So you’ve earned the opportunity to interview for a position that interests you, and you’re inching closer to landing the gig. Congratulations!
But how do you know what to bring to a job interview? You’ve likely prepared so many materials during your job search that it’s hard to know what to take and what to leave behind.
Fortunately, this guide goes over everything you need.
What to Bring to an Interview
Most people will spend weeks preparing for the interview, researching the company, going through mock interviews with friends, and developing memorable answers for some of the most common questions. The lead-up to the meeting is often the most nerve-wracking park. In fact, it’s common to become so frazzled that you forget what to bring to an interview.
Here are a few must-have things you can’t leave at home.
1. Something to Take Notes
You’ll learn a surprising amount of information during your interview. Most people think these meetings are nothing more than a way for hiring managers to see if you’re worthy of a job offer. While that’s a big part of it, the exchange of information goes both ways!
That’s why one of the most important items to bring to a job interview is something to take notes with. This will ensure that you stay on track and remember every important detail. From information about your day-to-day to details on what they expect from new hires in their first 90 days, this is all worth jotting down.
Bringing a simple notepad and some writing utensils is all you need. Take a few pens or pencils with you, just in case. You won’t have many opportunities to sharpen a broken pencil or search in your bag for a new pen if one runs out, so have an extra on hand.
When you start taking notes, be respectful about it. Ask the interviewer if it’s acceptable to do so (it almost always is). Then, don’t look down at your notepad for more than a few seconds. Maintain firm eye contact and use your body language to show the interviewer that you’re actively listening.
2. Reference List
Your interviewer may or may not ask for a reference list. Contrary to popular belief, making this request is not an indication of your chances of getting a job offer. It all depends on how the hiring manager operates.
Some make it a requirement and will give you plenty of notice to include a source of references on your list of what to bring to the interview. Others won’t ask for one at any point, and some will only request it at the end of your interview. You never know when you’ll get asked for references, so you should always bring this list to the interview to be safe.
A reference list includes the names and contact information of people who can vouch for your skills and qualifications. That could include former colleagues, old managers, community leaders, etc. Don’t put family and friends. Most hiring managers will not contact them, anyways.
It’s common courtesy to ask people if it’s alright to include them before crafting your list. Hiring managers may call these individuals to learn more about you and your past. It’s a form of due diligence.
Compile a list of people who can give you glowing reviews. Provide their names, organizations, departments, titles, phone numbers, and email addresses on your reference list. It’s also a good idea to write a small blurb about how you know them and why they’re on the list.
Then, make sure you take a few copies to the interview. You’ll have it ready when or if the interviewer asks to see it!
3. Performance Portfolio
When you’re thinking about what to bring to an interview, a performance portfolio is easy to miss. A performance portfolio is a great way to illustrate your capabilities. Instead of relying on hearsay, you can provide concrete evidence and examples of what you can do.
Of course, many careers naturally lend themselves to helping you develop in-depth portfolios full of past work. It’s a good idea to bring some kind of portfolio if you’re in graphic design, journalism, architecture, or any other industry that requires you to produce creative works. These jobs often hinge on hiring managers reviewing what you’ve done in the past.
They’re not just looking to see if you’re skilled. Hiring managers check if your work style fits the organization’s needs. Keep your portfolio well-organized and choose the most convenient medium to view.
For digital work, you can keep everything on a flash drive or email a link to your website. Keep everything organized in a binder for easy display if you’re physically bringing anything to the job interview.
But remember, you don’t have to be a creative professional to have a performance portfolio to take with you. Create a small binder with reports that show off relevant information for your industry. You can include sales reports, performance reviews, awards, and more.
Think of your portfolio as an opportunity to show your stuff. Fill it with whatever shows off your skills and qualifications.
4. Your Phone
Don’t forget to bring your phone!
Smartphones have become such an indispensable part of modern living that most of us shudder at the thought of going without one for a full day. Don’t worry: This isn’t the early 2000s, and interviewers don’t expect you to be phone-free. However, they do expect you to have proper phone etiquette.
That means your device should be on silent the entire time. Turn off notifications and alarms to ensure your device won’t make a peep during your interview. It’s also wise to keep it in your bag or pocket. An out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach is best.
So why bring your phone to a job interview at all?
Not only is it a vital lifeline, but it may hold many critical documents. Many tech-savvy individuals like to keep their phones connected to cloud storage, where they can quickly bring up documents as requested. Not only that, but you can use it for last-minute directions to the interview location if you hit a snag on the way!
5. Questions You Want to Ask
Nothing impresses hiring managers more than an applicant who has a list of meaningful questions to ask. In fact, many interviews end with an opportunity for you to ask questions. It’s your time to learn more about the organization, clarify confusing details, inquire about your day-to-day, and more.
Asking questions is an excellent way to show your enthusiasm. It also indicates that you’re serious about the job and have done your research.
Before heading into your interview, sit down and develop a list of questions. Write them down and refer back to the list frequently as you practice for your interview. Your list will likely evolve as you learn more about the company but always keep an updated copy nearby to study.
Here’s the thing about asking questions: Most experts recommend taking time to develop a list of things you want to ask ahead of time, but you don’t want to look like you are reading from your list as you ask your questions. The goal is to come off organic and in the moment, but you can even save these questions for the end of the interview if you want.
That’s where this is a bit different than the other things you should bring to an interview. Bring your list of questions with you, but bring them in your head! If you struggle with memorizing, it’s not the end of the world if you need to bring a physical list of questions, but try your best to study and know them by heart.
