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Monster Cover Letter Checklist

10 things you should always bring to a job interview—and 5 things you should leave behind

Don’t show up empty-handed. Use this checklist to make sure you know what to bring to an interview.

Don't show up at your next job interview empty handed.

Picture this nightmare: You walk into an interview for your dream job, shake hands with the hiring manager, sit down, and then realize you’ve arrived completely empty-handed. We’re talking no copies of your resume, no pen and paper for notes—heck, it’s a miracle you remembered to put on deodorant!

Unfortunately, your lack of preparation may have just cost you your dream job.

To prevent something like this from happening, you should start preparing for your interview as soon as a company gets in touch with you about your candidacy. Use this comprehensive checklist to make sure you have everything you need to make a good first impression in the job interview. This way you'll show up prepared 100% of the time.

What to bring to an interview

1. Folder

We’re about to outline a significant amount of paperwork you need to bring to a job interview, so first things first, you’ll want to have a folder where you can neatly store these documents.

This simple act also shows you’re organized, says Denver-based millennial career coach Jenn DeWall, which is a soft skill many employers look for in candidates.

2. Several copies of your resume

You most likely already submitted your resume when you applied for the job, but don’t assume the interviewer will have a copy of it on hand. “Hiring managers get busy and sometimes forget to print out your resume,” DeWall says.

Why bring multiple copies? “You never know how many employees you’re going to be meeting with,” says Rachel Loock, a career coach at the University of Maryland. “It’s rare you only meet with [the hiring manager].”

3. Business cards

Although your resume should include your contact information, and business cards may seem old school, it can’t hurt to bring them with you, says millennial career coach Anastasia Button. They’re easy to carry, and “you never know if someone is going to ask for one,” Button says. It’s always better to have a few handy, just in case.

4. Portfolio/work samples

If you’re in a creative industry—like advertising, journalism, graphic design, architecture, or fashion—you should bring samples of your work that you can give to the interviewer. "Offer to send your full portfolio electronically later on," Button says.

Depending on what you do, you may also want to have a sheet that showcases positive feedback you’ve received from past clients on your work.

5. References

If the interview goes well—better yet, when the interview goes well, the hiring manager might ask you for references on the spot, so you should have a list prepared with their contact information.

Theoretically, you could just email the interviewer this information when you get home, but DeWall says that’s a bad approach. “You want to make sure you give the company everything they need to move forward with the hiring process as quickly as possible,” she explains.

6. Pen and notepad

Taking a few notes during your interview can be beneficial for a few reasons. For one, it shows you’re actively listening to the interviewer and engaged in the conversation, while also ensuring you won’t forget important details about the job. Moreover, “you can refer to your notes, later on, to send the interviewer a personalized thank-you email,” Loock says.

Just make sure you ask the interviewer for permission before taking notes, and “don’t take so many notes that you’re not making eye contact,” Loock says.

Pro tip: Bring several pens with you in case your favorite one runs out of ink, DeWall says.

7. Questions

To show you’re genuinely interested in the job, you should have questions for the hiring manager prepared in advance that demonstrate your understanding of the company’s core values, challenges, and culture. Here are a few questions that will help you assess those key points:

  • How does the company define and measure success?
  • What’s the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?
  • What do you do to encourage camaraderie and collaboration among co-workers?
  • How do managers provide feedback to employees?

8. Talking points

Job interviews are nerve-wracking. One way to reduce stress before the interview and build confidence is to jog your memory by looking at notes of things you want to mention during the interview, such as specific skills or anecdotes that highlight your strengths. DeWall recommends creating a “great list”—a short summary of your accomplishments, organized by skill set—that you can review before you walk into the interview. These achievements should be tied to the job responsibilities, DeWall says. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a management position, you’d want to mention the last project you oversaw and describe how you exceeded expectations.

9. Identification

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning, Button says. You may need to provide photo ID to enter the building, so check with the employer beforehand to find out what the building’s security requirements are. The security guard may ask you the company you’re visiting, the name of the person you’re meeting with, and what floor they’re on. Confirm all of that information when you set up the interview, so you aren’t fumbling in the lobby before your big meeting.

10. A smile

It’s time to show off those pearly whites! Before you cringe, consider the benefits of arriving with a positive attitude: “Smiling sounds corny, but employers want to see that you’re enthusiastic and excited about the position,” Loock says.

