What To Bring To An Interview

By David Luther - Mar. 9, 2021
Articles In Guide

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Articles In Guide

You scored that big interview – congratulations!

But now the question is: what do you bring to the interview – other than your bountiful charisma and winning smile. Fortunately, we can save you some frantic internet searching with these simple tips.

The hardest part was getting the interview. Your chances of getting the position are already much better – from about one in a hundred applicants to one in seven.

And remember this: you are directly competing with others at this point. Assume that your biggest competitor will bring all of these things.

We’ll cover exactly what to bring to an interview to maximize your chances of success, and give advice on other items that you’re better off not bringing.

What to Bring to an Interview

  1. A padfolio. We get this question a lot in some form or the other:

    Tomorrow I’m just going to have this portfolio with me and I would like to know what to do with it. Do I simply put some sheets of paper, a couple of pens, and a copy of my resume in it? When I get there do I just leave it closed on the desk? Am I supposed to be taking notes or writing in it? Or is it merely for people to think “Wow this kid has a nice-looking folder — he must be professional?”

    I feel that this is essential. A padfolio is basically a fancy folder with a notepad in it, and it’s going to be where you keep most of the things on this list. It keeps your items organized and gives off a professional vibe.

    It doesn’t need to be super fancy – think $20 from Amazon. Aim for a neutral color and keep logos to a minimum.

    This is your home base, and the rest of this article will tell you what to keep in it.

  2. Pens. Bring two, just in case your first one doesn’t work for whatever reason. Go for black or blue, and try to get nicer ones. Leave the ones with unicorns on them at home.

    You’re going to hear a lot of new information, and the best way to remember it all is to write it down as you go. Just be sure you ask the interviewer before you start taking notes as a sign of respect (they’ll always say yes).

    Don’t spend too much time writing, but keep short-form notes to refresh your memory after the interview and help keep your questions straight for the end of the interview.

  3. Copies of your resume. While your interviewer has probably read your resume, there’s no guarantee that they remember it. Bringing several copies ensures that there will be enough for all of your interviewers.

    Also, you’ll have one to glance at from time to time. This will help you remember what they’re referring to when they ask you questions.

  4. Business cards if you have them. If you don’t have any, that’s ok – it’s just a bit of business etiquette to exchange business cards when possible.

    Don’t be awkward about it, but try to get one from each interviewer. You’re going to want to follow up with a thank-you email, and this facilitates that. Most padfolios have pockets for business cards already.

  5. A notepad/cheat sheet. You might be cooler than the other side of the pillow in most situations, but the best of us get nervous in interviews.

    The notepad in your padfolio serves as the ideal cheat sheet to keep you on track and remember the key points you want to make. Just remember, you’re not reading a script.

    Instead, jot down bullet-points of ideas you don’t want to forget to mention. That way, you can make sure you’re singing your greatest hits without leaving anything out.

  6. Company research. You’ve probably done your research on the company before this stage – if not, stop reading this and go learn a thing or two about the place where you plan to spend forty hours a week.

    Jot down some recent news stories, company facts, and anything else you can find from a bit of research. They make for good conversation points.

  7. Questions for your interviewer.Do you have any questions for me?”

    Even if the only question that you can come up with is, “what are the next stages of the hiring process?” – ask it.

    This is like the non-optional “optional statement” on college applications, so come up with your questions and write in your padfolio as prompts.

    By all means, bring a list of preconceived questions for your interviewer, but be aware that some of your questions may be answered in the course of the interview. If you can think of tweaks to your original questions or whole new questions during the interview, jot down reminders for them.

    Also, don’t feel pressured to save all of your questions for the very end of the interview. The whole conversation will feel much more natural and less like an interrogation if you weave in relevant questions at the appropriate time.

  8. Some brag stories and key points. Brag stories are basically examples you have to back up your resume claims. It might feel uncomfortable to extol all of your virtues, but you need to remember that your interviewer is looking for a reason to hire you over other candidates.

    They double as reminders for the answers you’ve prepared for common interview questions – make some quick notes on the front page of your notepad that serve as reminders for stories to roll into.

    You’ll want to avoid using “I am”. Instead, say what you “have done”:

    • Don’t say: I am good at project management.

    • Do say: I’ve performed well in circumstances that demand project management skills, such as…

    As for what you should brag about, it’s basically any story about your accomplishments that illustrates some of the things you want them to know. Consider these talking points:

    • Have you streamlined a process and saved money? How much?

    • Do you have any achievements of note that you intend to repeat in this new position? Which ones?

    • Did you take any projects from inception to fruition? Did they add any value?

    Behavioral interview questions are common, and the STAR method is the best practice for approaching your answer. Luckily, the STAR method (situation, task, action, result) is all about organizing your stories into coherent narratives that hiring managers and recruiters can appreciate.

