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What to Bring to an Interview

You might think crushing a job interview only has to do with the work experience on your resumé or how well you can describe your strengths and weaknesses. But there’s more that affects a hiring manager’s impression of you, especially when it comes to how prepared you are and what you bring to your interview.

A job interview is an important moment when first impressions really count. What should you bring along so you’re as prepared and professional as possible? We’re going to look at a few essentials that’ll help get this important event off to a good start, plus a few things that would be better left at home.

If you’re wondering what to bring to an interview so you can walk in feeling confident and prepared, keep reading.

Important Items to Bring to an Interview

As you’re getting ready for your interview, don’t forget to bring these 15 important things along with you. From professional documents to personal accessories, having these things on hand will help you feel ready for anything and make the interview process run smoother.

1. A copy of your resumé.

Your hiring manager should already have a copy of your resumé, but even so, it’s a good idea to bring an extra. You might want to share your resumé with an additional hiring manager that you meet or keep one as a reference for yourself. Besides, it’s smart to review your experience before your interview so you can highlight your most relevant skills and passions without drawing a blank (hey, it happens to the best of us!).

2. Your interview schedule and map.

Hopefully the HR team will provide you with an interview schedule and directions to the office. If not, go ahead and print out a map or bookmark the office address on your phone’s map app. If you know your interview start time, work backward so you can leave home with enough time to buffer traffic or unexpected delays.

3. Your portfolio.

Depending on the job you’re applying for, your interviewer might want to see your creativity and abilities in the real world as part of your interview process. You may need to bring a physical copy of your portfolio, which could include writing samples or designs you’ve made in the past. Or if what you do is mostly digital, find a way to show a professional Instagram account you manage, websites you’ve built, etc.

4. A printout of the job description.

Before your interview, print out and spend time reviewing the job description. Jot down any questions or notes you have about the requirements of the position and the company. Bring a physical copy of the job listing with you to write on during the interview. That way you can keep track of all the new information you learn.

5. A list of professional references.

In case they ask, bring a list of three to five professional contacts your hiring manager can call for a reference check. Usually, your interviewer will take the lead here and let you know when they need this information. But being prepared, even with something as simple as this, can leave a big impression.

6. A pen and notebook.

I can’t stress this enough: Bringing a pen and paper with you is a simple and effective way to demonstrate “I’m paying attention.” Nothing communicates you take an interview seriously like being prepared to take notes.

7. A list of questions about the job and company.

Not only are interviews an opportunity for companies to learn more about you, but they’re a chance for you to learn about the company. Before your interview, browse the company’s website and social media accounts. Come up with a list of thoughtful questions to ask your hiring manager. Write down what you’d like to learn about the culture, team and responsibilities of the job and bring these questions to your interview.

8. Your government ID or driver’s license.

Some offices might have security for guest check-ins. You should have your ID with you anyway if you’re driving yourself there, but it’s a good idea to bring it to your interview so you can confirm your identity and assist with any paperwork you may need to complete.

9. Personal hygiene items.

Keep a few small pocket items like a pack of breath mints, Chapstick, a comb and any makeup touch-up tools in your purse or briefcase. These toiletries can come in handy if you need to freshen up during a quick bathroom break. Besides, when you look good, you feel good. These personal items can make all the difference if it’s a windy day or if you’ve just eaten a meal.

10. A jacket or scarf.

Office temperatures can be unpredictable. And depending on the season when you’re interviewing, the weather can change quickly. Bring light layers so you can stay comfortable if the office is unusually chilly or you find yourself breaking a sweat walking across the office campus. Just remember to keep your clothing professional.

11. Your enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

It doesn’t matter if you have the shiniest portfolio or the fanciest resumé in the world if your attitude stinks. Hiring managers can smell negativity from a mile away, so be sure to bring a friendly smile and cheerful personality. There’s no need to be obnoxious about it, but your positivity will speak for itself.

12. A small snack.

If your interview is scheduled to last a few hours or more, it’s a good idea to bring a light snack with you. Granola bars, jerky or fruit travel well and don’t make a mess. If you have a break to rest and reset in between meetings, this is a perfect time to satisfy any hunger pangs.

13. A few business cards to share.

Sure, business cards might seem a little old school. But here’s the thing: They work. You can leave one with your hiring manager after your interview, or in the off chance that you connect with someone else entirely, you’ll be prepared with your best contact information so they can learn more about you. (You never know who you could meet in line at Starbucks or the airport. Opportunities are everywhere.)

