People will give you a lot of advice about getting ready, like “be prepared” or “by failing to prepare, you prepare for failure” or “never bring a knife to a gun fight.”
All that’s fine, but being prepared comes with a basic sorting problem: There’s stuff you need and stuff you don’t. Most of the advice tells you to be prepared, not what to do in order to get prepared (that “knife fight” one gets closest, but it’s pretty situationally specific).
Which brings us to the subject of job interviews. It’s a little like a camping trip you might take in the sense that you don’t get a break to go get something you forgot. You go in with what you’ve got and you don’t get a chance to readjust.
With that in mind, it’s important to plan. Figure out what you want to bring and keep in mind the things that might prove embarrassing if you accidentally drag them along.
Here’s a list of what you should bring or should not bring to a job interview:
Bring a Basic Portfolio
You want to be ready to introduce yourself to the interviewers. Bring along multiple copies of your resumes, any business cards that seem relevant and various work samples.
Even if you included some of the items in your initial application, don’t assume everyone in the room has read them or even has access to them. Pass them around, if only as a visual reference and a way of breaking up the intimidating meeting structure of having a bunch of strangers interrogate you.
Don’t Bring Other People
This may seem obvious, but hiring managers always run into the candidate who has a “plus one.” No parents, no kids, no roommate who is just there as your ride home. Get a babysitter for the kids and everyone else can go grab a quick coffee down the street.
Bring Pen and Paper
We know in real life, you take notes on your phone. Bringing pen and paper might seem like riding to the interview in a horse and buggy. However, you don’t just want to take notes; you want the interviewers to know you’re taking notes.
Typing on your phone might be note taking. It might also be Candy Crush. Don’t give people room to get confused.
Don’t Bring Your Phone
OK, you should probably have your phone with you. You’ll need directions and appointment details and something to do with your hands while you nervously fidget in the reception area.
But the phone should stay out of sight once you get called into the interview room (unless they specifically ask you something that requires it). Put it away, not on the table in front of you. And put it on silent, not just vibrate. You want to be able to give your full attention to the interview.
Bring Prepared Questions and Answers
Don’t try to wing it. Think about the kind of questions you’re likely to hear, both the standard interview boilerplate and items specific to the company or based on your background.
Also, compose some questions for the end of the interview. Being prepared will help you provide better answers, get better information and avoid long, awkward moments where you stumble haltingly towards incoherent responses.
Don’t Bring Food
A breath mint is fine (though skip the gum). A bottle of water is fine (they will probably offer you a drink, but you want to guard against cotton mouth). But showing up with half a sandwich or a cream cheese-slathered bagel is just bad form. Eat a snack before hand to keep your stomach from rumbling. Otherwise, keep food out of it.
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