  9. Practice your delivery. You’ve probably already worked on your elevator speech, but you should also get yourself comfortable with smoothly handing over some of these supporting documents as you finish up the pleasantries and get down to business.

    Your interviewer may already have your resume in front of them, but it’s a nice touch to provide them with a copy anyway. You’ll also want to prepare a copy of your supporting materials to hand them too, to back up what you’re referencing as you talk.

    Practice introducing these materials and describing the contents concisely and accurately.

  10. A portfolio of your work. The other candidate brought her resume and references. You can do better than that. Look prepared, support your claims and show your interviewers why you’re the best candidate for the position by backing up your claims with:

    • Examples of your past work if you’ve got them, like writing samples, presentations, and anything else that shows them what they can expect from you.

    • Any accolades, certificates of achievement, and performance reviews.

    • Letters of recommendation from former superiors, and even printouts of your LinkedIn recommendations.

    Just don’t overdo it; keep this section to a couple of pages. And unlike the other items, these might be better to provide as you’re discussing them in the interview. You can also tailor your portfolio depending on the job you’re interviewing for.

    If you don’t bring a portfolio of your work to the interview, but reference it a lot in the course of the conversation, you can also attach it to your follow-up email to the interviewer.

  11. Work references, especially if you haven’t already given any. There’s no telling exactly how far along you are in the vetting process, so if they haven’t asked for them yet they may do it here. This will help you avoid rummaging through your phone to get them and make you look more organized.

    Make sure you’ve talked to your references about your job search already, and try to make contacting them as easy as possible for your employer. Basically, include the contact information your references have listed on their business cards.

  12. Breath fresheners. Bring mints, gum, or whatever you use to make your breath smell nice. You don’t want that raw onion you had for lunch ruining your chances at a good first impression.

    Just don’t be chewing gum as you walk into the interview room itself. It’s a pet peeve for a lot of people, and it looks super unprofessional.

  13. Emergency items. Things like deodorant, cash, a phone charger, make-up, a stain stick, and even a back-up outfit can set your mind at ease. They’re all items you’re unlikely to need, but will be incredibly grateful you have if an unfortunate situation arises.

  14. Logistical items. We keep most information digital these days, but it’s not a bad idea to keep a physical copy just in case. Things like the company’s address, the hiring manager’s name and position, travel directions, and parking/entry information are all important.

    Additionally, it’s a good idea to bring some form of identification, as some employers might request it.

  15. Your phone. Obviously you’re bringing your phone. Just make sure it’s turned off or on silent before you begin your interview.

What Not to Bring to an Interview

If you’ve gone through the above checklist and ticked all the boxes, you’re in good shape. Just make sure you don’t bring any of the following items to your job interview:

  1. Food. If you’re going to breakfast or lunch before your interview, choose a light meal that has a low chance of accidentally staining your clothes (skip the spaghetti). Even if you can’t finish your meal, don’t bring a doggy bag with you to the interview. It’s not a good look.

  2. A drink. We know you need your morning coffee, but leave the drink in the car. It’s one more thing to hold awkwardly, worry about, and possibly spill on yourself. On the other hand, if the interviewer or another company representative offers you a drink, be polite and accept it.

  3. Pungent smells. A little cologne or perfume is perfectly fine, but don’t over-do it. Also, freshen that breath if you had a particularly stinky meal beforehand.

  4. Too many piercings. We hate to cut into your self-expression, but an unfortunate fact of life is that facial piercings beyond the ears make a lot of people uncomfortable. A side note to this tip is to take it easy with the jewelry. It can distract your inteviewer and make your overall look too busy.

  5. A hat. Come on.

  6. Gum. Yes, you can chew gum right before your interview. No, you should not have it in your mouth when you enter the interview room (or even the building). Same goes for mints, candies, and other little snacks.

  7. A phone with sound on. Silence that phone of yours, or turn it off completely.

  8. Unkempt clothing. You should aim to put an outfit together that matches the company’s culture. But above all, make sure your clothes are clean, fit you well, and are stain-free.

  9. Your parents. Apparently, some people think this is okay. Even if you’re a high schooler applying for your first job and your mom drove you to the interview, make sure she stays in the car (or goes and does something else — just please, for the love of god, don’t bring your mom into the interview).

Final Thoughts

Interviews can be anxiety-inducing, but relax a little and remember that you’re just speaking to a person. Clear your mind and focus on the person you’re talking to – then again, now that you’ve prepped your padfolio, you won’t have to remember as much.

Now go out there and crush it – and if you need a refresher course on how to handle that interview, take a look at the most common interview questions and strategies for answering them.

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Author

David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He developed partnerships with external reporting agencies in addition to generating original research and reporting for the Zippia Career Advice blog. David obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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