5 things you should bring to the interview

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By Anne Cummings, Special to TheWorkBuzz.com

So you have made it to the interview. Congratulations! Obviously you have already impressed the employer — on paper. Now it is time to impress them face-to-face, and that means bringing your A game, or maybe your A+ game.

Preparing for the interview is the very first step in the right direction towards success. Bringing your résumé and references are safe starting points, but you may not realize that there are other tools that will help you stand out. So what should job seekers bring to an interview, exactly? Here are five things that can make a difference in today’s job market.

 

1.  The “Brag Book”

Scott Brent, a surgical sales representative and interviewing expert believes that the age of strict résumé and references are gone and job seekers should look to other outlets when impressing an interviewer.

“Traditionally, people going on an interview would bring only a résumé and themselves to the interview,” Brent says. “Those days are gone. I don’t care if you are interviewing for a C-suite level job (CEO, CFO) or a job at McDonald’s, what you bring to your interview is crucial. In my industry, it is called a ‘brag book.’ This is the most important thing you can bring to your interview. Basically this is a book you put together showcasing all of the accomplishments in your career.”

The “brag book” is meant to be left behind for the employers so they can remember you. In the folder, a job seeker can provide things such as a current, clean copy of your résumé, a list of references and samples of work that would be relevant to the job. Other things to include in the folder are news articles you may have published or been mentioned in and any awards you may have received. This is your time to show the employer what you can do for the company.

2. An iPad or Tablet

Used correctly, an iPad or tablet will help to demonstrate your work to the employers and show your ability to adapt to new technology. Plus, information just looks more visually appealing on a tablet than on a piece of paper.

“Something that I’ve been impressed by and think is quite valuable is the use of an iPad or tablet to demonstrate a job seekers work, display samples, show applications they have developed, etc,” said David Chie, COO, Palo Alto. “Doing so definitely sets the candidate apart and really helps demonstrate their abilities.”

3. 3-month, 6-month and year-long plan

Constructing a plan for your role in the position is extremely helpful. This tactic not only shows initiative and hard work, but also demonstrates your ability to plan ahead. While researching the company and position, think of new ways to achieve your goals. In the plan, you can include new ideas for achievement or examples of how you will execute any assignments as given. This plan can be left behind for employers.

“I believe that job seekers should bring their ideas and plans on how they would do the job they are interviewing for,” says Kathi Elster, executive coach and co-author of “Working with You Is Killing Me” and “Working for You Isn’t Working for Me.” “You would do this by researching the company and reading all you can find about them concerning their goals and initiatives. So many job seekers are focused on what they have done, but letting a company know what you could do for them is just one step further.”

4. Relevant news articles of the company or industry

Not only should you research the company on their website, but you should also take the extra step and research the company and industry extensively. Understand what challenges may be present in the industry. Staying on top of the company and industry will help you succeed in not only the interview, but will help you if offered the position.

“As one who has interviewed candidates on numerous occasions, the thing that impressed me the most was candidates who had done some research on the company,” says Ann Middleman. “Nowadays it is as easy as looking at the website. But they can also Google the CEO, check out the stock price (if it is a public company), even look at an analyst’s report or the annual report. They might even bring written materials about the company, if possible. This shows initiative, intelligence, research skills, and the confidence to understand that the candidate is choosing the company just as much as the company is choosing the candidate.”

5. Cheat sheet

Yes, it is okay to cheat during the interview. Outlining a plan is imperative to an interview, but sometimes the nerves take over and you forget key points that you want to mention. There is nothing wrong with pulling out a piece of paper with questions and bullet points. As long as you don’t read directly from your paper, you will be fine.

“Bring a cheat sheet and questions. There is no rule that says you can’t bring a nice portfolio with some notes and question on it so during the interview you glance down at it,” says Mark Lyden, author of “Professionals: Do This! Get Hired!”. “What should be on the cheat sheet are little reminders of situations (your life experiences) that you may want to give as an example to answer one of the interview questions.”

The interview is an exciting, but nerve wracking time. It is your chance to prove your ability, experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for the position. Being prepared is the key to nailing an interview. Of course your credentials are first and foremost, but most employers can usually tell if the person is right for the job within the first two-minutes of an interview, believe it or not. Just stick to the Boy Scout motto  “Be Prepared” and you’ll be ready to impress.

Have you used one of these tools in your job search? Do you think there are other items that can help your interview? Or do you think a simple résumé and good answers are all you  need in an interview? Let us know.

