9 Things You Should Definitely Bring to a Job Interview (And What You Can Leave Behind)

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Key takeaways

  • What to bring: Copies of your resume,  a list of references, notebook and pens, a list of questions for your interviewer, samples of your work, emergency items, identification, a workbag/briefcase/portfolio, and directions. 
  • What not to bring: Your phone (if you need it, keep it off), coffee, hot food,  luggage, and earbuds.

Job interviews are nerve wracking. It’s one of the few times when extreme self-consciousness isn’t just normal — it’s encouraged and expected. You’re hyper conscious of what you’re wearing, what you’re saying, how you're shaking your interviewer’s hand, how you're answering that tough question. That consciousness is how you show you care about the role and how you project the best version of you. But all those considerations ticking in your brain can be overwhelming — unless you take the proper steps to manage your stress and calm your thoughts. 

One way to minimize stress at an important interview? Be prepared. Knowing what to bring to an interview — and what to leave behind — can be critical in having your interview go as smoothly as possible. That gives you more space to worry about important things, like what you want to tell your interviewer about yourself. So, what should you bring to an interview? Keep reading to find out. 

9 things you should have handy at your next interview

1. Copies of your resume.

Bring several printed copies of your resume to share with your interviewers. This will make you look prepared and dependable; bonus points if you print on cardstock.  

2. A list of references.

After a successful interview, your interviewer may suggest coming up with a list of references is the next step in your process. Look forward-thinking and responsible by already having one on hand. This should include people who know and will speak highly of you in a professional context, such as former managers, advisors and so on. Make sure to ask their permission before you submit their names and contact information (phone number and email address).

3. A notebook and pens.

One of the surest ways to look dedicated and capable in your interview? Taking thorough notes. Bring a notebook and several pens (in case one dies) to jot down important points of your conversation and the responses to your questions.

4. A list of written questions for your interviewer.

Speaking of questions, make sure you have a list of questions ready for your interviewer before walking into the room. Bringing a written list of questions with you suggests you’ve taken the time to prepare for the interview and that you’re genuinely interested in the organization’s work and the role you’re interviewing for. Examples include:

• What will a day-to-day schedule look like?
• What's your favorite part of working here?
• What makes someone successful in this role?

5. Samples of your work.

In certain roles, bringing part of your portfolio helps interviewers to envision your talents and abilities. Say you’re interviewing for a graphic design role and you’re asked a question about your graphic design style. Having a few examples of your work can help the interviewer visualize what you mean and take the pressure off your verbal answer. Plus, like having a printed resume, this foresight proves you’re willing to go above and beyond for a role. 

6. Mints, floss, deodorant and other “emergency items.”

Sometimes, accidents happen. Prepare for a minor mess-up before your interview by bringing last-minute lifesavers like: 

  1. Mints, in case morning breath gets in your way. 

  2. Floss, in case lunch involves some leafy greens. 

  3. Deodorant, in case, well, you know. 

  4. Tissues, for several reasons. 

  5. Water, in case you get nervous

  6. A Tide Pen, in case a minor spill happens. 

7. A form of identification.

If the building you are interviewing in has security, they may require you to verify your identity before entering. Be sure to carry a driver’s license, passport or other form of identification with you to avoid being held at the door. 

8. A work bag, briefcase or portfolio, depending on the formality of the company. 

Now that you’ve gathered all of these things, you need something to put them in! Grab a bag, briefcase or portfolio that fits your items and looks professional. 

9. Directions.

To avoid logistical mishaps, carry a paper version of your driving or walking directions. Jot down what floor or room you’ll be meeting in, too. This will keep you from having to consult your email or running to the wrong place. And if you have time prior to the big day to run your route, always do it. 

What to leave behind

There are some things you just don’t need at an interview, too. Here’s what to leave in your car — or at home — before you head into the interview room. 

  1. Your phone. If you need to bring a phone with you, make sure it is off. 

  2. Your morning coffee. To minimize messes, don’t bring a leaky cup into the room with you — especially if you’re running late!

  3. Hot food. To avoid bringing undesirable stenches into the interview room, leave lunch for after your appointment.

  4. Luggage. Don’t bring your bulky bag with you. If you need to catch a flight or train after your appointment, ask the front desk or office manager where to store your personal items.

  5. Your earbuds. Don’t walk into the interview room listening to iTunes. Pack your earbuds away before you enter the building. 

General advice for acing your interview

Acing an interview is easy if you prepare properly — both by packing the right things and by practicing the right things. First, run through your answers to the most commonly asked interview questions before your appointment, by yourself and with a friend or relative. Once you’re prepared to answer any question that’s thrown your way, make sure you have some pre-prepared questions of your own for your interviewer. As aforementioned, write these questions down and bring them with you. 

The night before the interview, choose an appropriate outfit and lay it out. Be sure to get a full night of sleep, and eat a solid meal before your appointment. Self-care goes a long way in keeping your mind fresh and ready to tackle the mental math of interviews. 

Once you’re there, make sure to take notes on what you and your interviewer talk about and what questions they ask. Then, use these notes to follow up with a thoughtful thank you note

Way to go, you! You’re on your way to a great interview. Upfront preparation for an interview can make a huge difference on your performance, and you’re taking the right steps to having a stress-free experience. Now, go knock them dead!

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