Interviewing is both daunting and nerve-wracking. Similar to a first date where you must make a good first impression or suffer the consequences of not getting asked out a second time, a job interview is a high-stakes courtship.
The more prepared you are, the more likely you'll tame that bundle of nerves and exude confidence. Preparation, however, is more than a new suit and shiny shoes. In fact, despite the hours you've already invested in researching companies, preparing your resume and applying for jobs, your work is not done. The interview requires additional energy beyond showing up and answering questions. You must be proactive and invest time organizing your presentation for this big meeting.
Here are five job interview documents you should consider bringing with you:
1. A current resume. While you already provided your resume when you applied for the job, you also want to bring hard copies to the interview. Make sure you use high-quality resume paper and that your ink cartridge is fresh before printing this important document. You should also conduct additional research on the company, the department, the hiring manager, and/or the general state of the industry before the interview, and as a result, it may prompt you to adjust your resume. For example, you might tweak a lead-in headline or add in/adapt a career story achievement to emphasize your specific job fit. Resume conversations are organic, "living" documents adaptable to each situation. Make sure yours is tiptop before handing it out at an interview.
2. A cover letter. While it may seem counter intuitive since you already landed the interview, including a cover letter with your resume can add value. First, if possible, find out the name and title of the person or persons with whom you will be interviewing and customize your inside address and salutation. Then, create a fresh, brief introductory message that emphasizes your enthusiasm and interest, plus the value you'd bring to the position. Keep in mind the research you've performed recently on the company and/or the hiring decision maker, and weave that in using custom language to hook their interest.
3. Your references. Having references on hand is good, even if you choose not to hand them off during the first job interview (gauge where you are in the process at the end of the meeting and determine whether the timing is right to distribute them). If you DO decide to deploy references, you want them to be up-to-date and meaningful. For example, make sure that all of the references you've listed know that you're interviewing. Receiving a surprise call on your behalf does not set the stage for the most glowing testimonial.
As well, ensure you include the necessary reference information to make it easy for the reader: name, company, title, direct phone line (their preferred telephone number), and email address. Also, connect the relationship dots between you and the reference. Explain in writing that they were your boss, customer, direct report, etc. Identify a specific area of your value that the reference can confirm. For example, if this person tapped you to spearhead a large, complex project that was limited on resources and time, and you finished successfully and ahead of schedule, then you may suggest that this person can confirm your abilities in complex project management, problem solving, and containing costs.
4. A strategic plan. Depending upon the particular interview situation, you may also want to arrive bearing a strategic plan that will further "wow" the employer with your preparedness and initiative. For example, if you're applying for a sales manager role, you may be privy to the fact that the team you'll be leading is demoralized, has high turnover, and declining performance. Your 90-day plan should cover three things: One, a quick overview / assessment of the current, deteriorating situation. Two, action steps you'd employ to begin turning the ship around. And three, measurable objectives that you're committed to meeting by the end of that time period.
5. Your portfolio. Portfolios add value for a number of careerists, especially graphic artists, other creative folks, and sales professionals. For example, a salesperson's portfolio is called a "brag book," and for obvious reasons. Content may include testimonial letters and emails from bosses, clients, colleagues, and vendors. It also may include colorful, clean, and powerful charts and graphs that illustrate your measurable sales results. You might even weave in a bit of subtle humor such as a sales-related cartoon. Sometimes, sliding in a one-page biography that blends your professional and personal story into a concise narrative adds value. This assortment of wins and career advocacy documents should focus on the professional you, with a twist of personality.
You won't get a second chance at this first impression, so heightening your presentation at the interview is important. Outfitting yourself with these five items may not guarantee you the job, but they will assure you that you've done all you can to put your best interview foot forward.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at http://careertrend.net/blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.