6. Copies of Your Resume
We know what you’re thinking: You’ve submitted your resume multiple times at this point. Why bring extra copies?
It’s true that interviewers and hiring managers already have your resume. Most will have it in front of them as they interview you. But you may encounter situations where you need extras.
For example, the interviewer might ask you about specific details in the resume. Unless you have this document fully memorized, it pays to have a copy for yourself to reference.
Another example is meeting others on the team. During the interview, you might get an introduction to high-level executives, managers, and other important people who might have a say in getting hired. In that case, it might be handy to have resumes to hand out!
Best practices say that you should take at least five printed copies to the interview. Keep them safe in a rigid folder to prevent them from getting crumpled.
When going over your list of what to bring to an interview, it’s wise to include your photo ID.
If you’re like most people, you probably bring your ID everywhere. But if, for whatever reason, you’re thinking of leaving it behind, please reconsider.
There are a few reasons why.
The biggest is getting into the building. Many offices have security measures in place to keep employees protected. You might have to sign in at the front, which may require a photo ID and name tag. The last thing you want is to get turned away at the entrance because you don’t have an ID!
The hiring manager may request the ID, too. What if you get a job offer on the spot, and the HR department wants to get a head start processing your information? You’ll likely have to return with other supporting documents, but you can provide a copy of your ID to get started.
You never know what will happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
8. Business Cards
Business cards can seem a bit old school, but they’re still relevant today. Not every position requires the use of business cards, but if you’re applying for any professional job, it might not be a bad idea to have some on hand.
The reason for having these cards goes back to why you need multiple copies of your resume. You never know who you’ll meet! You might get an introduction to a higher-up in the company, or you may even have a chance encounter in the elevator.
Whatever the case, imagine trying to jot down your contact information on a scrap piece of paper or hoping they have their phone on them! When you need to keep in touch with someone, whipping out a well-crafted business card is the epitome of preparation. It’s a strong move that makes you look professional and ready to do business!
Brace yourself: We’re going to take a quick dip into personal hygiene.
You must be presentable if you want to leave a positive impression on the interviewer. You’ve probably gone through the trouble of figuring out the company’s dress code and finding an appropriate outfit. But if you’re smelling unpleasant, that can sabotage all your other efforts.
Smells are a big deal in human interactions, and body odor is the quickest way to turn people off. You might think that your application that morning is enough, but you’d be surprised by how fast that sweat and odor protection fades when you’re dealing with the stress of a job interview.
You might be running around trying to find the interview location or walking up several flights of stairs. Pair that with natural stress, and you could smell less-than-fresh by the time you make it to the interview. Including deodorant or a light fragrance spray on your list of what to bring to a job interview will help you freshen up before making your introductions.
Here’s another personal hygiene tip: Bring breath mints!
Awful-smelling breath can be just as bad as body odor. You’re going to speak directly to someone in relatively close quarters. That lingering smell from your morning breakfast sandwich? No one wants to smell that!
Have some mints on hand that you can pop into your mouth before the interview. You can also bring an entire toothbrush and floss set if you have time to freshen up in the bathroom. Whatever you need to feel confident will do the trick!
11. Directions for Getting to the Interview
Imagine being late for the interview after all your preparation and stress! Unfortunately, that’s a reality that occurs all the time. The most common reason for this is trouble getting to the interview!
Don’t let unfamiliarity with the office area result in you showing up late. Even being a few minutes tardy will reflect poorly on you, and it can potentially ruin your chances of getting a job offer before you even set foot in the room. If you can’t show up on time to the interview, why should the hiring manager believe you’ll be on time when you get the job?
Avoid that nightmare by bringing the directions to the office. You can go old-school to print out a map and turn-by-turn directions. Or, you can save the address on your phone and use GPS. Whatever the case, don’t leave home without them!
Ideally, it would be best to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You might want to leave even earlier if you’re on a higher floor, need to go through security, or have never visited the building. Give yourself more time than you think you need, just in case of road delays or detours.
What You Shouldn’t Bring to a Job Interview
Now that you know what to bring to an interview, let’s go over some things you should leave behind. These things do nothing but serve as a distraction, and bringing them into the interview will make you look unprofessional.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing headwear with you on your commute. Depending on the weather, you might need it to protect your hair, block out the sun, and ensure that you walk into the interview room as put-together as you leave your house.
But if you wear a hat, leave it behind when walking into the building. Keep it in your car or toss it in your bag. Never wear the hat during your interview.
It doesn’t matter how much you love the hat. They come off as too casual and borderline unprofessional.
Food or Drinks
You need food to stay alert and energized. Many people experience blood sugar crashes mid-day, and some even enter hangry territory if they don’t have a light snack every few hours.
Bringing food items with you on your commute is fine. But don’t bring them into the interview office. Keep food well-sealed in your bag, and toss out any garbage long before your interview starts.
Can you imagine how unprofessional it would look if you started chowing down mid-interview? Many hiring managers would probably start trying to end the interview as soon as possible!
Finally, there’s gum. Like food, chewing on gum is not a good look. You’re actively speaking to someone one-on-one. That flashing piece of gum in your mouth is distracting. The same goes for the gross noise that comes with chewing.
Pair all that with the potential for gum to get in the way and force you to speak in an unclear manner; bringing gum is just asking for trouble.
You can chew gum before your interview to freshen your breath and calm your nerves, but always remember to spit it out before you begin!
Knowing what to bring to an interview will make the entire process simpler and improve your chances of getting the job. Use this guide as a checklist before you head out, and you’ll do just fine!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.