Build plenty of time into your travel schedule and allow at least 20 minutes before your interview begins. If you’re arriving at the premise at a busy time, it could well take 10 minutes get through reception so allow for this. If you have lots of time to spare, you could have a coffee – or calming camomile tea - in a nearby cafe and run through your unique selling points (USP).
This is way of establishing rapport with your interviewer and sets a level of engagement. Besides, smiling relaxes you: it transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional centre in the brain, tilting the neurochemical balance toward calm. Go ahead and beam!
A copy of your CV
A crisp copy of your CV on nice quality paper is a good thing to take along. Use it as a memory aid rather than a prop, so don’t put the copy on the table or read f it like a script. But it can be all too easy for interview nerves to get the better of you and to go blank when asked about a particular employment date, for example. This is a good time to take out and consult your CV.
A positive attitude
Remember that if a company is prepared to invest the time to interview you, they want you to succeed! Your interviewer is not looking to fail you at this stage so try and be as open as possible to a dialogue. Interviewees often fall into the trap of feeling negative or fearful, which is not helpful to good interaction.
A list of questions
Prepare five and have them on a professional sheet of paper. You don’t need to ask all of them – indeed you probably shouldn’t. An interview may be so engrossing that you forget the key points you wanted to raise. When asked ‘do you have any questions for us?’, refer to your list and choose the ones that seem the most relevant or burning after your interview discussion.
A smart handbag or attaché case
Ladies, avoid taking your glitziest designer bag and opt for a professional look. Make sure you know where the items vital to the interview are stowed without having to rummage around. For men an attaché case is a modern version of the briefcase and a good place to store your CV, notes, notepad and pen.
A notepad and pen
Have these to hand in your handbag or attaché case in a place where you don’t have to scrabble around. Then if you are asked something you don’t know – you can always say ‘I’ll take a note of that and get back to you’, which is an assured professional response.
Evidence of your work
You may wish to take some evidence of good work that you have done in the form of a couple of hard copy samples to leave with an interviewer to further reflect upon. This is a good thing to take to a second interview stage - but don’t be pushy about it and wait until the end before producing it.
What not to take to your interview
I was interviewing a senior executive recently and her mobile phone went off. As she hunted around in her bag for it, the ringing got louder, she became flustered and lost her composure and track of the interview. Disaster! I thought, ‘this shows a lack of preparation’. Leave mobiles in the car or turn them off.
Porfolio of work
It’s not necessary to take a portfolio of your work to an interview unless it is specifically requested. The exception to this is if you are in an industry, such as design or catering, which produces tangible goods, when a portfolio may be welcomed at the end of the interview. Generally though, rifling through a stack of paper or scrolling down an open laptop is a distraction from a good conversation.
These will be formally pursued if a company wishes to make you an offer, so there is no need to brandish bits of paper or testimonials at an interview. It just looks desperate.
With thanks to
Sarah Hopkins, ResourceBank
Simon Broomer, Career Balance
What to take to an interview