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What To Bring To A Job Interview (And What NOT To Bring)?

As soon as you find out you’ve got the interview for that job you want so badly, it’s already time to start planning and preparing. Can you be over-prepared for an interview?

You can certainly get over-stressed about the upcoming meeting, but I don’t think it’s possible to be too ready.

What does over-prepared even mean?

But being fully prepared includes more than just having your thinking cap on and your answers practiced and polished. There are a few things that you should also prepare to bring along with you to ensure a smooth and successful experience. And there are a few things you should definitely avoid. I mean definitely.

So here’s What To Bring To A Job Interview (And What NOT To Bring) as well.

what to bring to a job interview

1 Hard Copies Of Your Resume

OK, in today’s modern world of high-speed digital communication, maybe I have to explain what a hard copy is. I mean, print out your resume on paper! Those old enough to remember when this was the only way to give someone your resume will also appreciate that it’s still pretty foolproof.

Of course, you can always spill coffee all over it!

But in general, paperwork is still useful because it’s tangible and reliable. Imagine showing up to an interview, and the company’s own printer is down, and they haven’t managed to print off a copy to peruse. No problem, as long as they can still load the document you sent, right? But what if their network is down and they don’t have the file shared so they can access it on their phones?

Any number of things could go wrong that make it just 100% worth it to bring in copies of your resume. And yes, I said copies with an ‘s’! Because you never know how many people will be involved in the interview – won’t you look clever and well prepared if you have enough paper copies to go around in case they don’t?

what to bring to job interview

2 Copies Of Your Cover Letter

The same thing goes for your cover letter or letter of intent, depending on what they asked you to provide along with your application.

Why?

Once again, paper can save the day when digital drops out of the race. But on top of that, you might think they’ve already read your letter and don’t need it again.

Well, let me tell you an embarrassing little story

I was on the interviewer’s side of the table across from a candidate who wrote a really compelling cover letter which basically won her the interview automatically. When I wanted to discuss some of the points she made, only to realize that between showing the letter to my own boss and to another colleague involved in hiring – oops! – I managed to misplace it.

Well, I was embarrassed when I had to explain and ask for a new copy which I could see through the clear plastic folder she had placed on the desk between us. But it made her look great! In other words, bring copies of all the documents the company asked you for, just in case.

3 Clips And Samples – Other Supporting Documents

Depending on the type of work you’re interviewing for, you may be specifically asked to bring in samples of your work or a full professional portfolio. Obviously, if you have been asked, do it!

Bring in originals and hard copies if possible, or else a tablet or other digital device that’s easy to pass around and display your work on. Whether digital or paper, your files should all be easy to find and ready to access. Nobody likes waiting through a “now, where did I put that other file again?”

Present your clips strategically…

News clips reporting on you and your work are really impressive, but they also need to be strategically presented during an interview. If you pull them out uninvited, you run the risk of looking over-eager at best and really full of yourself at worst. Instead, wait for an opportunity to present itself.

If the interviewer asks you directly about an award you won or other accolades which you may have added to your resume, you could bring out clips.

“I actually have a copy of the article here if you’d like to see it.”

This is a great way to offer without being too aggressive. Other supporting documents can be samples of your professional work. They don’t have to just be documents. It could include videos you’ve made, code you’ve written, or even stones you’ve carved.

But be reasonable about how many samples you bring in, and also be sure they are relevant to the interview. A graphic designer should definitely have a portfolio on hand.

Don’t be irresponsible…

If you’re applying as a professor of Chemistry, on the other hand, bringing chemicals you’ve synthesized into an interview may not be the best or safest thing to do.

4 A Notebook and Pen

Telling someone you’ll remember details is just that. It could be true, or it could be that you’ll forget in minutes. But writing them down in front of the person telling you shows them directly that you are placing importance on their words. Trust me; everyone likes that.

But there’s an even more practical reason for bringing a notebook and pen (paper or digital) to your interview… Sometimes interviewers will ask you to demonstrate your skills on the spot. In case you’re asked to solve a problem, work through figures, or do any other mental task, having something to write on is a real bonus.

what to bring to job interviews

Negotiations for the job…

And finally, once in a while, an interview goes really, really well. It’s entirely possible, and maybe more common than you think, for an interview to turn into a negotiation of terms for the job. If you impress and they are ready to get the ball rolling, you may be asked to negotiate things like vacation and salary right there.

Now, who wouldn’t want a notebook and pen for that?

5 A Bottle of Water

This just makes a whole lot of sense.

