10 things you should always bring to a job interview—and 5 things you should leave behind
Don’t show up empty-handed. Use this checklist to make sure you know what to bring to an interview.
Don't show up at your next job interview empty handed.
Picture this nightmare: You walk into an interview for your dream job, shake hands with the hiring manager, sit down, and then realize you’ve arrived completely empty-handed. We’re talking no copies of your resume, no pen and paper for notes—heck, it’s a miracle you remembered to put on deodorant!
Unfortunately, your lack of preparation may have just cost you your dream job.
To prevent something like this from happening, you should start preparing for your interview as soon as a company gets in touch with you about your candidacy. Use this comprehensive checklist to make sure you have everything you need to make a good first impression in the job interview. This way you'll show up prepared 100% of the time.
What to bring to an interview
We’re about to outline a significant amount of paperwork you need to bring to a job interview, so first things first, you’ll want to have a folder where you can neatly store these documents.
This simple act also shows you’re organized, says Denver-based millennial career coach Jenn DeWall, which is a soft skill many employers look for in candidates.
2. Several copies of your resume
You most likely already submitted your resume when you applied for the job, but don’t assume the interviewer will have a copy of it on hand. “Hiring managers get busy and sometimes forget to print out your resume,” DeWall says.
Why bring multiple copies? “You never know how many employees you’re going to be meeting with,” says Rachel Loock, a career coach at the University of Maryland. “It’s rare you only meet with [the hiring manager].”
3. Business cards
Although your resume should include your contact information, and business cards may seem old school, it can’t hurt to bring them with you, says millennial career coach Anastasia Button. They’re easy to carry, and “you never know if someone is going to ask for one,” Button says. It’s always better to have a few handy, just in case.
4. Portfolio/work samples
If you’re in a creative industry—like advertising, journalism, graphic design, architecture, or fashion—you should bring samples of your work that you can give to the interviewer. "Offer to send your full portfolio electronically later on," Button says.
Depending on what you do, you may also want to have a sheet that showcases positive feedback you’ve received from past clients on your work.
If the interview goes well—better yet, when the interview goes well, the hiring manager might ask you for references on the spot, so you should have a list prepared with their contact information.
Theoretically, you could just email the interviewer this information when you get home, but DeWall says that’s a bad approach. “You want to make sure you give the company everything they need to move forward with the hiring process as quickly as possible,” she explains.
6. Pen and notepad
Taking a few notes during your interview can be beneficial for a few reasons. For one, it shows you’re actively listening to the interviewer and engaged in the conversation, while also ensuring you won’t forget important details about the job. Moreover, “you can refer to your notes, later on, to send the interviewer a personalized thank-you email,” Loock says.
Just make sure you ask the interviewer for permission before taking notes, and “don’t take so many notes that you’re not making eye contact,” Loock says.
Pro tip: Bring several pens with you in case your favorite one runs out of ink, DeWall says.
To show you’re genuinely interested in the job, you should have questions for the hiring manager prepared in advance that demonstrate your understanding of the company’s core values, challenges, and culture. Here are a few questions that will help you assess those key points:
- How does the company define and measure success?
- What’s the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?
- What do you do to encourage camaraderie and collaboration among co-workers?
- How do managers provide feedback to employees?
8. Talking points
Job interviews are nerve-wracking. One way to reduce stress before the interview and build confidence is to jog your memory by looking at notes of things you want to mention during the interview, such as specific skills or anecdotes that highlight your strengths. DeWall recommends creating a “great list”—a short summary of your accomplishments, organized by skill set—that you can review before you walk into the interview. These achievements should be tied to the job responsibilities, DeWall says. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a management position, you’d want to mention the last project you oversaw and describe how you exceeded expectations.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning, Button says. You may need to provide photo ID to enter the building, so check with the employer beforehand to find out what the building’s security requirements are. The security guard may ask you the company you’re visiting, the name of the person you’re meeting with, and what floor they’re on. Confirm all of that information when you set up the interview, so you aren’t fumbling in the lobby before your big meeting.
