Now that the holidays have come and gone, and the fiscal cliff controversy is behind us (for now), companies are beginning to shift their focus back to hiring. Most projections indicate that the job market should improve in 2013. Taking the optimistic view, more hiring means more job seekers will have the opportunity to interview. With that in mind, here is a list of things job seekers should bring with them to an interview:
- Multiple copies of your resume (plus one copy for yourself to reference during the interview) – Job seekers should always expect the unexpected at an interview. It is not uncommon for the interviewer to misplace your resume, or to arrive and find the hiring manager has asked a few members of his/her team to sit it. Have a copy ready to hand them—you’ll look organized and prepared.
- Employment history, with company contact & salary information – Know that you’ll likely be asked to fill out an employment application upon your arrival. Prepare this information ahead of time—it will save you time, and again, will give the appearance that you are well organized. You should be prepared to address the last 10 years of your employment history at a minimum (if you are in the running for a job that requires a background investigation, you may need to provide considerably more than that).
- References – Depending upon where you are in the interview process, you may or may not be asked to submit a list of references. Be prepared—have a list with you, just in case. Remember to reach out to your references to give them a heads-up to expect a call.
- A list of your professional accomplishments – Put together a document separate from your resume that highlights your most significant professional accomplishments. It doesn’t need to be limited to 1 or 2 pages (but should be a practical length—flipping through a 10 page document during an interview would not be advisable). If you arrive at your interview early, you can review this list prior to the start—it will jog your memory for things you’d like to mention, and give you confidence before the first interview.
- Pens & a Notebook – An interview is a two-way information exchange, and the best candidates are those that are actively engaged in the interview process. You’ll want to take notes, and follow up with questions based upon the new information that you’re taking in. It is a good idea to have one pen that you know works, plus one or two new ones as backups.
- Questions – Prepare a well-researched list of questions the night before your interview. Try to avoid asking basic questions that can be easily answered by looking at the company webpage. Ask thoughtful, intelligent questions that show you’ve done your homework and have an understanding of the company and how you’ll meet their needs.
- Thank-you notes – The debate rages on as to whether a handwritten thank-you note is still practical in the digital age, and it’s a fair question. If you have the opportunity, ask the recruiter what the timetable is for making a decision. If the timetable is a week or more, consider a customized, handwritten thank you note (and make sure to get names/titles of everyone you meet—anyone you’ve contacted should receive one). If it’s a shorter timetable, it is fine to send a thank-you note by e-mail.
- Mints – This should be self-explanatory.
- Granola or energy bar & bottled water – It’s a good idea to bring something you could eat quickly and discreetly between interviews if a one-hour interview suddenly turns into a half-day meet-and-greet. Keeping your blood sugar level elevated will help you stay focused and interview your best.
- Professional looking portfolio – You’ll need something to carry all of the items mentioned above. It doesn’t need to be pricey or fancy, but it should be suitably professional and appropriate for your industry.
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