Preparation is key to the success of any job interview. This includes researching the company, choosing the perfect outfit, practising common questions and generally getting the whole interview thing down to an art. But nothing says ‘I’ve come prepared’ more than bringing everything you need with you to an interview.
So, what should you take with you? And what should you leave back at home?
What to Bring to an Interview
If you’re not sure where exactly you’re going, it’s a good idea to print out a map and directions to your destination. Don’t rely solely on your smartphone to get you where you need to go as your battery could suddenly die or your network provider could experience a signal problem!
On that note, consider doing a test drive to the location to see how long it will take you to get there on the day of the interview. Remember: you should aim to arrive about 15 minutes before your interview’s scheduled to start.
If the building has security, you will have to present identification (a passport, ID card or driving license will normally do) to be allowed inside. Speak to the company and ask about any security requirements. It’s also a good idea to print out the email confirming your appointment.
Names of Contacts
Make a note of the name of the person you’re supposed to ask for when you arrive at the company (it’s easy to forget names, which can be quite embarrassing, to say the least). You should also ask for the name of the person who set the meeting up if it’s a different person (a HR manager, for example). Keep their names and contact information (email address and phone number) handy in case something goes wrong, e.g: your train breaks down.
You’ve already emailed your job interview-winning CV when you submitted your application, so what’s the point bringing it with you? Well, the hiring manager may forget to print your CV (which they’ll need to refer to during the interview), and having a few extra copies handy helps you stand out as a problem-solver. The keyword here, by the way, is copies – plural. And that’s because you just never know how many people you’ll be meeting with – it’s very rare to meet with just one person.
The hiring manager will likely ask you at the end of the interview if you have any questions you’d like to ask about the role and the company. It is, therefore, essential that you prepare a list of relevant and intelligent questions to ask as it effectively confirms your interest in the opportunity. Even if the interviewer covered everything you wanted to know about the position and you can’t think of anything else you’d like to ask, ask whether it would be alright to email them if you think of any other questions later. On a side note, don’t be afraid to ask questions if and when they fit with the flow of the conversation!
Depending on the job you’re applying for, you may be required to bring along samples of your work (for example, if you’re a web designer or a journalist). If your work is not printer friendly, consider bringing your laptop or tablet to showcase your work. Offer to send your full portfolio electronically later on, as well as a link to your website (if you haven’t already). On that note, an online portfolio is essential if you’re working in the creative industry – check out our tips on how to create your very own.
If you’ve made a good impression, you may be asked to supply a list of references, and it’s a good idea to be prepared. After all, providing your references on the spot makes a far better impression than saying something like: ‘Sure, I’ll email it over to you later’. Plan ahead and ask a few former (or current) bosses, supervisors, co-workers, clients and anyone else who’s known you in a professional capacity to act as a referee for you. If you have little or no work experience, you can ask a former teacher or university professor. Whatever you do, do NOT list family or friends!
Although your CV will (hopefully) include your contact information, handing your business card to the interviewers adds a nice little extra touch to your overall professional image. Plus, you just never know if someone is going to ask for one.
Notepad and Pens
All the names, contact details, notes and questions you’d like to ask should all be found in one place for easy reference. A plain lined notepad is, therefore, essential. (It pains me to say this, but that means no notepads with kittens on the cover.) This will also come in handy when you need to jot down any important information or points you’d like to make later so that you don’t end up interrupting the hiring manager.
Also bring a couple of pens. If you can help it, avoid asking for one – it makes you seem disorganised!
You’re going to want to keep your CV and all your other important documents from creasing or bending, and the best way to do that is by storing them in a professional-looking folder or binder (Amazon has some really great choices). This simple act is a great way to demonstrate your organisational skills.
Anything Else You Were Specifically Asked to Bring
If the hiring manager specifically asks you to bring something else not listed here (a copy of your qualifications, for example), then you better be able to deliver. Forgetting or, worse, refusing to show that you’re unable to follow simple instructions.
What NOT to Bring to an Interview
Food and Drinks
Okay, you haven’t had time for your morning cup of Joe (and let’s face it: you can’t function without coffee) or your tummy’s grumbling because you haven’t had lunch yet, but taking food or drinks (or a combination of both) to an interview is a sure-fire way to not get hired. Even if you’re interviewing over Skype, eating your lunch is simply ill-mannered and disrespectful. As for drinks, you’ll probably be offered one.
It’s one thing to have your mum or dad call in a favour and arrange an interview for you with one of their professional connections, and quite another to actually accompany you to the meeting! Remember: employers tend to hire people who can act on their own, independently. You’re an adult now, so start acting like one. (And yes, people really have done this, usually school leavers and recent grads applying for an entry-level job or internship!)
If you got a lift to the interview, ask your parent (or anyone else, for that matter) to wait for you in the car, at home or at the Starbucks down the road!
I won’t claim to be an expert at parenting (I have no experience whatsoever in that department), but I understand that it can often be challenging. However, that’s no excuse to bring your kids along to an interview – it will only make you stand out for all the wrong reasons! Make arrangements well in advance for someone to care for your children for the entire duration of your interview, be it a trusted friend, family member, neighbour or babysitter!
You’ve had a little time to kill so you decided to quickly pop into Tesco before your meeting to get a couple of things. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? Wrong! Showing up to your interview with a bag full of groceries sends the wrong message to the hiring manager. It tells them that the interview wasn’t the sole focus of your day, which effectively tells them that you don’t really care about the job.
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Let’s say you’ve applied for a job at Starbucks and you went ahead and ignored my advice about not bringing drinks with you to the interview. You’ve showed up with a cappuccino. A cappuccino from Costa Coffee, no less. I don’t think I need to elaborate here, other than say: you’re not getting the job.
Well, you can’t not bring your phone with you, really. But what I am suggesting is that you put it on silent (or, better yet, switch it off) for the entire duration of your meeting. And – whatever you do – resist the urge to pull out your phone in the middle of the interview to update your friends on Facebook how it’s going.
Mrs Whiskerson may indeed be the cutest and fluffiest kitty that ever lived, and as a cat dad I completely understand the need to show off your fur babies to the world, but it’s best to leave that for Instagram. Unless you’re visually impaired and need a guide dog to get around leave your pets at home!
Can you think of anything else you should take with you to an interview? Join the conversation down below and let us know!