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What should I bring to an interview? Must-have things for a successful meeting

What should I bring to an interview? Must-have things for a successful meeting

  • What to bring to an interview
  • 1. Copies of your resume
  • 2. List of references
  • 3. Work samples or portfolio
  • 4. Water bottle
  • 5. Notepad and pen
  • 6. Contingency items
  • 7. Briefcase or bag
  • 8. Questions for the interviewer
  • 9. Interview details
  • 10. Photo ID
  • 11. A positive attitude
  • What not to bring to an interview
  • FAQs
  • Can I take notes on a phone or laptop during an interview?
  • Is it appropriate to bring food to an interview?
  • Key takeaways

Once you land an interview, it’s time to prepare. As part of this process, think about what items you’ll want to have with you in the meeting. We’re here to help you prepare by answering the question, “What should I bring to an interview?”

When you get an interview for a new job, your first thought might not be, “What should I bring to an interview?” However, knowing what to bring can help you calm your nerves and make you feel prepared for every scenario. Once you’ve researched some common questions and done a mock interview or two, compile a checklist with everything you need to bring with you on the big day.

If you’re not sure what to include on your checklist, we can help. In this guide, we’ll list everything you need to bring to an interview so you can feel confident and in control. We’ll discuss:

  • What documents you should bring to an interview?

  • Some items you’re better off leaving at home

  • The answers to other frequently asked questions about interviews

What to bring to an interview

When preparing for an interview, you might focus on researching the company and practicing your answers to common questions. While these steps are essential for success, don’t forget to consider the logistical details of your interview, too. By thinking ahead, you can make sure you arrive at an interview with everything you need to impress a prospective employer—and settle your nerves at the same time.

Here’s a checklist of 11 items you should considering bringing to your next in-person job interview:

1. Copies of your resume

An interviewer may bring your resume to the meeting, but if they forget, you’ll want to have a copy you can provide to them. Additionally, you never know if someone else will join your interview, such as a human resources manager.

Bring several copies of your resume that you can hand to anyone who needs to review your qualifications. Having copies of your resume readily available can show an interviewer your professionalism and organizational skills.

2. List of references

In some cases, an employer may end an interview by asking for your references. Prepare a list of references before the interview and bring it with you. Use the same formatting as your resume to keep your application materials consistent. Aim to have at least three professional references who can vouch for your skills and abilities.

Expert Tip

Provide the right information for your references

For each reference you list, include their name, company, job title, and contact information, including their phone number and email. You can also include a brief description of your professional relationship. For example, you may write, “Isabella Jamison was my manager from 2021 to 2023 when I worked as a sales representative at T-Mobile.”

3. Work samples or portfolio

If you’re interviewing for a creative position, such as a graphic designer or an architect, an interviewer may ask to see samples of your work. Bring some work samples or your portfolio to the interview so you can discuss your experience in detail. Choose samples that best reflect your skills and expertise.

If you can describe the results of the work samples you provide, that’s even better. For example, if you’re a marketing professional, you might show an interviewer an advertising campaign that generated new revenue for your last company.

4. Water bottle

Dry mouth is a common symptom of nerves, making a water bottle a must-have item for many interviewees. While some employers may offer you water at the start of an interview, you can also bring your own water bottle just in case.

If your mouth starts to go dry, drink some water after answering a question or while listening to the interviewer speak. You can also take a sip of water when you need to take a brief pause before answering a question.

5. Notepad and pen

Think of an interview as an informational meeting where you can learn more about your potential future employer. Have a notepad and pen available so you can jot down important details you glean from the interview. You can also take notes about specific talking points you want to reference as you discuss your skills and experience.

However, make sure you’re not constantly writing throughout the interview. Remain engaged in the conversation so the interviewer knows they have your full attention.

6. Contingency items

The contingency items you bring with you to an interview can depend on your personality and the style of interview you’re doing. If you’re someone who plans for every situation, you may choose to bring a wide range of items to calm your nerves.

Some common contingency items you may want to have for an interview include:

  • Breath mints, floss, or mouthwash

  • Deodorant

  • A phone charger

  • Aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Stain remover

  • A lint brush

  • Concealer

  • Chapstick

  • Eye drops

  • Tissues

  • Hand sanitizer

7. Briefcase or bag

Wondering how you can possibly bring all these items with you to an interview? Have a briefcase or bag you can use to stay organized. Choose a bag that can hold a folder or a portfolio where you can keep copies of your resume, references, and work samples. Also, clean out the bag before your interview so you’re not digging around to find a pen or other small item.

