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10 Professional Items To Bring to an Interview

Brandi Glass
September 204 min read
Woman carrying a folder in front of steps

A job interview is a great opportunity to show that you're the perfect candidate for a job, and every part of it is vital to making that impression. That includes what you wear, how you communicate and what you bring to the interview.

What To Bring to an Interview: 10 Items

The items you bring to a job interview sends a clear message about how prepared and organized you are. If you bring nothing to an interview, it can make you look unprepared. Conversely, bringing too many items, especially unnecessary things, can give the wrong impression to an employer.

Here's a quick list of what to bring to an interview that is professional and practical at the same time:

1. Resume

Several copies of it, in fact, even if you've already provided it. This is especially important if the only resume your interviewer has is the one they downloaded from a job search site. It's not unusual for an interviewer to note have your resume on hand. When you hand over a printed resume on good paper stock, you'll send the message that you're organized and prepared for any eventuality.

2. Business Card

If you have a business card, bring it with you. It's the quickest way to provide contact info to people who don't need your full resume. And while it may seem old school, business cards are still one of the marks of a serious professional.

3. A Folder

Or two or three. Keep them neatly stowed away until they're needed. Folders are an excellent way to keep your resumes and other papers neat and organized — and a spare folder is a good place to stash away any paperwork you have to fill out or take home with you from the interview.

4. A Briefcase or Portfolio

You're carrying a lot of papers, cards and other stuff, so you want to make sure your appearance is polished, professional and neat. A briefcase or portfolio allows you to stow everything away and keep it neatly organized and ready to pull out when you need it.

5. Interview Questions

A printed list of your interview questions — as well as talking points for your interview — will help you remember things you wanted to be sure to bring up. No matter how much you practice interviewing, it's not unusual for the mind to suddenly go blank just when you need your memory the most.

6. A Notepad and Pen

Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to take notes during an interview. A neat notepad and pen lets you jot down the names of people you want to remember as well as any notes or further instructions your interviewer may have for you.

7. A List of References

You may not be asked to provide references, but being prepared is always a good look. Print them on a separate sheet from your resume and have them ready to hand to your interviewer on request.

8. Bottle of Water

The last thing you need is a case of dry mouth or a tickle in the back of your throat just as you're preparing to answer an all-important question. This is the one exception to "no food or drink at an interview." In addition to that practical purpose, a sip of water gives you an extra few seconds to compose your thoughts before you answer a tough question.

9. Your ID

And possibly your Social Security card. In some cases, you may be asked to bring both — as well as any required certifications. If not requested by the interviewer, you may still need your ID for security purposes — some buildings require them for entry. Imagine being all prepped and ready, only to be turned away at the door because you didn't bring an ID along.

10. Your Phone

Your phone is usually on the list of "things not to bring to an interview," but that's a little outdated, considering all the uses for a phone these days. By all means, bring it with you — but turn it off, or at least put it in Do Not Disturb mode — when you enter the building. That way you have it with you if you need it — to show off a portfolio, for example — but it won't be chiming in to interrupt your interview.

Leave These Items In the Car

The following items are unnecessary and should really be left in the car, if not at home:

Candy, Gum or Mints Of course you want your breath to smell sweet, but you don't want to be chewing or popping breath mints during the interview. If you're really uncertain about your breath, arrive early enough to dip into the restroom and give your teeth a quick brush.

Perfume or Aftershave Some people are very sensitive to smells — to the point where perfume and other scents are banned from some workplaces. Err on the side of caution. Use a (strong) unscented deodorant, and avoid spritzing with your favorite scent.

Your Lunch Nope, nope and nope. Not only is it unprofessional to open up your lunch and dig in — unless you're specifically invited to a dining interview, in which case they're probably providing lunch — you probably don't want to eat a meal just before your interview anyway. Why risk showing up with ketchup on your tie, or treating the office to the gurgling sounds of your lunch digesting?

Your Mom Yes, this is really a thing that happens. Even if mom — or your best friend — is coming along to give you a ride or offer moral support, they should stay behind in the car while you interview. You can fill them in on the details on the ride home.

Your Shopping So you got to the interview (way too) early and decided to bop into that cute little shop downstairs to kill time. If that blouse was calling your name, ask the clerk to hold it for you until after your interview. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you managed to fit in your job interview in the middle of doing other errands.

A Lasting Impression Finally, one of the most important things you can bring with you to an interview is your smile and positive attitude. This will create a lasting impression. Put it on from the moment you open the car door, and keep it on until you're safely headed home. You never know who you might pass in the hall or on the elevator on your way to your meeting. That pleasant greeting to the receptionist may just be the thing that tips the scale in your favor in the long run.

Check out more interview, resume and career building tips on our blog.

Sources: Robert Half - Mom To Employer: "Do You Mind If I Sit In On My Son's Interview?"