What to Bring to an Interview: Checklist & Advice

A new job can change your life. Perhaps this is why we dread interviews so much – the stakes are high and it all depends on how we handle the situation. That being said, it’s not just your résumé and your attitude that can land you a great job, it’s also what you bring with you. Keep reading to learn which items you should bring with you to your next interview.

Before we begin, I want to highlight three important things you should do prior to your interview:

1) Drive to the building the day before. It’s extremely important to be on time (or even a little early). Punctuality (or lack thereof) can make a big impression on your boss-to-be.

Traffic and parking can be considerable roadblocks to your schedule, so make sure to be prepared. 

2) Write down the name of the person who invited you. Some offices can be hard to find, and you don’t want to have to get out your phone and look through your emails to find the person’s name or office number. Even better, print out the email and bring it with you.

3) Do your homework. Prior to each interview (some would argue prior to applying), you should research the company. Learn about your prospective employer and find out what the company stands for and what they have been up to lately.

This knowledge will enable you to have a comfortable and intelligent conversation with your interviewer(s), who will more easily be able to imagine you in the job.

What should I bring to an interview?

interviewProfessional Notepad (not a tablet)

Many people have dropped paper and pencil for tablets these days, but writing on a paper notepad is a far more traditional and respected behavior than looking down at a screen.

Your notepad is the optimal place to keep much of the information described below, but be careful of having too many papers that could make a mess or become disorganized.

I. Questions

Interviews aren’t just about answering questions; they’re also about asking questions. As soon as you’ve received an invite, start brainstorming about the questions you want to ask your interviewer. Write them on your notepad.

It’s okay if you have too many questions – chances are, you won’t have time to ask all of them anyway. Put your favorites at the top of the list and ask those first.

II. Story Reminders

Most interviewers will ask you to tell them a story. “Describe a time when…” is one of the most common and most dreaded questions of any interview. Instead of spending valuable time wracking your brain for a real (or imagined) scenario, write down a list of story reminders and bring it with you. Use only real stories – bosses can tell when you’re lying.

A Single Bag

479xNxdreamstime_xs_22335062.jpg.pagespeed.ic.-aQ2zpN-pcStick to one bag to evoke an organized appearance (ladies, leave the purse in the car). Stay organized by storing your notepad and other essentials in a briefcase or portfolio.

In it, you can also store your calendar, pens, samples of previous work, business cards, and other key items. Speaking of pens, bring two just in case one stops working.

Click here to learn more about the best portfolios for interviews. 

I. Calendar

I prefer to carry a paper agenda, but many people utilize their smartphones to keep track of important times and dates. It’s okay to use your phone as your calendar, but be sure to keep it on silent. If you keep a paper planner, bring it to the interview in your portfolio.

II. Business Cards

Make sure you have a few business cards in your portfolio whenever you head to an interview. Trade business cards with all of your interviewers.

III. Résumé & References

You might assume that your interviewer has thoroughly studied your résumé before asking to meet you, but more often than not he or she has only skimmed it. Bring a few copies of your résumé to hand out at the start of the interview (and keep a copy in front of you for reference).

In regards to your résumé, be sure to tailor it to the specific company to which you are applying. 

In your portfolio should also be a list of references (along with any cover letters you may have been asked to bring) and their contact info.

Click here if you have a big gap in your job history. 

A Smile

This may be a given, but entering the room with a smile creates instant rapport. Interviewers are sometimes just as nervous as the interviewee (they don’t want to be responsible for a bad hiring decision that ends up hurting the company) and flashing a smile will set them at ease.

Water

A bottle of water can be your saving grace if you experience a tickle in your throat or a dry mouth. You can even buy a few seconds of time to think by taking a swig.

Toting water instead of soda also shows that you care about your health – something that is becoming increasingly more important to employers as the cost of health insurance continues to rise.

Clothing (this is a big one!)

what-to-wear-to-an-interview-for-womenYour interviewer will start forming impressions about you as soon as you walk in the door. Before you sit down and start to talk, he or she will take note of your hygiene (pop a mint beforehand, but don’t walk in chewing gum) and clothing.

In general, make sure your makeup, hair, attire, and jewelry is not over-the-top our outdated. Stay away from bright colors and patterns. Remember, the focus is on what you say, not on what you wear.

For traditional interviews in industries like accounting and finance, business professional is appropriate. When it comes to shoes:

  • Men, make sure your shoes are shined or brushed.
  • Ladies, choose modest, close-toed shoes
  • Keep in mind that your interview may include a tour. Avoid shoes that are hard to walk in.

Men should wear a clean, pressed suit and women should choose a conservative suit with personality shown through jewelry or blouse choice. In industries like public relations, graphic design, and advertising, what you wear might depend on the individual company.

Many modern companies have made the shift to casual, but it’s always better to show up overdressed than underdressed. If you really aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask your employer-to-be about dress policy. If anything, such a question shows respect for their rules. 

An interview is 80% preparation and 20% execution.

nervous-about-investigation-interview1When it comes to interviews, preparation is key. With each item forgotten, your chances of getting the job decrease.

Your notebook and portfolio should be prepared the night before, so there really is no reason to forget anything. However, if you leave your briefcase in the car, I would say it’s better to risk being late than to show up empty handed.

Employers appreciate honestly. If you forget something, be honest, polite, and positive. It’s better to ask for pen and paper than to sit there empty-handed. 

If you forget to bring certain documents you need to answer specific questions (such as availability or references), assure your interviewer that you can respond via phone or email with the information as soon as you get home (make sure to thank your interviewer for his or her patience).

Click here if you’re getting ready for a college application interview.

Conclusion

We can all agree that the hardest part of landing any job is the interview. Did you know that your odds of scoring a job improve from about 1:100 to roughly 1:7 after you’ve been invited to an interview? That’s a pretty significant change.

The last thing you want to do is walk into an important interview empty-handed and unprepared. With the interview checklist above, you’re certain to have the necessary items and mentality to rock your next interview. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and stay confident.

Good luck!

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