29 Comments
  1. I would add to that – if you are a paralegal and you don’t know the age of the people with whom you will be meeting, carry a hard copy version (i.e., paper) and an electronic version of your brag book so you can have the type the reader favors. Many older attorneys (40 years old and up) and others in the legal field still prefer seeing writings, etc. on paper, thus the presence of law books still found in many, many offices. Additionally, the paralegal should have the following in her or his brag book: resume, awards, a legal writing sample (e.g., an anonymous v. anonymous Affidavit or brief you drafted), a non-legal writing sample (correspondence you drafted with client names omitted, of course), your notary license (if any), a publication (e.g., book or articles you’ve written or co-wrote), references (preferably from lawyers or judges or management attesting to the high quality of your work product and your efficiency) and news articles about you or your work product.

  2. Maybe what you should take is good grammer. One doesn’t “BRING” things to an interview… one “TAKES” things to an interview. This incorrect grammer is in the news every, single day and it frustrates me.

  3. Oh, Patti. There you go calling the kettle black again! Surely a grammarian such as yourself would recognize that your version of “grammar” is spelled incorrectly.

  4. When I interviewed for my teaching position three years ago, I used almost all of these techniques. Most of them I had become acquainted with when I went through ACAP leaving Fort Bliss, TX, and a few more were gleaned from the career center at UCF in 2008. I had my “I love me book,” which was mostly military and school-related achievements. I brought my computer with my electronic copies of lesson plans and material intended for class. I had made plans, short-term and long-term, and rehearsed them in case I was asked, and I had a cheat sheet. Since I was also moving across the country to Montana, I also showed up in town a day early to scout the community out in person – web sites reveal only so little.

    • Jared,

      Your plan sounds great! How did it go for you? Were you offered a job or a second interview? I’m excited to hear how this plan worked for you, so please let me know. Thanks

  5. Did you stop to think that some people don’t have these resources you speak of and all they may have is a resume. You say that doesn’t work any more, well neither does calling up a hiring manager to follow up on an application! Especially NOW and how bad the economy has become…hiring managers just see one more person desparate to get a job!

    • You are right Shannon. I think this post was meant to address the more seasoned job searchers. To that end, I think people who don’t have these resources should do what new marketing writers do when they are looking for work . . . improvise. If you don’t have a real writing sample, create one (to demonstrate your ability to write); if you don’t have job-related awards, use what you earned in HS (and articulate how that achievement has prepared you for certain aspects of this particular job). Younger people are more tech savvy than older folks, so you can list your tech skills (including your social media skills) and figure out how this skill set can be of value to your prospective employer. It can be done. New college graduates do it all the time. You just have to devote the time to brainstorm and be creative. Most people have had to figure out (for that first job) how to leverage their limited skills and experience and then had to word it so that it would impress a prospective employer, so they could stand out from the crowd of resumes. Stand out. For example: Start and maintain an impartial news blog (related to your field) while you are looking for work; then when you have 10 or so posts, include a link to your blog in your cover letter addressed to that next prospective employer. This would demonstrate many skills, etc. in one fell swoop. In other Shannon, find something others are not doing and do it. Also, when you follow-up, drop that link in your follow-up letter if you hadn’t done so previously b/c, e.g., your blog was too new at the time. This is type of stuff newbies have to do.

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    Join for free at Namerick.com

    01100010 01111001 01100101!
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    • Great article! Another item a (non-owning brag book) job seeker might bring to the interview is simply a printed email someone may have sent to convey kudos or thanks for a job well done on a project or task. Those emails are also great memory joggers for work that you have done, which might give you some good talking points at your next interview.

  7. Sooooo…. there ARE some people that actually care about GRAMMAR! I spelled it wrong to see how many people would actually catch it! Thanks for giving me faith in the English language again guys!

  8. I’ve been working form the same company since 01/79…yes, that’s a long time. I’ve interviewed well over 2,000 people and hired them using the age old method of reading their job history. You know, that section in the job application that’s say’s experience employment history.

    I’ve come to discover Human Resources and Personnel are about as useful as tits on a bull. If you as a manager can’t read and decipher a job application or resume on it’s face, then you need to move on. What all this tell’s me is that you people are lazy. You want everything done for you. Worse, you’ve lost touch with reality. You really don’t care what the applicant has to offer. The only thing you’re concerned with is perpetuating your own job security. You’re more concerned with GRAMMAR and SPELLING and PUNCTUATION than you are about the applicants CAPABILITIES and QUALIFICATIONS! How many people have you shit canned because their resume gad errors in it?

