10 things you should always bring to a job interview—and 5 things you should leave behind
Don’t show up empty-handed. Use this checklist to make sure you know what to bring to an interview.
Don't show up at your next job interview empty handed.
Picture this nightmare: You walk into an interview for your dream job, shake hands with the hiring manager, sit down, and then realize you’ve arrived completely empty-handed. We’re talking no copies of your resume, no pen and paper for notes—heck, it’s a miracle you remembered to put on deodorant!
Unfortunately, your lack of preparation may have just cost you your dream job.
To prevent something like this from happening, you should start preparing for your interview as soon as a company gets in touch with you about your candidacy. Use this comprehensive checklist to make sure you have everything you need to make a good first impression in the job interview. This way you'll show up prepared 100% of the time.
What to bring to an interview
We’re about to outline a significant amount of paperwork you need to bring to a job interview, so first things first, you’ll want to have a folder where you can neatly store these documents.
This simple act also shows you’re organized, says Denver-based millennial career coach Jenn DeWall, which is a soft skill many employers look for in candidates.
2. Several copies of your resume
You most likely already submitted your resume when you applied for the job, but don’t assume the interviewer will have a copy of it on hand. “Hiring managers get busy and sometimes forget to print out your resume,” DeWall says.
Why bring multiple copies? “You never know how many employees you’re going to be meeting with,” says Rachel Loock, a career coach at the University of Maryland. “It’s rare you only meet with [the hiring manager].”
3. Business cards
Although your resume should include your contact information, and business cards may seem old school, it can’t hurt to bring them with you, says millennial career coach Anastasia Button. They’re easy to carry, and “you never know if someone is going to ask for one,” Button says. It’s always better to have a few handy, just in case.
4. Portfolio/work samples
If you’re in a creative industry—like advertising, journalism, graphic design, architecture, or fashion—you should bring samples of your work that you can give to the interviewer. "Offer to send your full portfolio electronically later on," Button says.
Depending on what you do, you may also want to have a sheet that showcases positive feedback you’ve received from past clients on your work.
If the interview goes well—better yet, when the interview goes well, the hiring manager might ask you for references on the spot, so you should have a list prepared with their contact information.
Theoretically, you could just email the interviewer this information when you get home, but DeWall says that’s a bad approach. “You want to make sure you give the company everything they need to move forward with the hiring process as quickly as possible,” she explains.
6. Pen and notepad
Taking a few notes during your interview can be beneficial for a few reasons. For one, it shows you’re actively listening to the interviewer and engaged in the conversation, while also ensuring you won’t forget important details about the job. Moreover, “you can refer to your notes, later on, to send the interviewer a personalized thank-you email,” Loock says.
Just make sure you ask the interviewer for permission before taking notes, and “don’t take so many notes that you’re not making eye contact,” Loock says.
Pro tip: Bring several pens with you in case your favorite one runs out of ink, DeWall says.
To show you’re genuinely interested in the job, you should have questions for the hiring manager prepared in advance that demonstrate your understanding of the company’s core values, challenges, and culture. Here are a few questions that will help you assess those key points:
- How does the company define and measure success?
- What’s the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?
- What do you do to encourage camaraderie and collaboration among co-workers?
- How do managers provide feedback to employees?
8. Talking points
Job interviews are nerve-wracking. One way to reduce stress before the interview and build confidence is to jog your memory by looking at notes of things you want to mention during the interview, such as specific skills or anecdotes that highlight your strengths. DeWall recommends creating a “great list”—a short summary of your accomplishments, organized by skill set—that you can review before you walk into the interview. These achievements should be tied to the job responsibilities, DeWall says. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a management position, you’d want to mention the last project you oversaw and describe how you exceeded expectations.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning, Button says. You may need to provide photo ID to enter the building, so check with the employer beforehand to find out what the building’s security requirements are. The security guard may ask you the company you’re visiting, the name of the person you’re meeting with, and what floor they’re on. Confirm all of that information when you set up the interview, so you aren’t fumbling in the lobby before your big meeting.
10. A smile
It’s time to show off those pearly whites! Before you cringe, consider the benefits of arriving with a positive attitude: “Smiling sounds corny, but employers want to see that you’re enthusiastic and excited about the position,” Loock says.
What NOT to bring to an interview
Put simply: Don’t bring anything that could potentially distract you or the interviewer, Button says. This includes:
Also, make sure to put your phone on silent or leave it in your car. “You don’t want to have your attention diverted, even if it’s just for a second,” Loock says.
Now that you know what to bring to the interview, do you know what to wear, and what to do when the interview is over? Become a Monster member and get all the career and job hunting advice you'll need to score the job of your dreams. Plus you can upload your resume for recruiters to find you.
Job interview thank you letter examples
A thank-you letter can help you seal the deal after an interview. Use this sample to craft one that can help boost your candidacy.
A follow-up letter is a necessary part of a job interview.
Do you know that most applicants don’t send a post-interview thank-you letter?
Even if you think an offer is in the bag, you can always improve your chances of getting the job if you send thank-you notes. Your letter should reiterate your core strengths and emphasize the value you offer. You can even squelch any concerns the employer raised about your qualifications and add important information you didn’t get to discuss in the interview.
Check out this sample thank-you letter:
14 Elm St. | Sometown, CA 55555 | 555-555-5555 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Amy Lin
1 Corporate Way
Sometown, CA 55555
Dear Ms. Lin:
Thank you for meeting with me this morning to discuss the executive assistant position. I enjoyed our conversation, and I am very excited about the possibility of joining your team.
I know what it takes to run a busy and successful insurance office. In my last position as an administrative assistant for XYZ Company, I helped manage all aspects of the operation, handling tasks such as bookkeeping, customer service, claims processing, report preparation and ongoing communications with the district manager.
You mentioned that you need an assistant who has strong “people” skills, and this is an area in which I excel. At XYZ Company, I helped the manager build a loyal client base by consistently providing excellent service. My last supervisor said, “John is one of the hardest-working employees I have known. His friendly and professional customer-service skills helped the firm achieve a 20 percent revenue increase last year, and I couldn’t have done it without him.”
I don’t see the executive assistant role as a punch-the-clock, 9-to-5 job; I will be your “right hand”—helping you manage the day-to-day operations, volunteering for special projects, and ensuring the company is positioned for growth and increased profitability.
Again, thank you for considering me for this exciting opportunity. As you requested, I’m enclosing a list of professional references. Please feel free to call me if you need additional information, have any questions or would like to offer me the job! Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Enclosure: List of References
Ready to send out some thank-you letters? Do this next
Gratitude is always welcome, but before you can start sending out a few good thank-you notes, you'll need to nab some job interviews. Not sure how to get started? We can help. Join Monster today. As a member, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox, plus you can upload up to five versions of your resume and cover letter. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with outstanding candidates—just like you. Get your stationery ready (we'll also be expecting a note).