Don’t forget these interview essentials.

Job interviews are already nerve-wracking, and entering an unfamiliar office while feeling ill-prepared is a recipe for a flustered few hours. Unfortunately, you can only prepare so much for those tricky interview questions. You can, however, walk into the process with exactly what you need to succeed. If you’re wondering what to bring to an interview — and what not to bring to an interview — here’s your guide.

What to bring to an interview

An appropriate briefcase or tote

Start your preparations with a briefcase or tote. Make sure your carrier is big enough to comfortably fit your interview essentials, but not so big that it’s clunky and weighs you down. Keep it simple and professional — think of it as an accessory to polish off your already-perfected interview outfit.

The necessary interview documents

Some documents are interview essentials. Chances are you won’t need every single one of these, but it’s important to have them all on hand just in case. Better to be over prepared than to come up empty when one of these is requested.

Several copies of your resume: Sure, the world’s gone virtual, but you’ll want to bring hard copies of your resume along anyways. We suggest you bring about five copies, each printed on nice resume paper (It’s a bit thicker, making it more durable and professional).

A list of references: If you want, go ahead and paper clip or staple your list of references to your resume, making the transfer of information seamless.

Portfolio items: You can also bring along some hard copies of work you’ve done, if relevant to your field. The hiring manager will likely inquire about your past work, so it’ll be nice to pass a tangible example across the table.

A couple of business cards: You should have professional business cards already printed up, so go ahead and take a few with you. Sure, your interviewer will have your contact information on your resume, but a nice-looking business card says “Hey, I’m prepared, I’m professional, and I know what’s up.”

A photo ID: Chances are you’ll already have some form of identification with you on interview day, but go ahead and add this to your checklist to ensure you don’t forget. There are a few instances you might need a photo ID, like gaining access to the building or floor of your prospective employer.

A padfolio

Before stuffing all these items listed straight into your bag, consider investing in a padfolio. A padfolio contains pockets, a notepad, and a pen, so you don’t have to fish around in your bag to find what you need. You can find one at your local office supply store or on Amazon for less than $20.

If you don’t want to bring a padfolio with you, opt for a portfolio folder and a notepad and pen instead. It won’t be as compact, but you’ll definitely want to have a pen and paper handy so you can jot down notes during your interview.

The office’s address

You never want to be late for an interview, so do everything you can to steel yourself against this faux pas. Have the office address saved to your phone. Even better: Save it to your favorite navigation app and perform a dry run the day before your interview.

The names of who you’ll be meeting

You’ll likely meet with a few people on the day of your interview, so if the Human Resource department lets you know who that is ahead of time, jot down their names and positions. It’s possible that you’ll end up so focused on interview questions that names will slip your mind. Writing down their names gives you this insurance of being able to glance down at your list for a quick reminder. A name drop doesn’t hurt either.

Of course, you should already be somewhat familiar with those interviewing you after researching them on LinkedIn prior to the interview.

A list of questions

If you have a tendency to freeze under pressure, type up a quick list of the questions you plan to ask. Start with a list of typical interview questions, and then gather any specifics from the company’s online presence. Additionally, you’ll want to have your list handy during the interview so you can jot down any specific questions that come to mind.

Of course, you don’t want to awkwardly read from your list when question time comes around. This list should contain a few bullet points or keywords that can help remind you of the questions you have already practiced.

Mints

Chewing on a wad of gum isn’t the best interview etiquette, but if you’re worried about your breath because you’ve been chugging coffee all morning, stick a tin of mints in your bag. Keep it handy so you can easily reach down and grab one during interview transitions.

Leave it behind: What not to bring to an interview

Now that your bag is packed, go ahead and take another look to make sure these items aren’t in it.

Phone

Leave your phone in your car — or at least silence it and stuff it deep into your bag. You don’t want it buzzing or posing a distraction during your interview.

Gum

See item No. 7 above. Replace your gum habit with mints for just a few hours.

Food and drinks

Bringing food into an interview is distracting. If the interview process is long, perhaps the prospective employer will offer you a drink and snack or even take you to lunch. That’s fine to accept. In fact, you’ll want to accept a glass of water — sipping it can give you time to slow down and think or to clear your throat. Eating at your own leisure, however, can come off as rude to an employer.

In conclusion

When it comes to interviewing, use your professional instincts and remember that you’re always better off playing it safe. Think about what would impress you (or annoy you) as a hiring manager and let that guide your preparation. Your goal is to come off as put together and professional a possible, so take the essentials and leave anything that won’t help that image at home.

Bring your best self to your next job interview. Learn more about TopInterview’s professional interview-coaching services.

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