14. Your autobiography.

Okay, I don’t mean your entire life story. But you should have a few sentences prepared to explain who you are, why you’re interested in this job opportunity, and what you’re generally all about. You don’t want to ramble—or the opposite, scratch your head—when it comes to introducing yourself in your interview.

15. Gratitude.

A simple “thank you” goes a long way when you want to make a good impression on your interviewer. Be sure to tell your interviewer how excited you are for the opportunity to join their company, as well as thank them for taking time to meet with you. You can tell them directly during your interview or send a thank-you note as a follow-up.

What Not to Bring to an Interview

Just like you want to bring those important things with you to an interview, it’s equally important to leave some things at home. We’re going to look at the behaviors and items that you’d be better off not bringing to your interview so you have the best chance at wowing your hiring managers and presenting your best self.

1. Your phone with the ringer on.

Folks, this is Job Interview 101. Turn off your phone (or at least switch it to silent or do not disturb) so you don’t risk interrupting your interview. You want to be totally present for this important conversation. Not only would a surprise phone call be disruptive, but a cheesy ringtone wouldn’t be the best look for your personal brand.

2. Chewing gum.

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but smacking gum during an interview is likely to leave a bad impression on your hiring manager. Even if you’re interviewing at a more casual company, chewing gum is never a good look when your goal is to communicate clearly and professionally.

3. Friends and family.

I get it. Interviews can be nerve-racking. But instead of bringing your spouse or best friend with you to the office, just tell them to keep their phone on hand in case you need them. You can call them for a quick pep talk from the parking lot before your interview and dish all the details about how it went after it’s over.

4. Valuables that need storage or safekeeping.

If you’re traveling for your interview and need to carry luggage with you before a flight, figuring out what to do with your bags can be a bit tricky. If you’re unable to leave your valuables locked safely in your car, ask if they can be held at your hotel or in the greeting area of the office where you’re interviewing. It would be too much of a hassle (not to mention awkward) to drag your suitcase around a maze of cubicles.

5. Earbuds or other digital distractions.

Say your interviewer is running a few minutes behind. Rather than plugging in and zoning out to a podcast, why don’t you strike up a conversation with the receptionist? You’ll learn more about the company and increase your odds of making a good impression with the team.

6. Heavy perfume or cologne.

Here’s a rule of thumb: Avoid strong smells as much as possible. Some offices have a strict no-perfume policy to prevent allergic reactions, but it’s also common courtesy to keep your fragrance on the lighter side. During an interview, you want to be remembered for you, not your brand of cologne.

7. Accessories or outfits that aren’t appropriate for the workplace.

Please don’t wear your wacky weekend outfits to your job interview. I’m all for expressing your personality, but it’s better to play it safe here than wow your hiring manager for the wrong reasons. Unless you’re interviewing in a highly creative field, leave those edgy and eye-catching accessories at home in favor of a more professional look.

8. Takeaway meals or leftovers.

If you’ve packed a light snack and eaten a meal before your interview, you should be able to hold yourself over until the interview is over. But if you bring a giant burrito wrapped in crinkly foil or a bulky Styrofoam container full of Indian food to your interview, you risk annoying your potential new coworkers with sounds and smells that are better left at home.

9. Impatience or negativity.

Please, whatever you do, leave your bad attitude outside the building. Even if you get stuck in traffic or spill coffee on your shirt, these little annoyances are opportunities to share how you handle disappointment and surprises. Instead of getting flustered or mad, take ownership and move on. You’ve got a team to impress!

10. Stress.

I know interviews are pressure-filled. And when you’re really excited for an opportunity, it can be easy to put even more pressure on yourself to perform. But I don’t want you adding any extra stress to your interview. I want you to go in there standing tall and smiling and leave the outcome up to God and your hiring managers. If you’ve done your best, there’s nothing else you can control.

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Now that you know what to bring to an interview (and what to leave at home), it's time to shine! I guarantee if you follow these suggestions, you’ll be more prepared than most of your competition. And if you’d like even more guidance on preparing for your interview, download my free Interview Guide. I share even more tips—like how to answer the most common interview questions and create a strong first impression—so you can step into your interview with confidence.

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is a career expert and author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a nationally syndicated, caller-driven show that helps listeners discover what they were born to do. Ken makes regular appearances on Fox News, and he co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert career advice, providing strategic steps to grow professionally, land their dream job, and get promoted.  Learn More.

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