In a perfect world, you could act like Goldilocks in your job interviews, trying different options until everything was just right. If your chair was too hard, or your interviewer was a twit, you could switch to a better one. Unfortunately, that's a fairy tale. You're pretty much stuck with the chair or the interviewers you're given. You can't control everything, but you can control how prepared you are and what you take with you.
Here are 10 must-have and 7 nice-to-have items that the well-prepared job seeker should carry to the interview:
10 MUST-HAVE ITEMS
- Map and directions
- Bus/train/cab fare or a full tank of gas
- Name, title, and phone number of the person to ask for upon arrival
- Pen and paper
- Clean copies of your resume and cover letter (enough for yourself plus each interviewer)
- Five or more questions to ask your interviewers
- Samples or portfolio of related work you’ve done in the past (if applicable or requested)
- Copy of the job description
- Medication (if needed in the case of an extended interview)
- Anything else the employer has specifically asked you to bring!
7 NICE-TO-HAVE ITEMS
- Cell phone, in case of a life-or-death emergency, which is the only acceptable reason for showing up late (Note: Turn it OFF before you go into the interview)
- An extra resume or list of past employment dates, supervisors, and education in case they ask you to fill out a job application (Note: Leave the salary fields blank)
- Notes about people you've spoken to while scheduling the interview or during a phone screen
- List of three pre-screened references (though not usually needed in a first interview)
- Food (something small but filling, like a protein bar, in case of an extended interview)
- Grooming tools (e.g., comb, breath mints, lipstick, tissues, cough drops, lint roller, stain lifter, etc.)
- Proof of your employment status and/or identity (usually not needed until later in the hiring process)
Getting caught without some crucial item can throw off your confidence and make interviewers question your planning and preparedness. So do your homework, formulate good questions and good answers, and carry all the right stuff. (For more advice on what to do before, during, and after the interview, read this article in our Learning Center.) The better prepared you are, the better you can relax and present yourself as the best solution to the employer's problem.
Have you ever forgotten to take something important to a job interview? Ever been saved from an interview crisis because you had a crucial item when you needed it? Please share your stories!