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Simple Truths About Getting to the Interview and What to Take With You

Having What It Takes/taking What You Need

There are a number of things you will want to take with you to an interview. On the one hand, you don't want to over-pack; on the other hand, you don't want to leave behind anything essential. For purposes of this discussion, there are really four scenarios you need to consider.

The local interview

For this interview, you leave your home or your current job, drive directly to the interview site, and return to home or work afterward. You're probably wearing your interview outfit when you leave, so the focus is on these key items: copies of your resume; your reference sheet; portfolio of accomplishments; copy of the job posting; directions to your destination; and other research materials you have accumulated. If you're wearing a suit jacket, hang it in the back of the car and put it on just before you walk in for the interview.

The driving-out-of-town interview

This interview involves driving your own car or one you have rented. Be sure to include everything mentioned in the first scenario, but take advantage of the space you have in the car and take along other import things. Wear comfortable clothes to drive in and plan to change into your interview outfit some place close to the employer's location. If you're not sure about where to stop, there are many commercial truck stops on major highways that have facilities where you can change your clothes (or even take a shower, though hopefully you won't need one), or you can use the restroom in a fast-food restaurant. Of course, if you're staying overnight, you can change at your hotel. Take a complete second interview outfit and an extra set of “casual dress” clothes. This allows you the opportunity to recover from a wardrobe disaster, and also gives you options if you're invited to stick around for an after-hours activity. Hang your interview clothes on hangers in the back of your car, or lay them flat on the seat to avoid wrinkles. Make sure you have a fully stocked personal grooming kit and spare set of undergarments. If you take any prescription medications, include a two-day supply in your grooming kit, just to be safe.

The flying-out-of-town interview

This interview involves flying to another city and often staying overnight. This is perhaps the most challenging scenario. You'd like to be able to take everything you'd take if you were driving, but you need to travel light. The most efficient approach is to take a single carry-on bag. Be sure it meets airline size requirements, and be strategic about how you pack. (At this writing, the Transportation Safety Administration allows a single one-quart sealed plastic bag containing liquids in containers of 3 ounces or less; trial size or travel size toiletries will probably pass muster.) The biggest advantage is that you won't have to wait for luggage at your destination and you have little risk of losing anything along the way. In addition to resumes, portfolios, and reference sheets, include an extra shirt (or blouse) that matches your ensemble; your grooming kit including your medications; extra underwear; and something comfortable to wear on the flight home. If you're checking into a hotel before going to the interview, wear something comfortable on the plane and plan to change into your interview outfit. Packing it in your luggage may cause wrinkling, but your clothes will still be fresher than if you traveled in them. Hopefully you'll have the opportunity to use an iron to touch things up, or try the steamy bathroom trick mentioned in Simple Truths about Wardrobe and Grooming for Your Job Interview. Don't forget to take all the items mentioned in Scenario #1 above, and consider whether transporting your documents electronically, on a CD-ROM or a memory stick makes sense. You can then print them at the hotel's business center or a quick-copy store near the interview site. This could be more bother than it's worth, but it's one way to eliminate some bulk when you're packing.

The in-town interview

This interview involves using public transportation or walking. In this situation, a briefcase or tote bag that accommodates all of your papers is a good idea. It should be large enough to contain everything you plan to take along (pretty much everything that was mentioned in the first scenario). That way, you only have to worry about carrying one item. Depending on the weather, the reliability of buses or subways, and other logistical factors, consider taking a taxi to ensure you arrive on time and not disheveled by your journey. Make sure you have an umbrella and as appropriate overcoat, headgear, and footwear for the seasonal conditions you may encounter.

In Appendix A, you will find a comprehensive checklist of materials you should consider taking with you to your interview. Review that list, taking into consideration the recommendations offered above, as well as the expert advice that appears below:

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsSimple Truths About Getting to the Interview and What to Take With You - Location, Location, Location, Having What It Takes/taking What You Need, Tips From The Pros