You’ve landed a job interview at your dream company—congrats!
You’ve probably already gone over your resume dozens of times, and selected the perfect interview outfit to make you feel your best. Now let’s take a look at the creative things to bring to a job interview to help you stand out and guarantee success.
We already know that we should bring practical items like extra copies of our resume and a notebook and pen for note-taking. But in order to stand out from other candidates, you’ll want to go the extra mile and use this opportunity to showcase your strengths in a dynamic and convincing way.
From preparing compelling stories and anecdotes to making a final good impression, below are ideas for creative things you can bring to ace your job interview.
Checklist: practical things to bring to a job interview
First, let’s cover the basic items you’ll want to bring to a job interview. These are practical things you’ll want to have on hand so that you feel prepared on interview day.
- Folder with copies of your resume. Most recruiters will bring copies of your resume to the interview, but it’s always a good idea to bring extra copies just in case someone on the interview panel doesn’t have one. Plus, if you have extra time beforehand, you’ll have your resume in front of you to prepare one last time.
- Company contact info. Make sure you have the address, hiring manager’s name, and their contact information. You’ll never know if you need to get in touch with them if you can't figure out where to park or you need someone to sign you into the building.
- Directions. It’s always good to have the directions on paper just in case you lose your WiFi connection and can’t access a map on your phone.
- Notebook and pen. Usually, a recruiter will discuss the role, responsibilities, and team that you’re interviewing for, and having a notebook on hand will allow you to capture all the salient details, which will come in handy should there be a second or third round interview, or help you prepare a thank you note later on. The Ink+Volt Executive Notebook or the Founders Notebook would make you feel extra confident and professional.
- Small toiletry bag. We may look polished and professional when we leave the house, but you never know how the weather or commute will impact our appearance. Having toiletries on-hand will help you freshen up quickly before your job interview. You might want to include lip balm or chapstick, tissues, face wipes, a comb, or deodorant.
For a virtual interview, you obviously won’t need the toiletries bag, but you’ll still want to have some basic items around so that you can stay focused on the interview itself instead of scrambling for things in the middle of a question.
If you’re being interviewed by phone or Zoom, here are some items to have on your desk:
- Notebook and pen for taking down notes
- Glass of water
- Name of hiring manager/recruiter and the names of people in your interview panel if available
- Fully charged computer and phone. Should you encounter any technical difficulties, you’ll have a backup tool already in place.
Creative ideas of to bring to a job interview
Prepare 3-4 anecdotes for common job interview questions
Here’s a familiar scenario: you’re sitting in a job interview, feeling confident and prepared, you know your work experience inside and out, then the first thing your interviewer asks is: “So tell me about yourself.” And although we’ve heard this question dozens of times, we freeze, our mind racing, trying to figure out how to summarize our life story in a succinct and compelling way.
While every job interview may be different and unique, we can still expect to hear common job interview questions and should have some stories prepared in advance. We’ve all heard some variation of “Tell me about yourself” or “Tell us about a time you worked as a team". Rather than improvising your answers and running the risk of going off on a tangent, have some stories in your back pocket.
Here are some common job interview questions that you can prepare in advance.
- Tell us about yourself
- Walk me through your resume
- Tell me about a time you faced a challenge
- Tell me about a time you had to demonstrate leadership
- Tell me about a time you had to work in a team
Remember: the hiring manager doesn’t need to hear your entire life story. They want to hear specific examples that give them an idea of who you are and how you work.
So, if you’re telling a story about the time you had to work as a team, you’ll want to provide an example of how you pitched in or went above and beyond for your team.
Or, if you’re telling a recruiter about the time you faced a challenge, you’ll want to have a specific challenge in mind and give details about the steps you took to overcome it. This way, recruiters will get a sense of how you approach problems and come up with solutions.
When preparing your stories, try doing a brainstorm session to help you come up with examples. Make a list of your previous roles and any examples that come to mind. What were the challenges you faced? What were your accomplishments? This way, you won’t have to fear that your stories are rambling, and can feel confident that they’re building to a specific point.
The briefcase technique
Another creative thing that you can bring to a job interview is what finance writer Ramit Sethi calls “the Briefcase Technique.” In order to set yourself apart from other candidates, you’re providing a list of solutions to problems or challenges that the company is facing, along with specific ideas on how you would address it. Sethi writes on his blog:
“They pull out a document with things they’ve found in my business that they can improve…and details on exactly how to do it. As the business owner or hiring manager, this document is the most compelling menu I’ll ever receive. It’s a list of problems I already know about, that they’ve identified from the outside, and a list of potential solutions. Do this and you’ve suddenly separated yourself from 99% of other applicants.”
Food writer Lidey Heuck used a similar technique when she was being interviewed by Ina Garten to run her social media. In this article, Ina Garten describes how other candidates were eager to help with anything Garten needed, but Heuck stood out by offering a specific plan for her social media.
So depending on the role, it might be more beneficial to be specific and strategic, rather than being willing to do anything and everything.
For the interview itself, you can bring along a document with a list of your ideas or solutions. Or, you can jot down some bullet points in your notebook and refer to them during the interview.
A recruiter will typically end an interview by asking “do you have any questions for us?” While this may seem like it’s purely interview protocol, it’s actually a great opportunity to impress the interview panel and show that you’ve done your homework. In fact, I remember sitting in on an interview panel and a candidate wowing the hiring manager because they had asked a question that clearly demonstrated their knowledge of the role and the organization. The candidate got the job offer.
When preparing your questions, make sure to research the company and the team that you’d be working for. What kind of projects have they worked on in the past? What were some of their successes or challenges? You want to ask questions that convey your understanding of the team’s role and responsibilities. So if you're interviewing for a position in fundraising, you probably don’t want to ask a question that’s related to a different department.
While conducting your research, maybe you saw that the company launched a new product and that the team you are interviewing for was responsible. Then, when you’re formulating your questions, you can weave in these details and wow them with your knowledge. Maybe you can say something like, “I saw that your company recently launched X product. Do you plan on doing something similar in the future?” This way, you demonstrate you’ve done your homework, while also getting practical information about the team you’re interviewing for
Preparing one or two questions is probably sufficient. Similar to preparing answers to common job interview questions, you’ll want to keep these prepared questions concise and to the point.