
Most jobs ask for at least three professional references. Make getting in touch with those references convenient for the hiring manager by including them alongside the resume and cover letter you provide.
5. Folder or organizer
Assemble all of the above items neatly in a clean folder or binder. This will prevent you from having to shuffle through an unwieldy stack of papers and ensure the documents you’re handing over are crisp and clean.
6. Bottle of water
You never know when a scratchy throat might strike. Banish the frog in your throat and ward off dry mouth by having a bottle of water handy.
Some employers may ask for ID to enter the premises, so have your driver’s license or other current identification easily accessible.
8. A few dollars in cash and coins
Whether it’s a parking meter, a highway toll, or a chip error with your debit card, there are all kinds of little things that can trip you up on your way to your interview. It’s always a good idea to have a few bucks on hand in case you run into one of these situations.
9. Hard copies of your portfolio (if applicable)
If the job is one that requires a portfolio, like a web developer or interior designer, bring physical copies of that, too. This is not only a courtesy to your interviewer but will give you something tangible to reference if you’re talking about a specific project during one of your interview answers. It’s easier for your interviewer to grasp what you’re talking about when it’s right there in front of them.
10. A smile!
The majority of first impressions come from nonverbal cues. Put your best foot forward with a warm expression at the start of your interaction.
What not to bring
1. Chewing gum
You might be tempted to pop in a piece to make your breath minty fresh, but you risk forgetting to spit it out before you walk into the interview, and chewing gum in a professional setting is a major no-no. Instead, opt for a small mint that will be gone by go-time.
Are we suggesting you skip your morning caffeine fix on such an important day? Of course not. However, the potential for spills is high when you take your cup of joe on the go. Instead of bringing coffee with you to an interview, enjoy it at the coffee shop or at home before you walk out the door.
Fueling up with a protein-rich meal or snack before an interview is a great idea to keep your mind sharp. Bringing munchies with you to your interview, however, is not such a bright idea.
Finding reliable childcare is tough, and most parents would be sympathetic to the challenge. However, in most circumstances, you should do whatever you can to avoid bringing kids to an interview or reschedule it for another day.
5. Other people
Spouses, parents–you’d be surprised by the stories we’ve heard about the unexpected guests candidates have brought to interviews. This is never a good idea and can reflect poorly on your abilities as an independent, capable worker. If you get a ride from a friend or partner, ask them to wait outside until your interview is complete.
By taking a little time to reflect on what you’ll bring to your interview, you’ll have everything you need (and nothing you don’t) to nail it and land the job.
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