What to Bring to and Say in a Job Interview

Bring copies of your resume and an ID at minimum. Be ready to talk about your career and interest in the job.
Cara Smith
By Cara Smith 
Edited by Amanda Derengowski

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So, you’ve spent time preparing for the interview. You’ve practiced answering interview questions, reviewed your past professional experience, and you’ve confirmed the interview. All that’s left is putting your best foot forward.

Here are some options and considerations. Below, we’ll spell out exactly what to wear, bring and talk about in an interview. We’ll also present options based on whether you’ll be interviewing in-person, over the phone or via Zoom or another video conferencing platform

What to bring to an interview

If you’re interviewing in-person, experts recommend you bring the following:

  • Several copies of your resume and cover letter.

  • Notebook and pen or pencil.

  • Snack and a water bottle.

  • Valid ID or driver’s license.

  • A folder, just in case you receive materials or paperwork to review.

Depending on your job or industry, you may also want to bring the following:

  • A portfolio of your work, such as creative samples or sales records.

  • Letters of recommendation.

  • Business cards.

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If possible, get your resume printed on higher-quality paper rather than standard printer paper. It’s generally recommended to have a few copies handy, in case another manager or interviewer joins the interview. For interviews conducted over the phone or Zoom, have a copy of your resume and cover letter handy for your easy reference.

You only need one copy of your portfolio or work samples, though. Generally speaking, a portfolio can include your career objective or personal statement, a list of your licenses or accreditations, work samples, any awards or recognition, professional references and community service. If a portfolio is appropriate for your job, a quick online search for “portfolio + [your industry]” should help you assemble a winning portfolio.

It’s also wise to bring a notebook and pen or pencil. Being prepared to take notes signals that you’re taking the interview seriously.

And don’t forget your ID. It sounds basic, but some buildings require ID for entry, and you wouldn’t want an embarrassing holdup to interfere with your interview.

What to say in an interview

In the interview, you should be prepared to talk about these and related subjects in detail:

  • Your past work experience and accomplishments.

  • Why you’re interested in the position.

  • What you like about the company or employer.

  • Your long-term professional goals and interests.

  • Your salary expectations.

Give focused answers and examples

Before the interview, take a few hours to review some common interview questions. You could be asked questions on a wide array of topics, from how you manage stress to what motivates you professionally. Reviewing sample questions will naturally force you to refresh your memory on past work experiences and help ensure you can provide focused, straightforward answers.

When reflecting on the questions, take notes, and jot down specific anecdotes or stories you’d like to share. If you’re interviewing over the phone or Zoom, you can keep these notes handy, but don’t overly rely on them — your interviewer will be able to tell if you’re reading your answers.

If you’re interviewing in-person, you should only reference notes that contain specific dates or figures during the interview. Otherwise, prepare to speak about your prior experience and preferences without looking at your notes. The more conversational your responses, the better. Ultimately, though, if you need to look to avoid struggling through an answer, definitely do so.

Highlight your past experience and accomplishments

When asked about your past experience and accomplishments, keep in mind: Your interviewers have already read your resume. This is an opportunity to talk about the accomplishments you couldn’t capture on your resume.

If you achieved impressive sales numbers or results, for example, you could talk about what skills you specifically used to achieve those results. Think about instances at your previous jobs in which you showed initiative, drive or another desirable skill. Share those experiences, and illustrate how you’re uniquely equipped to achieve the kinds of results your interviewer and the company are looking for.

Why you’re interested in the position

Your interviewer will likely ask why you’re interested in the position. Mention specific parts of the job that interest you and align with your skills and experience. Highlight a few specific job responsibilities, and illustrate why you’re the ideal candidate to fulfill those responsibilities. Also, talk about how the job supports your long-term career goals. That’ll show the interviewers that you see this job as a long-term commitment.

What you like about the company or employer

Interviewers ask this question to see how serious candidates are about the role, and to ensure they’re hiring candidates that believe in the company’s mission. This is why it’s important to research the company before your interview.

At minimum, you should be able to talk about what the company does, its long-term plans (if these are publicly available) and its mission statement. You could also check out the company’s social media pages and LinkedIn page, as both can provide insights into its culture and workplace. Mention a few specific parts of the company’s products, services or culture that appeal to you. If possible, bring up a growth opportunity that the company could potentially explore. Even if it's not on the company’s radar, it’ll show your interviewer that you did your homework and are genuinely interested in helping the company reach its goals.

Your long-term professional goals and interests

If you’re asked about your goals, your interviewer wants to see how seriously you take your career, and whether there's alignment with the company's goals and opportunities. Talk about what interests you most about your work, and what kind of job you’d like to have in five or 10 years. Be as specific as possible — if you want to manage people, oversee a division or advance in a related field, say that.

And if you aren’t totally sure where you see yourself in five or 10 years, you could bring up the most fulfilling aspects of your job, and say that you’d like to advance into a role that allows you to advance in those parts of the job.

Salary expectations

Finally, if the interview goes well, your interviewer may also ask about your salary expectations or start date. The former can be a tricky question to answer. You don’t want to give a number that’s lower than what the company’s prepared to pay, according to the Harvard Business Review, but you also don’t want to provide a number that’s dramatically higher than the role’s salary range.

To buy yourself some time, the Harvard Business Review recommends you ask to instead focus for the time being on the role and your qualifications, which will give you time to provide an appropriate answer later. You could also tell the interviewer that you’d like some time to research comparable wages, but that you can send over your ideal salary within one or two business days.

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