Your Interview Kit

Several years ago, three professional recruiters came to talk with my students about preparing for job interviews. They talked about

• the kinds of questions they would ask in an initial interview [see Appendix J Typical interview questions in my book]
• what they look for when they review a resume [see Tip 38 Create (or update) your resume and Appendix H Creating a resume]
• how they read cover letters [see Tip 39 Learn to write good cover letters and Appendix I Creating a letter of application (cover letter)]
• what job seekers should (and shouldn’t) wear to an interview [See Appendix K Dressing for the interview]
• the type of preparation they expect an interviewee to have completed prior to the interview [See Tip 37 Do research on every company where you want to apply]
• the topics that should (and should not) be raised by an interviewee [See Tips 42-46, all of which cover the questions and topics appropriate for an interview]

At the end of the session, they presented each student with an “interview kit.” Here’s what the interview kit contained, and why I think it would be a good idea for you to make one for yourself.

• Breath mints. You don’t want to create a bad impression by having bad breath, and a pre-interview cup of coffee is enough to do it! Even if you brushed your teeth before leaving the house, freshen up your breath with a breath mint right before you go in the building. And if you’re a smoker, do not smoke on your way to the interview, wear freshly laundered clothing, and be sure that you’ve washed your hair after your last cigarette. The smell of cigarette smoke has become quite repugnant to many people and, even if it’s a subliminal cue, the smell of smoke could make a bad impression on interviewers.
• A lint roller. If you have pets, you have pet hair on your clothing, and probably in your car, so keep a lint roller handy to brush off your clothes right before you go into the building. Even if you don’t have pets, stray hairs on your jacket will make you look untidy (and we all shed hair every day!)
• A notebook. This can be a small paper notebook, a portfolio pad, or an electronic notebook, but you definitely want to be able to take notes. You may also want to write down some questions you’ve prepared to ask when you’re invited to do so.
• A pen or a pencil—if you’re taking a paper notebook.
• A sheet of “thank you” stationery and an envelope. You can pick up inexpensive thank you notes at any store that sells paper goods (such as Walmart or Target). You can pre-address the envelope and put a stamp on it so you’re prepared to write the thank you note immediately after the interview and mail it on your way home. (I’ve talked about this before in this blog, but it really is helpful if you write a thank you note promptly.)

I would add a few items to this list:

• Several copies of your resume. It’s likely that the interviewer will have your resume on the desk during the interview, but sometimes you will be taken to see other individuals or you may be in a group interview session. It’s good to have extra copies of your resume so that all the people at the interview can have it in front of them.
• Your reference list [see Tip 40 Create your reference list]. Be prepared in case they ask you for your references, but don’t offer it if you’re not asked for it. You will want to have at least three references, all of whom have previously given you permission to use their names. When you ask your references for permission, also find out how they would like to be contacted. Your reference list needs to include the names of the individuals, their job titles, where they work, and their preferred contact information (phone or email address or both).
• Your business card [see Tip 23 Produce a personal business card]. You can give business cards to other people you meet at the organization who may not have been involved with the interview process and thus don’t have (or need) your resume.