10. A smile
It’s time to show off those pearly whites! Before you cringe, consider the benefits of arriving with a positive attitude: “Smiling sounds corny, but employers want to see that you’re enthusiastic and excited about the position,” Loock says.
What NOT to bring to an interview
Put simply: Don’t bring anything that could potentially distract you or the interviewer, Button says. This includes:
Also, make sure to put your phone on silent or leave it in your car. “You don’t want to have your attention diverted, even if it’s just for a second,” Loock says.
Now that you know what to bring to the interview, do you know what to wear, and what to do when the interview is over? Become a Monster member and get all the career and job hunting advice you'll need to score the job of your dreams. Plus you can upload your resume for recruiters to find you.
What to Bring to a Job Interview
What should you bring to a job interview? It's important to enter an interview prepared with everything you physically and mentally need, organized and ready to go. There are also some things that you shouldn't walk into an interview with.
What to Bring to an Interview
Directions. If you're not sure where you're going, bring directions and any instructions the hiring manager may have given you. If you have an email confirmation of the appointment, bring that too.
If you can, do a test drive to the location to see how long the drive is, you do not want to be late. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early.
Identification. If the building has security, you may be asked to show identification, or you may need it to complete a job application. Bring your driver's license or another form of identification with you.
Notepad and Pen. There is nothing worse than searching for a pen or asking to borrow a pen, during the interview, so make sure to bring your own. Also bring a notepad so you can jot down names, company information, or questions you come up during the interview. Bringing a pen and notepad shows you came to the interview prepared.
Names of Contacts. Write down the name of the person you're interviewing with on your notepad. It can be easy to forget a name, and you don't want to be embarrassed. Also bring the name of the person who arranged the interview, if it's a different person.
List of Questions to Ask. Have a list of questions to ask the interviewer when they ask you at the end if you have any questions for them. You will be thankful you prepared some questions ahead of time, sometimes trying to come up with a meaningful question off the top of your head can be challenging and stressful.
Extra Copies of Your Resume. Bring several copies of your resume to give out upon request. Your resume will also give you the details, like dates of previous employment, which you may need if you have to fill out a paper job application.
Reference List. Bring a printed list of references to give to the hiring manager. Include at least three professional references and their contact information. Choose references that can attest to your ability to perform the job you are applying for.
Work Samples. Depending on the type of job you're interviewing for, you may need to bring samples of your work. If they don't lend themselves to print, consider bringing your iPad or laptop.
A Portfolio. A portfolio is a great way to package all the items you're bringing with you to the interview in a neat and orderly fashion. That way, you're organized, and everything you need will be readily accessible.
What Not to Bring to a Job Interview
What you shouldn't bring to a job interview is important. Believe it or not, there are stories of applicants for internships and entry-level jobs bringing their mom or dad to the interview! Don't do it. It is both awkward and unprofessional to have a third party in the room.
In fact, it will probably cost you a job offer. You need to be able to interview on your own merits, and the company wants to interview you, not your parent.
Some other interview don’ts:
Don’t chew gum or suck on candy. Throw out the gum or candy before you enter the office.
Don’t carry in your morning coffee or protein shake.
Don’t walk into the office talking on your phone or texting. Turn off your phone or ringer before you walk into the building.
Don’t wear a hat or cap, leave it at home.
Don’t overwhelm the interviewer with your piercings or tattoos. If you have a lot of piercings or earrings, take out a majority of them, so they aren’t a distraction (one pair of earrings, is a good rule). Do your best to cover your tattoos.
Don’t put on any strong perfumes or colognes; you never know if someone is allergic in the office.
Don't bring your parents! Leave your parent(s), friends or anyone else at home or in the car, if you needed a ride.
Mentally Prepare For Weird Questions
The interviewer may ask questions that may be a little quirky, depending on the company. Questions off topic like, “If you could be a superhero, what would be your super power?” Researching some possible weird questions and thinking about them ahead of time can be a real advantage for you.
Know What to Expect
In addition to knowing what to bring, and what not to bring, it's also a good idea to get a refresher on what may take place during the interview process.
Here's an overview of how job interviews work.
Suggested Reading:Job Interview Questions and Answers | 25 Things Never to Say During a Job Interview (and Why)