    I’m taking a course in International Business. Did you know more than half the students didn’t know what the EU was or what currency is used or what language the Dutch spoke? So it begs the question, if your report card says you’ve passed, do you really know anything? Have you learned anything? But I’ll bet you my bottom dollar that educated jack ass is going to get hired over a guy or gal with over 20 years experience. Because he came walking in with an iPad and his resume had no spelling errors.

    Let me ask you this, when you take your car in for repairs, are you going to take to your car to an experienced mechanic or a guy who knows the repair manual by heart?

    Fifteen million people are looking for jobs. TALK to the applicants.

    • You are so right Jerry experience, loyalty, dependable, being honest and years on a job don’t mean nothing these days. I don’t think the interviewer take those things into consideration and I feel that’s most important when you hire someone. That’s why some companies have so much turn over. Do using correct grammar get the job done.

      • I would be willing to say during the last four years businesses didn’t make it because they chose to go with a collage idiot instead of experience.
        Not that a collage education is bad there are people with ethics and morals and these are the people that will make a great employee!!!

  9. Here’s the thing: if there are 1000 applicants for two positions, how are you going to begin to find the best people? You can’t interview them all; you can’t even give a lot of time to reading each application in depth. You can, though, check to see if the applicant has used good spelling and grammar. If job seekers don’t take the time to make sure their applications are error-free–now while they know they are being carefully scrutinized, what are the chances they will do their best once hired. Your presentation is a reflection of your values and work ethics just as much as it is of your writing skills.

  10. Jerry,
    you are so right – I also work in Human Resources and am making a point out of bringing the ‘human’ touch back.

    I DO care about certain things that seem ‘superficial’ but not because of the actual ‘content’, it is more since I think it shows respect and genuine interest in the job if you dress the right way, are prepared and don’t chew gum let’s say.

    Having said that, I don’t necessarily ONLY care about the grammar and spelling if I am hiring a technician…but I DO care about personality, genuine interest and a positive attitude. Something A LOT of ‘well qualified’ candidates are lacking and to me, that is something money or education cannot buy.

    With all the tools and fancy tests and presentations etc. etc. we have today (and I’m not completely opposed to them all either) – I still beleive in the old fashioned ‘gut-feeling’. Nothing.. NOTHING.. beats your instinct and I follow it every single day in my job.

  11. I agree on some things in this article, yes the brag book can work, but. . . . some companys look at it now these days that your worth more than they can afford, it can help make or break the job hiring process, demonstrating your adaptation to technology though honestly in my opinion does not help with the job hiring process some companys hiring are not looking to see if you can adapt to the new technology coming out but if you can adapt your self to the new working enviroments, and how they change day to day or year to year, 3 month and a 6 month and a year-long plan this is what helped me get my corprate office job a company is looking to see how well you are willing to stay with them and what you can do to contribute to there company and its growth, talking news about the company within the company while trying to get hired, to the company its old news they know more recent stuff than you or the media will know, honestly i’ve never used a cheat sheet or thought of this idea i like it i’ve seen people in my office looking to get a job and they cant relate a situation to anything and just sit there saying ummm or ahhh do this in an interview and all it starts to do is go down hill from there

  12. Last post struck a new cord (because lets be honest all the other posts are re-wording what others have already said, but everyone thinks their perception and their order and location of words, especially the fancy ones, is way more interesting and admirable that the previous ones). The out of tune cord that rang in my musically challenged ears was that some employers actually think you are “more than they can afford.” I have a BA in Psych and a CADC in counseling and a bunch of other certificates because my credit is horrible and I cannot get loans for my Master’s degree. I have now heard 3 companies tell me I am “over qualified.” One of them was Walgreens! This was a kick in my stomache untill I stormed in there and he explained that their fear is that i will be GONE the moment I have a better oppurtunity, which is SO true. I understand him. Plus he would have to pay me more than a H.S. student who will take minimum wage. So if you dont get a call back from a place you demeaned yourself by applying to it in the first place, its most likely because they are scared…of your qualifications. I am 27 and after making $40k/year at age 23, I am now lowering my hourly or yearly rate by…ouch! by a lot!
    p.s. dont bother commenting on my gramm-ar-er as this is not my resume and I write super fast to get this over with. thnx.

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