What You Need to Bring to an Interview

The essentials to remember to take with you on the big day.

David Lutherby David LutherGet The Job, Guides - 1 year ago

You scored that big interview – congratulations! Your parents and I are super proud of you.

But now the question is: what do you bring to the interview – like, other than your bountiful charisma and winning smile. Fortunately, I 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 – let’s call her Denise – has all of these things.

I hate Denise. This is how you’re going to beat Denise.

By now, I’m sure you’re ready to throat-punch the next person who tells you to “be prepared.” Instead, I’m going to give you tips on how to get your shit together – the tangible preparations you can make leading up to the interview.

But first, the worst interview joke anyone ever told me

Guy goes into an interview for a journalism job that he’s very qualified for. The interviewing assistant editor goes, “Got a pen?”

Guy says, “No.” The rest of the interview goes well, and the assistant editor says he’d be a great fit.

Two weeks later, no news. So he calls up the newspaper office. Interviewer says, “The managing editor didn’t want to hire anyone who isn’t prepared. So, no news.”

It’s the worst one I’ve ever heard for two reasons. First, because it actually happened to me in my first big interview – the one for the job that was supposed to change my life – and second because I just don’t think puns are that funny.

The trouble started almost immediately when she asked for a pen. I handed her a copy of my resume and she asked for a pen to take notes, but I didn’t have one at all.

It was clearly a test, because she had a couple on her desk. I didn’t get the job, because interviewers look for reasons you stand out – good and bad.

As it turns out, someone named Denise did have a pen.

So, bring pens

Bring two, just in case you encounter a similar situation or your first one doesn’t work. Go for black or blue, and try to get nicer ones. Leave the ones with unicorns on them at home.

Denise will have them, so keep one in your padfolio and one in your pocket.

About that 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.

Also, it’s your security blanket, like it was for Jack here who got his investment banking job:

I had an interview with a boutique ibank today and I just kept it in front of me on the table. I’d imagine that if I didn’t have it I might have felt a little naked or more insecure cause the recruiters had a couple of folders and it would have made me look weaker in a sense.

It’s something to clutch when you’re scared, and something to smack the interviewer over the head with if you get really scared and need to flee.

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

Bring 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.

Bring business cards if you’ve got 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, and this facilitates that. Most padfolios have pockets for business cards already, ten points for padfolios!

Use that notepad as a 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. You’ll want to make use of it like this College Confidential reader did:

I had five copies of my resume, the cover letter I submitted, a quick fact sheet about the company (just in case I forgot before the interview), and a page that had the key points I wanted to get across in bullet form. Also they asked me 3-4 brainteasers or math problems, so the attached notebook thing that mine had paid off. Lastly, mine has a cardholder too, which was useful I guess. I bought it at Staples for about $20.

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.

Questions for your interviewer

Do you have any questions for me?”

Even if the only question that you can come up with is, “Do you provide employees with toilet paper or are we responsible for our own?” – 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.

Jot down 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 Denise.

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 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?

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.

Proof: your collateral materials

Denise 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.

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.

And now that your shit is officially together…

Don’t forget to bring your smile 🙂

No, I’m being serious 🙁

Relax a little and remember that you’re 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 – wreck Denise’s hopes for the dream job – and if you need a refresher course on how to handle that interview, take a look at these interview questions.

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