Why You Should Never Walk Into a Job Interview Empty-Handed

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First impressions matter. A job interview is indeed your first opportunity to impress upon a prospective employer just how amazing you are. And yet many people make one really simple, easy-to-fix mistake that sets the tone for the entire thing: They walk in empty-handed.

I know what you're thinking: What the heck should I take with me? They already have my résumé and cover letter. They didn't request anything additional! What else do they need?

Well, before we get to that, let's talk about why you want to bring anything at all. And, to be clear, a purse or a briefcase storing your everyday things – keys, cellphone and so on – doesn't count, and neither does an application or background check agreement form the employer requested.Why Bother?

When you walk in with a set of actual interview materials, you immediately look professional and prepared. You show your interviewer that you really thought about the meeting and put some effort into gathering your support documentation – things that will help him or her make a decision on your candidacy. The interviewer will immediately see you as proactive. If this is how you prepare for meetings, that's a great sign of things to come!

Plus, when you have the materials with you, it serves as a nice reminder of things you'd like to talk about. It can be a bit of a crutch to help you stay focused on key accomplishments you want to share – the ones that perfectly demonstrate you're an ideal match for this role.

What Should I Take?

So, what kind of materials should you bring? There's a slew of possibilities:
  • Any paperwork the prospective employer specifically requested (obviously)
  • Additional copies of your résumé (You never know how many people you'll meet with, and you want to make sure everyone has a paper copy to view while you chat.)
  • Your full reference list with contact information, just in case
  • Examples of your past work, if possible, such as writing samples, project plans and so on (Basically, you can use anything that provides "evidence" of your work capabilities; just be sure not to share confidential information.)
  • Past performance reviews that show an outstanding evaluation, certificates of achievement or special accolades you've received in writing
  • Letters of recommendation from former superiors
  • Printouts of your LinkedIn recommendations (Unless someone is already connected with you on LinkedIn, it's likely they haven't seen them.)
  • A competency comparison table (This is a simple table that outlines what the prospective employer is seeking, per the job posting or description, and what you specifically offer that directly matches up to these items.)
Place your materials in a nice folder, and create a personal contact card to insert into the card slot at the front. Think of this as your marketing toolkit. Make sure the items are all copies rather than originals, since you'll want to leave it behind for their review later on.

When Should I Share My Materials?

Your interview materials should be left behind as something that will remain in the hands of the interviewer to be reviewed in depth once you're gone. These items can help speak for you even after the actual interview is over, so make sure they're self-explanatory.

However, it's a good idea to introduce the items organically during the conversation as well. Reference the materials inside as you discuss your past work experience. Use them as visual aides that help you tell the story of your achievements. Remember: Interviewers always want to know what you've done – not just who you are. Show them the evidence, and they're much more likely to really get it.

Take this advice to heart. Next time you walk into an interview, keep one hand free for shaking, but make sure that other hand holds your incredibly professional-looking personal marketing toolkit.

Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a delicious, nourishing life experience. As a corporate trainer and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.
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