Unless you're wearing a Superman costume under your suit, you should not be turning up at a job interview empty handed.
Since you already spent the equivalent of a month's salary on that professional-looking Prada handbag or briefcase, it's advisable to put something in it other than tissue packets and your umbrella.
After making sure you look like a professional someone would want to hire (no bodycon or novelty ties please), pack these six items before you head off to your next interview.
1. Copies of your resume
Sure, the company has received your resume and someone probably read it. But it never hurts to bring a few extra copies just in case.
I once went to an interview where the interviewer had read only the first page of my two-page CV. There had been a problem with the printer and he had never seen the second page. I was glad to be able to whip out a copy of the my CV there and then.
There have also been instances where the interviewer got another staff member to sit in ad hoc, and the latter hadn't seen my CV at all. Being able to hand them nicely printed copies of your CV makes you look a little more polished.
2. References on a separate sheet
It's a usually not a good idea to provide references on your resume until they're asked for. Your former employers might have loved you, but HR calling them up while they're having a poop or just had a fight with their wives is totally out of your control.
Print the contact details of one to three references on a separate sheet of paper and keep it in your folder together with your resume. Should your interviewer ask for references, you'll be able to whip out one of these crisp sheets of paper on the spot, rather than promising to email the HR staff later on.
3. Pen and paper
While you might not expect yourself to morph into a reporter, scribbling down everything the interviewer says and hanging on to their every word, it's always a good idea to have a pen and paper handy in case you need to write down any information.
For instance, the interviewer may disclose details pertaining to the post, such as your duties or the remuneration and benefits. Unless you have the memory of an elephant, write down what he says. Trust me, as with drinks, after a few interviews everything becomes a blur.
You might also be made to undergo testing, such as hypothetical scenario-based questions or, if you're in a technical field, full-blown problem-solving questions. It's always nice to have some spare paper on which to work out your thoughts, as you discovered when mental sums were introduced in primary school.
If you've got any work you want to show off, bringing along your portfolio can give you a big edge over the other candidates, even if the interviewer hasn't specifically requested it.
Anyone who's working in a creative or design field knows your work is going to be the most important factor based on which a prospective employer will extend a job offer, so invest a little more in a proper, professional looking portfolio instead of sticking a few sheets of paper into a plastic folder from Popular Bookshop.
Even if you're a paper pusher or in the service industry, there are some examples of your work you can still bring along to impress prospective employers with. If you're in academia, bring along a copy of some papers you've written. Interviewing for a job in print media? A few pages from previously published work can boost your profile.
5. Detailed directions to the interview venue
If you think getting to work via public transport is stressful, travelling to a location you've never seen in your life while battling peak hour crowds is ten times worse.
So many things can go wrong. The MRT might break down, you might end up waiting 30 minutes for the bus and realise you have to take a cab, you might get out at Raffles Place MRT and discover you have no idea which exit to take. Worst of all, your smartphone might run out of battery and you'll have lost life-saving Google maps.
Bring along detailed directions with you when you leave the house, so that if any of the above should happen you'll still be able to get there on time.
You never know when you might need a sip of water. No, seriously. You might suddenly have a coughing fit thanks to the super dry and strong air con in the reception area. You might realise you're sweating buckets and thirsty as hell after the long commute, and your lips are so dry they can slice through paper.
A bottle of water costs almost nothing, and can save you from feeling like you just took the overnight bus in from KL and brushed your teeth in a public toilet.
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