What NOT to bring to an interview

Put simply: Don’t bring anything that could potentially distract you or the interviewer, Button says. This includes:

Also, make sure to put your phone on silent or leave it in your car. “You don’t want to have your attention diverted, even if it’s just for a second,” Loock says.

Now that you know what to bring to the interview, do you know what to wear, and what to do when the interview is over? Become a Monster member and get all the career and job hunting advice you'll need to score the job of your dreams. Plus you can upload your resume for recruiters to find you.

Work values checklist

Money? Independence? Helping others? Let our checklist help you prioritize what's important for your next job.

Every day, we make choices -- some without careful consideration. Whether we realize it or not, often our career choice is based on values rather than the work. Values are the beliefs, attitudes and judgments we prize. Are you aware of your values? Do you act on them?  

Use this checklist to get a better idea of what's important to you. It's divided into three categories related to intrinsic, extrinsic and lifestyle values.

Intrinsic Values

These are the intangible rewards, those related to motivation and satisfaction at work on a daily basis. They provide the inner satisfaction and motivation that make people say, "I love getting up and going to work!"

How important (on a scale of one to five; five being most important) are these intrinsic values to you?

1.   _____ Variety and change at work
2.   _____ Be an expert
3.   _____ Work on the frontiers of knowledge
4.   _____ Help others
5.   _____ Help society
6.   _____ Experience adventure/excitement
7.   _____ Take risks/have physical challenges
8.   _____ Feel respected for your work
9.   _____ Compete with others
10. _____ Have lots of public contact
11. _____ Influence others
12. _____ Engage in precision work
13. _____ Gain a sense of achievement
14. _____ Opportunities to express your creativity
15. _____ Work for a good cause

Extrinsic Values

These are the tangible rewards or conditions you find at work, including the physical setting, job titles, benefits and earnings/earning potential. Extrinsic values often trap people into staying at jobs they don't like, saying: "I just can't give up my paycheck!" They are commonly called "golden handcuffs."

How important (on a scale of one to five; five being most important) are these "golden handcuffs" to you?

1.   _____ Have control/power/authority
2.   _____ Travel often
3.   _____ Be rewarded monetarily
4.   _____ Be an entrepreneur
5.   _____ Work as a team
6.   _____ Work in a fast-paced environment
7.   _____ Have regular work hours
8.   _____ Set your own hours/have flexibility
9.   _____ Be wealthy
10. _____ Have prestige or social status
11. _____ Have intellectual status
12. _____ Have recognition through awards/honors/bonuses
13. _____ Wear a uniform
14. _____ Work in an aesthetically pleasing environment
15. _____ Work on the edge, in a high-risk environment

Lifestyle Values

These are the personal values associated with how and where you want to live, how you choose to spend your leisure time and how you feel about money.

How important (on a scale of one to five; five being most important) are these lifestyle values to you?

1.   _____ Save money
2.   _____ Vacation at expensive resorts
3.   _____ Have access to educational/cultural opportunities
4.   _____ Live close to sports/recreational facilities
5.   _____ Be active in your community
6.   _____ Entertain at home
7.   _____ Be involved in politics
8.   _____ Live simply
9.   _____ Spend time with family
10. _____ Live in a big city
11. _____ Live abroad
12. _____ Have time for spirituality/personal growth
13. _____ Be a homeowner
14. _____ Live in a rural setting
15. _____ Have fun in your life and at work

Once you have completed all three checklists, write down all the values you rated as 5s. If you have less than five, add the values you rated as 4s to the list. If your list of 4s and 5s has more than 20 values, you need to stop and prioritize your list. To prioritize, select no more than four or five values from each category.

Next, analyze which of the three categories is most important to you. Consider how each is reflected in the work you currently do or in the position you would like to find. Look for overlap or values that seem to go together, such as "be wealthy" from Extrinsic Values and "save money" from Lifestyle Values. If there is no overlap or compatibility between categories, or if everything is important to you, then reprioritize your list by selecting your top 10 values. Then narrow that list down to the five values you absolutely need both on and off the job.

Finally, write two or three sentences describing or summarizing how your values will translate into your ideal job. Knowing what's important will help you prepare for your next interview or help you find increased satisfaction with the job you have.

As you follow the process, if you notice that what motivates you is actually a reward or already part of your lifestyle, it means you're living your values. 

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