Let’s face it: job interviews are stressful! That said, they’re a lot less stressful when you take a little time to prepare ahead. Instead of putting off your interview prep off until the last second – a.k.a. 5 minutes before you head out the door – print off our handy checklist. You’ll never forget any job interview essentials ever again.
the night before
print off 5 copies of your resume
Make sure you bring several copies of your resume. Most interviewers will bring their own print out, but if they ask for a copy, you don’t want to be caught empty handed. It’s unlikely you’ll be interviewed by more than 2 or 3 people, so having 5 copies is a safe bet.
research the company
Know who you’re interviewing with well before you step foot in the interview room. Research the company website, social media and key leaders. Interviewers often ask what you know about the company to gauge how interested you are in the role.
reread the job description
Reread the job description, or better yet, print it out and bring a copy with you. It’s important to remember the requirements of the job and what they’re looking for. This can help you tailor your answers and position yourself as an ideal candidate.
prepare answers to tough questions
Though can probably recount your work history by heart without much prep – you lived it, after all! – some questions are more difficult to answer on the fly. This includes questions that require more lengthy answers, or deal with conflict or salary. In these cases, it’s a good idea to do your research, or plan out what stories to tell. Here are a few questions it’s a good idea to prepare for:
- tell me about yourself
- why do you want this job?
- what is your salary range?
- why are you leaving your job?
- discuss a difficult work situation
- examples of teamwork/leadership
prepare questions to ask
Always have a list of a few questions you’d like to ask at the end of your interview. Having options is important in case your question is answered during the course of the interview. If you need some help coming up with questions check out our cheat sheet, for some ideas!
determine your route
Whether you’re driving or taking public transit, it’s important to research your route and have an idea of approximately how long it will take you to get to your destination. Google Maps can be a handy resource, but don’t take time estimates for granted. Don’t forget to account for traffic, especially if you’re going to be heading out in rush hour.
plan your outfit
Decide what you’re going to wear the night before. Keep it simple and professional – save loud patterns and bulky accessories for another time. If you don’t wear your professional interview clothes often, try them on beforehand and make sure you’re happy with the fit. Don’t wait until the morning before to find out your perfect outfit it too small or has a big tear you forgot about. Having this out of the way will allow you to focus your mental energy on the interview in the morning.
get to sleep early
Don’t stay up too late. Get a full 8 hours of sleep, if you can. It’s important to be refreshed and mentally present during your interview. You don’t want to show up to an interview with bloodshot eyes, unable to stop yawning. If you’re rested you’ll also be more adept at answering questions – sleep helps your cognitive and problem solving processes run smoothly.
the morning of
wake up with time to spare
Make sure you’ve set an alarm with plenty of time to spare. Set a backup alarm just in case, especially if you’re prone to hitting the snooze button a few times before you’ll actually get out of bed. Give yourself more time than you think to complete your morning routine. It’s no big deal if you’re early, but it’s hard to recover from running late.
Food is important to nourish your brain functions. Even if you’re not typically a breakfast person, consider grabbing a light snack before heading to your interview. There’s little worse than having a grumbly stomach hit right in the middle of an interview.
practice good hygiene
Shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and put on deodorant before heading to your interview. Hopefully you do all of these things every day, anyway. But it’s especially important when you’re heading to an interview. Bad hygiene is immediately noticeable and often a deal breaker for many employers.
check your route
Double check the route you’re planning on taking the morning of your interview. You never know when an accident or a shut down on a subway line could ruin your perfectly laid plans. It’s better to know about any issues you might stumble across before you head out the door so you can make alternate arrangements.
review your interview prep
Review all your materials the morning of your interview to keep them fresh in your mind. If you’re taking public transit, you can use the commute time to read over the job description, practice the stories you want to tell, and anything else that will help during the job interview.
Leave earlier than you think. We can’t stress this enough. Ideally, you should aim to have at least a 10 minute buffer. You can always hang out in your car or a nearby coffee shop if you’re excessively early. You can’t gain back time if you’re late. Aim to walk into the interview about 5 minutes early. Any earlier and your interviewer may not be ready for you, and you’ll just end up sitting in a waiting room.
what to bring with you
a professional bag
Don’t bring a beat up old backpack, or worse, a plastic shopping bag. If you have a briefcase or a sleek folio, now’s the time to use it. It’s a small thing, but it makes you look more professional and put together.
a pen and a spare, plus a notebook
You’ll probably want to take notes during the interview. Bring two pens and test them both before you leave. You don’t want to be scribbling trying to get a pen to work when you’re in the midst of an interview. Having a spare is extra insurance if one breaks or runs out of ink.
copies of your resume and references
Bring at least 5 copies of your resume. Sometimes interviewers will ask for them, sometimes they won’t. But it never hurts to be prepared. It’s also nice to have a copy you can refer to, if the interviewer asks a specific question about your resume. You should also have a copy of your references. Many companies will ask for them at the end of your in-person interview.
your portfolio or work samples
If you have examples of your work that you can share, bring them! A portfolio of your work or samples of projects you’ve worked on can be a huge selling point and help interviewers visualize your work style and capabilities. This mostly applies to creative industries such as design or writing, so if you don’t have work samples, don’t worry about it!
gum or mints
If you’ve had a coffee recently, it’s handy to pop a mint before you head into the interview. No one likes coffee breath. If you opt for gum, just remember to spit it out before you walk into the interview room. Chewing gum during an interview can be disrespectful at worst, and distracting at least.
Most employers will offer you coffee or a drink of water when you arrive, but it never hurts to have a water bottle handy just in case. You’ll be talking a lot, so it’s a good idea to have a beverage handy in case your throat becomes a little dry. A quick sip of water and you should be ready to keep talking.