What to Bring to a Job Interview

Image by Maddy Price. © The Balance 2019

Once you've landed a job interview, be sure that you are well-prepared, as this is likely your sole chance to convince an employer that you are the best candidate for the job. Your appearance, attitude, and answers to questions are all key factors in determining whether you will get the job.

Competition is also high among job applicants, and you are probably one of several interviewees. With this in mind, you want to leave a lasting impression that increases your chances of a call back for additional interviews with others or a job offer.

Job Interview Process

To prepare for a job interview, it's important to first understand the interview process. Initially, you may meet with a hiring manager or other human resources employee. Their job is to screen applicants and pare down the number of candidates that are suitable for the next level of interviews, which likely involves management.

Regardless of who you are meeting, you want to give a positive impression, as interviewers will likely discuss you among themselves and with other key staff.

Depending on the position for which you are interviewing, you also may be asked to take a timed written test. Employers may want to see your current skills, which can help them make the right hiring decision.

Preparing for a Job Interview

To prepare for a job interview, you should do the following:

  • Work Attire. Make sure your appearance is neat and clean. Dress appropriately for the interview by wearing professional work attire such as a skirt or pantsuit and close-toed shoes. Accessories such as handbags, ties, and belts should be conservative.
  • Directions. If you're not sure where you're going, bring directions and any instructions the hiring manager may have given you. Also, if one was sent, bring an email confirmation of the appointment. Determine how long your commute will take either by viewing a map application such as Google maps, or a train or bus schedule. Allow 30 minutes extra travel time for any unforeseen delays, as you want to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • Research the Company. Make sure you become acquainted with your prospective employer prior to the interview, as you may be asked questions about your familiarity with their business. Many company websites have an "About" section that provides information on a company's history as well as its beliefs and goals.
  • List of Questions. Have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer if they invite questions at the end of the interview. You can also ask additional questions based on the conversation, which demonstrates good listening and comprehension skills.

What to Bring to the Interview

Identification. If the building has security, you may be asked to show identification, or you may need it to complete a job application. Bring your driver's license or another form of identification with you.

Notepad and Pen. Make sure to bring a notepad and pen so you can write down names, company information, or questions that may come up during the interview. Bringing a pen and notepad shows you came to the interview prepared.

Names of Contacts. Write down the name of the person you're interviewing with on your notepad. It can be easy to forget a name, and you don't want to be embarrassed. Also bring the name of the person who arranged the interview, if it's a different person. You may also need to provide this name to security upon your arrival at the building.

Extra Copies of Your Resume. Bring several copies of your resume to distribute upon request. Retain a copy for yourself, as it will assist you in filling out the job application.

Reference List. Bring a printed list of references to give to the hiring manager. Include at least three professional references and their contact information. Choose references that can attest to your ability to perform the job for which you are applying. Also retain a copy for yourself in case the information needs to be recorded on a job application.

Work Samples. Depending on the type of job for which you're interviewing, you may need to bring samples of your work. If they don't lend themselves to print, consider bringing your iPad or laptop.

Portfolio. A portfolio is an efficient way to package all the items you're bringing to the interview. It shows employers that you are organized and prepared to produce documents upon request.

What Not to Bring or Do

Doing the following will likely ruin your chances of getting the job:

  • Don’t carry in your morning coffee or protein shake.
  • Don't bring your parent or anyone else with you.
  • Don’t arrive talking on a cell phone or texting. Turn off your phone before you enter the building and store it in a handbag or brief case.
  • Don’t wear a hat or cap; leave it at home.
  • Don’t chew gum or suck candy. 
  • Don’t overwhelm the interviewer with your piercings or tattoos. If you have a lot of piercings or earrings, remove them, so they aren’t a distraction. One pair of earrings, such as small studs or hoops, is acceptable. Do your best to cover your tattoos.
  • Don’t wear strong perfume or cologne; you never know if someone is allergic in the office.
  • Don't wear leisure clothes such as jeans, workout wear, sneakers, or flip flops. Wear a pants or dress suit and close-toed shoes.
  • Don't appear with messy, unwashed hair. Make sure your hair is clean and off of your face.

Make the Best Impression

Being well-prepared can give you the best chances of succeeding at a job interview. Prepare yourself mentally by researching the company and determining answers to some anticipated interview questions.

Overall, answer questions clearly and confidently. You need to believe in yourself to convince an employer that you have what it takes to do the job.