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Getting through a job interview with confidence is all about preparation. That means conducting research, preparing insightful questions, and practicing answers to possible interview questions.
But what do you take with you to a job interview?
It’s not like you’re packing for a vacation. You only need a few items to help you feel more relaxed, comfortable, and better prepared during your upcoming appointment.
And with that, grab your favorite pen and paper, or pull up your computer screen—it’s time for list-making! Let’s delve into five things you should take to a job interview.
You Always Want to be Prepared for a Job Interview
With an unemployed population edging close to 6.5 million, jobs can be hard to find and even easier to lose.
Your interviewer is a human, too, not a robot. And it’s your job to connect and establish rapport with them. That calls for a firm handshake, genuine smile, eye contact, and a little banter.
But most candidates don’t realize they have plenty of options for “interview accessories.” Here, we’ll focus on the most important ones.
What Do You Take With You to a Job Interview? [These 5 Things]
Don’t be the person that shows up empty-handed. Below are the keys items to carry to an interview:
- 5 copies of your resume
- A padfolio and pen
- A hard copy of the job description
- A portfolio of your work
1. 5 copies of your resume printed on quality resume paper
Your resume is one of the most important things you can have when applying for a job — but it’s also one of the easiest to screw up.
If you want your resume to stand out, it must be in good shape. Your potential employer wants it readable and correctly formatted.
I recommend bringing five physical copies of your resume, especially if you’re interviewing with a panel. Furthermore, it’s easier to refer to a physical printout than to navigate a digital document on your phone or laptop.
Double-check that your resume is neat and up to date before printing out the copies.
Quality matters too!
Having a high-quality resume paper goes a long way toward establishing yourself as a professional who is serious about getting hired.
The best types of resume papers contain at least 75% cotton. It offers a pleasant and crisp, clean look that proves you mean business.
Good-quality, stark white paper is the standard for resumes. But ivory paper is an excellent choice for candidates looking for more sophistication and elegance. It works best with resumes that feature lighter shades of gray or blue in the design and any design elements on the page.
Another important criterion is the weight of your resume paper. Choose between 20, 24, and 32 lb in weight. The higher the number, the thicker and more durable your resume.
2. A padfolio & pen
In addition to copies of your résumé, consider bringing a padfolio and pen. It shows that you are prepared, organized, and professional.
The items will also come in handy if you need to make notes or write down questions as they pop into your head during the interview.
A padfolio is designed to hold writing pads and often includes compartments for documents. It’s a great place to stash your resume copies (and business cards gathered from interviewers). You can add any other documents relevant to the interview, such as letters of recommendation.
And because a padfolio can factor in your first impression, choose a high-quality one that looks professional.
3. A printout of the job description
A hard copy of the job description is an excellent tool for reminding yourself of your selling points — the skills, experience, education, and other qualities that make you a good candidate.
Go through the printout and highlight anything that matches your experience or skills. Next to each highlighted point, write down specific examples from your experience to back up your claim. That will help you structure your answers during the interview.
While waiting at the reception, review the document to jog your memory about the basics.
4. A portfolio of your work
It’s one thing to describe your work experience, but it’s even better to prove your abilities. One study revealed that 89% of hiring managers appreciate the opportunity to review a candidate’s online portfolio. And 71% of employers feel that portfolios are a valuable hiring tool.
For this reason, bring examples of previous work relevant to the open role. It’s especially crucial for creative roles such as graphic designers, web designers, and architecture. But any job seeker can benefit from having one on hand.
A portfolio can feature paid and unpaid work, but either choice should emphasize the relevant skills.
If you are interviewing for a financial analyst position, you could bring printouts of financial models you built or a report you wrote. If you’re a graphic designer, gather copies of past design projects that show off your range of work and skill level.
A sales role candidate could do with a list of customers they’ve closed and their contact information. Or, if you are applying to be an assistant teacher, bring your college transcripts that show your teaching experience or academic certificates.
Even if the interviewer doesn’t request samples during the appointment, offer them as an additional resource. That will make you stand out because few interview candidates in the business world bring a portfolio of their work to the interview.
5. Toiletry items you need
This doesn’t mean packing an entire suitcase of toiletries. Focus on the essentials, which may include:
- Tissues: There’s nothing worse than having a runny nose or watery eyes during an interview. Be prepared with a compact pack of tissues that fit your pocket or purse.
- Mouthwash: If your mouth feels dry or you have garlic breath from lunch, use this to freshen up before the interview begins.
- Chapstick: If your lips tend to chap or peel due to dry indoor air or talking too much, crack open a new chapstick to keep them looking fresh.
- Hand lotion: It’s a must-have item for individuals prone to dry hands.
- Antacid pills: There’s no point in having a great breath if your stomach is constantly growling and gurgling. Antacid tablets suffice to prevent such embarrassments.
- Deodorant: A quick spray underneath your arms can keep you feeling fresh throughout the day. Don’t overdo it, though.
Again, pack only toiletries to help you look and feel more fresh, confident, and professional. That can be based on your medical condition. For example, I always brought chapstick and tissues to interviews because my allergies were severe.
What Should You NOT Bring to an Interview?
Items that don’t belong in an interview include:
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Don’t get caught with bad breath during an interview! While it’s understandable to want to prepare for a job interview as much as possible, bringing mouthwash or mints is all you need.
Your phone can ring or buzz at the most inappropriate time, such as when your interviewer is talking. That can be distracting.
Don’t use a mobile device for note-taking, either. Your interviewer may feel you’re rude or assume you’re using the gadget for personal reasons, such as checking social media.
Your best bet is to turn the device off before the interview.
Bring some healthy snacks if you’re pressed for time or can’t sit down for a meal at home or an eatery. Avoid anything smelly such as tuna fish or garlic bread.
No gum chewing or crushing mints during interviews either! Also, keep drinks to a minimum to prevent constant rushes to the washroom.
Excessive jewelry and makeup
Interviews are not fashion shows, so keep your jewelry modest and take it easy on the makeup. Especially if you’re interviewing for a role in a more conservative industry, less is more for accessories and cosmetics.
Listening to music while commuting or waiting might seem like a good idea, but remember that you need to make a great first impression when you step into the company’s office. So, leave your headphones at home — or in your car.
Salary requirements or benefits
It’s OK to expect a specific salary and benefits package, but don’t raise these issues unless the interviewer does. You want to impress them with your skills and experience more than anything else.
If they ask about your salary expectations, provide a range rather than a specific number.
A bad attitude
An interviewer can tell when a candidate has a chip on their shoulder or feels like they are doing them a favor by coming in. Bad attitude and disinterest can manifest in slouching, chewing gum, zero eye contact, and yawning.
Yes, I know some jobs may seem uninteresting. But showing enthusiasm and excitement about the opportunity could be your ticket to outperforming your competition.
There you have it—five things to carry to a job interview.
Whether you’re beginning your job search or your next round of job interviews is on the horizon, these items can help you feel more confident and prepared for whatever comes your way during the appointment.
One final thing:
Don’t leave the appointment without your interviewers’ business cards (your padfolio has room for them). You’ll need the contact details to follow up on the interview. Consider that 80% of job openings are filled internally via mutual connections.
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