What to Bring to an Interview: Your Checklist for Success

Published October 7, 2021
job applicant shaking hands

Once you are scheduled to interview for a job, it's time to focus on preparing to really wow the interviewer. This involves thinking about how to answer tough questions and deciding what to wear, but that's not all you should consider. It's also important to plan what to bring to an interview with you. After all, you might come across as unprepared if you don't have quick access to certain items.

Copies of Your Resume

Be sure you have several copies of your resume with you every time you go to an interview. They should be printed on good quality paper and stored in a way that keeps them clean and wrinkle-free. Even though the interviewer has probably seen your job application or resume, they might ask for a copy once you get there. You might even find yourself meeting with someone who has not yet seen information about your background. In either case, interviewers expect candidates to come prepared with printed resume copies.

List of Professional References

The interviewer may ask you to provide a list of people with whom you've worked in the past who can be contacted as professional references. It's much better to have such a list prepared and printed ahead of time, so you can leave a complete list of professional references with the interviewer before you leave. This will make a much more positive impression than if you have to gather the information to submit later.

List of Personal References

Some interviewers might ask for personal references rather than, or in addition to, professional references. For this reason, it's a good idea to bring a separate list of personal references that you can immediately provide to the interviewer if they ask for this type of information. If the interviewer requests character references, they're looking for personal references.

Letters of Reference

When you're searching for a job, gather a few general letters of reference from people who can speak highly of your skills, abilities, and work ethic. If you have such letters, make copies and take them to job interviews with you. That way, you'll be prepared if an interviewer mentions needing letters of reference. Even if the interviewer doesn't ask specifically for one, when it's time for you to ask questions you can inquire if they'd like you to provide a letter of reference. Your ability to produce a recommendation letter on the spot just might make you stand out from the competition.

Work Samples

Depending on the type of job you're interviewing for, you may want to bring work samples with you. This isn't relevant if you're interviewing to work in a retail environment like a store or restaurant, but can be relevant for many other fields. For example, if you're applying to work as a graphic artist, copywriter, or computer-aided drafting technician, show off your experience with examples of relevant work you've done at a previous job or in school. This will allow the interviewer to get a real sense of your talent and skills.

Padfolio Notebook

Carry a professional-looking padfolio with you to an interview. Choose a padfolio that is a dark, solid color. Make sure it is clean and in good repair. It will provide you with a good place to protect your resume and other papers that you need to bring. Make sure it's outfitted with a legal pad and a pen, in case you need something to write on or with. You can carry it in your hand or put it in a briefcase if you are taking one with you.

Group of candidates waiting for a job interview

Briefcase or Professional Tote

If you ordinarily carry a purse or backpack, consider opting to carry a nice briefcase or professional-looking tote (such as a leather laptop bag) when you have a job interview. This is a polished-looking alternative to carrying a more casual bag. It will also provide a good place to keep your padfolio and documents, as well as room to store your keys, a small umbrella (if needed), and other essential items.

Picture Identification

Many businesses have strict rules on keeping track of visitors. Be prepared to provide proof of identity if you are interviewing at a manufacturing plant, military base, construction site, transportation provider, or any company located in a large office building. A valid driver's license, state-issued non-driver's ID, or passport is generally sufficient.


If you tend to perspire a lot when you're nervous, consider tossing a travel-size container of antiperspirant/deodorant into your briefcase or tote bag. That way, if you need to touch up what you applied first thing in the morning just before going in for your interview, you'll be able to do so.

Hairbrush or Comb

You'll want to peek at your hair before you go into the interview location to be sure it looks neat and well-styled. Just in case it becomes unkempt during your commute to the interview (assuming it isn't virtual), you'll want to have a hairbrush or comb handy. Depending on your hairstyle, you may also need access to hairspray or gel.

Leave Other Items at Home

While the items above are great examples of what you should bring to a job interview, you should leave most other items at home.

  • It's okay to have your phone with you at the interview site, but keep it set to silent and tucked away out of sight the entire time you are there, even when you are waiting in the lobby.
  • Don't take anyone else with you to the interview, including both children and other adults. If someone gives you a ride to the interview, have that person wait in the car or go run errands while you are interviewing.
  • Don't take a gaming console or any other form of entertainment to use while you're waiting to see the interviewer. Instead, sit quietly or make small talk with the receptionist while waiting.

Be Prepared for a Successful Interview

Be mindful that everything you do when you go on an interview contributes to making a positive impression on others. Be nice to everyone you encounter while you're at the company, regardless of what their position might be. The interviewer might ask the person at the front desk or the lobby check-in station to describe your overall demeanor and behavior upon arrival. The way you present yourself at the interview, paired with your overall interview preparation, will have an impact on whether you are seriously considered for the job. It's up to you to behave in a way that will make the interviewer want to put you at the top of the shortlist of candidates for final interviews.

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What to Bring to an Interview: Your Checklist for Success