Think about it. You may have to sit for a long period waiting for your turn to interview. You may be put through the paces and get grilled on everything you’ve ever done in your professional life. Some interviews can last an hour or more.

Wouldn’t you like to have a bottle of water ready to wet your parched lips?

Having a quick sip of water can also help to keep you calm and give you a moment to think before you answer an interviewer’s question. Trust me, you shouldn’t expect to be given water or for it to be easy to find when you need it. This is something you should have on hand!

6 Personal Care Items

If you’re like me, you know that disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. From tissue to staunch a runny nose to pads to antacids for last night’s 5-alarm chili, there are some personal care items you should have along with you when you’re heading into an interview.

So along with preparation, a positive attitude, confidence, and proper attire, this is all I recommend that you bring to a job interview. But, what not to bring…

So, What Should You NOT Bring?

While what to bring so you’re completely prepared is a pretty short list, what not to bring includes, well, just about everything else! Still, there are some real red flags to avoid:

1 Your Phone

Of course, you should bring your phone to an interview. What I mean is, don’t have it out unless you need to for interview-related purposes. Also, you should avoid looking at it or playing on it even before the interview during the waiting period.

Why?

Because your phone is the most distracting piece of technology humankind has ever invented! Before your interview, you need to get prepared and focused, not shop for shoes or watch hilarious videos of cats.

Avoiding your phone might have some other bonuses, too. It may encourage you to be more personal and engaging with the people around you, including the company’s staff or other interviewees. Don’t think that no one is watching. This might just reflect positively on you and could be a deciding factor in whether you get hired or not.

what to bring to the job interview

2 Food and Drink

If you have a busy day and have to eat in the small window before your interview, try to eat something light, easily digestible, and not spicy or stinky. And do it before you come into the company’s offices if at all possible. Try to freshen your breath afterward as well, and do, please, please, please check your teeth!

Yes, bring in a bottle of water, but avoid other drinks like coffee or soda. Not only can they cause accidents when you need them least of all, but caffeine and sugar are also both diuretics – they make you pee. And while some research shows that having to go makes you more effective at making decisions, excusing yourself to go to the toilet in the middle of an interview doesn’t.

3 Friends and Family

Do I even have to say it? Don’t bring other people to your interview, ever. It does nothing but shows you lack independence, and no employer is going to be happy about that. If someone drove you to the interview, please have them wait outside. Seriously.

Additional Interview Info And Advice

For your all-important interview, take a look at How Would You Describe Yourself, How Do You Handle Conflict, how to Answer Why Best Candidate Position, What Are Your Career Goals, my Strengths And Weaknesses For Job Interviews, What Are You Most Proud Of, and of course, the Best Questions To Ask In An Interview in 2021.

As well as Why Do You Want To Work Here, How To Answer What Are You Passionate About, How Do You Handle Stress, What Makes You Unique, and Why We Should Hire You to better prepare.

For some online research, we found Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent, or maybe Get That Job!: The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, Amazing Interview Answers: 44 Tough Job Interview Questions with 88 Winning Answers INTERVIEW with DESIRE and GET HIRED!: How to Ace the Interview, Sell Yourself & Get Your Dream Job for that final preparation.

Or how about How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions or my favorite The STAR Method Explained: Proven Technique to Succeed at Interview, and The STAR Interview: How to Tell a Great Story, Nail the Interview and Land Your Dream Job can help ace that interview.

Don’t forget your STAR METHOD INTERVIEW: Interview Journal: Notebook designed for job seekers to use as a guide for interview prep and as a tool for interview questions and answers during interviews for practicing also available online today.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what to bring to an interview and what not to bring. You can feel more confident in your performance. And spend more time focusing on presenting yourself and your abilities effectively.

And relax – better preparedness means less stress, less worry, and a whole lot smoother ride.

Just remember to leave your phone in your bag on vibrate. And your mom downstairs waiting in the lobby. You’ll be well on your way to impressing your future employers!

All the very best with your future Interviews!

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About Carmen Smith

Carmen grew up in San Diago but now lives in Boston. She loves traveling, experiencing other cultures, and basically exploring the world, be country at a time.

Her other passion is helping people find the perfect career. We spend 33% of our working lives at work, so it's ridiculous that many people do jobs that they do not enjoy. Carmen wants to change this and thinks that anyone who isn't happy in their employment should keep looking until they find something that they really enjoy. 

She firmly believes that "Everyone's perfect job is out there; it's just a case of continually looking until you find it."

Carmen lives with her husband Johnny, a keen birder who also loves to travel. He finds birds while Carmen makes plans for where they will be eating next...

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