8. Questions for the interviewer

Most likely, an interviewer will ask if you have any questions about the role or the company. Coming prepared with a list of thoughtful questions can show an interviewer your interest and enthusiasm. Plus, it gives you a much-needed opportunity to learn more about the place where you might be working in the near future.

Write down the questions you want to ask the interviewer in the notepad you bring with you. Throughout the interview, you can also jot down quick notes about follow-up questions you want to ask so you don’t forget them. Make sure you’re asking unique questions that you haven’t covered yet in the interview.

If you need some ideas, here are examples of good questions to ask in an interview:

  • What do you expect the new employee to accomplish in their first 30, 60, and 90 days?

  • How will you measure success in this role?

  • What are the opportunities for professional development?

  • How well does this team collaborate to achieve shared goals?

  • What are the company’s goals for the next five years?

9. Interview details

There’s no worse feeling as you’re rushing to an interview and realizing you’ve forgotten the company address or the name of the person you’ll be meeting. Make sure you have all the interview details you need and leave yourself enough time to account for potential delays like traffic, late buses or subways, or other inconveniences. Write them down or create a note in your phone for easy reference.

These logistical details may include:

  • The address of the company or the interview location

  • The name of the building and directions

  • Information about where to park

  • The name, job title, and phone number of the person you’re interviewing with

10. Photo ID

This item may be optional, depending on where you’re interviewing. Some companies require visitors to show photo identification when entering the building. Most employers will let you know if you need identification when scheduling your interview, but if you’re unsure, you can check with the interviewer beforehand (or bring your photo ID just in case).

11. A positive attitude

Last but not least, make sure you arrive at an interview with a positive attitude. Be courteous and polite to everyone you encounter, including security guards, receptionists, and other employees.

During the interview, stay engaged and focused on the conversation. Even if you’re on the fence about the position or the company, be enthusiastic in your responses and questions. An interviewer may not remember every answer you give, but they’ll remember your positive attitude and cheerful demeanor long after you’ve left.

What not to bring to an interview

If you bring the items listed above, you can feel confident when walking into your next interview. But what about some items you shouldn’t have with you? The following are some of the items that can be a distraction in the interview and should be left at home, stowed away during the duration of the interview, or avoided altogether:

  • Your phone. While you can bring your phone with you, make sure you turn it off or put the ringer on silent until you’re out of the building. Getting a phone call or a text notification can disrupt the flow of an interview and make you appear unprofessional.

  • Gum. If you want to chew gum to have minty-fresh breath for your interview, make sure you dispose of it before meeting with the employer. Chewing gum can distract the interviewer and take the focus away from your qualifications.

  • Heavy perfume. The person you’re meeting with may have sensitivity to strong smells, so refrain from wearing heavy perfume to your interview.

  • A suitcase, duffel bag, or other luggage. If you’ve traveled for an interview and plan to depart right after the meeting, find a place to store your luggage so you don’t have to bring it with you.


Here are answers to other frequently asked questions about what to bring with you for an interview:

Can I take notes on a phone or laptop during an interview?

In most cases, it’s better to use the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method for taking notes during an interview. It’s less obtrusive than using a phone, laptop, or other mobile device.

However, if an employer expects you to bring a laptop or tablet for another reason, such as to give a presentation, it may be appropriate to take notes on the device as well. Use your best judgment to determine whether you can use a mobile device without looking distracted or appearing uninterested in the conversation.

Is it appropriate to bring food to an interview?

No, it’s not appropriate to bring food to a job interview. Eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal before your interview so you’re not hungry during the meeting. You can also eat a quick snack before your interview to satisfy any hunger cravings you may have.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Some interviewers may offer you a beverage or a snack, especially if the meeting goes long. In this case, it’s appropriate to accept their offering. Similarly, if you have a lunch interview, you can eat during this time.

Want more interview advice? Check out Career.io’s interview prep and simulation tool for intuitive feedback and personalized insights to ace your next interview!

Key takeaways

  1. As you prepare for an interview, make a checklist of items you’ll need to bring with you to feel calm and confident.

  2. Bring some essential items with you to the interview, including the logistical details, a photo ID, and a notepad and pen.

  3. Some items you shouldn’t bring to an interview include your phone (unless it’s on silent), chewing gum, and heavy perfume.

  4. Make sure you have copies of your resume and other important documents, like your professional references and certifications.

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