Building Your Job Interview Survival Kit

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Job interviews are really stressful and really exciting all at the same time. During the interview, there is so much pressure to get everything right and making the best pitch you can. Having the chance to make your case and possibly get the job you really want is unbelievably exciting. However, that mix of hopefulness and nerves can cause you to become flustered and forget everything you had planned on saying. It's happened to me before, and I've ended up staring at an interviewer with the "deer-in-the-headlights" look, completely drawing a blank.

To prevent this, it's important to prepare for your interview in advance. It's a good idea to write down the key points you want to make on a piece of paper. You don't have to write out answers to every question, but just having something you can look at when you've lost your focus really helps. You can store these notes in a folder, along with other things you might need. This job interview survival kit should contain things like:


  • Additional copies of your resume

  • A personal data sheet with your previous employment information

  • A copy of the job application or resume you submitted

  • Any letters of recommendation (if applicable)

  • A black pen

  • Extra paper for taking notes

  • A thank you note along with a stamped envelope

  • A list of questions you have for the interviewer


This job survival kit also gives you something to look at while you're waiting to be interviewed. Believe it or not, from the moment you enter the building, you're being observed. Many companies pay attention to what people do while they are waiting, thinking that it's a good indication of who they are. While you're waiting, you can look over your notes, showing how prepared you are.


Most of the items in the folder are self-explanatory, except for the list of questions for the interviewer. When I've talked with other job seekers, it seems that this is always a stumbling block. They aren't sure what questions they should ask or if it's better to not have any questions. I think you should always have at least a couple of questions for the interviewer. Asking questions doesn't make you pushy but instead shows that you are interested in the position and are trying to decide if the job is a good fit for you.


If you aren't sure what questions to ask, here are 5 questions you should always ask during an interview. You can use these as a guide and come up with a couple of your own to add to it.


  • What are you looking for in the person you hire for the position?

  • What are the possibilities for advancement within the organization?

  • What are the job duties and responsibilities?

  • Is there anything else you need to know about me in order for me to be fully considered for the job?

  • When is a decision to be made?


When you're prepared, you're leaving less to chance. Even though a job interview can be a stressful experience, you're being given the chance to get something huge without out having to risk anything more than your time. If you give it your best shot and don't get the job, don't give up. Chalk it up to good practice for the job that's right for you.


What do you bring with you to a job interview? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Source: Eastern Shore Career Guide

Image courtesy of ambro /


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  • Manoj C
    Manoj C
    Most important thing at the time one appears or prepares for any interview is that one should always have the self belief'ability,have a very positive and  a very calm  cool  mind like any professionally qualified person with great talent and ideas, even if things did not workout, don't lose hope,your time will come.Don't be afraid to accept failures,be determined to fight it out,don't give it up easily, keeping in mind "that there's always another day.Just  do your best."
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the great input! You all have some fantastic tips!Brad - Asking for business card is a great idea!
  • Brad F
    Brad F
    Good idea only I use a pad-folio instead of a folder. It looks more professional, holds a note pad for the ready and has a handy pen holster. Use the note pad to take notes during the interview. That way you will have something relevant to ask when they say "any questions." This lets you concentrate more on what is said during the interview. Your notes may be no more than a single word, or short phrase, what ever jogs your memory. You can get a pad-folio at any office supply store or office supply department in department stores. They can be found for under $20. To get contact info for a thank-you email I ask for a business card at the end of the interview. I put that in the pad-folio pocket made just for business cards.
  • Carol D
    Carol D
    Any and all Letters of Recommendation from former employers should be written on your former employers letterhead.  Copies should be made of the original, that you keep, give copies to interviewer.  This way, you can make copies as needed.
  • Thomas P
    Thomas P
    For my experience employers do not like Letter of Recommendations as they can be written by anyone. For instance I wrote my own letter reference letter and my supervisor just signed it. The only occupation I think letters may help is teaching. Also, you should have references complete with Names, titles, who they are (ie. a previous supervisor), phone numbers and e-mails) in your interview portfolio.  You can be called on it in the interview and having it ready shows you are prepared.
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    @kate - Some people hand them to the interviewer at the end of the interview. Personally, I think that's tacky. The card and stamped envelope is so that you can fill it out while the information is still fresh in your mind and drop it in the mailbox on your way home. That way it's one less thing to worry about.@Anita - thanks for the comment. You have a great routine for interviews. You're right, the only way to practice is just to go and do your best.@Marie - depending on the field you're working in, a portfolio or brag book might be the way to go. I've never thought about it.
  • Marie
    This is absolutely good avdcie.  These kinds of scenarios are not that uncommon.  A couple of good ways to make sure you highlight your abilities is to bring a brag book and a 30/60/90-day plan.
  • Debra W
    Debra W
  • Yolanda Clark-Ruiz
    Yolanda Clark-Ruiz
    I think this article really help to prepare a little better before an interview. I am normally not nervous before an interview but I do tend to loose intrest with an interviewer who doesn't seem as excited to interview me. This article helped me to engage more.
  • Savitha M
    Savitha M
    This is very helpful information for me especially when people like me who has not worked at all or attended a job interview. So this will give me a head start as how I should be prepare for my upcoming job interview. Thank you so much.
  • juanita Miles
    juanita Miles
    Great information!  I am going pon a interview this Monday..Thanks very much
  • Anita C
    Anita C
    I love these articles! They help you prepare when a person has not had an interview in a long time (10+ yrs). I now have a set of typical questions asked by interviewers (also my answers) & a list of questions to ask the people doing the interviewing. I take those to all interviews and I look them over if I have time while I am waiting. I also make a brief listing of the company, motto & core values.  Must haves for an interview: A portfolio to put your stuff into, a good working pen (I had an interviewer borrow mine), multiple copies of resume, references, two ID's (do not take your purse ladies) and a notepad (Take notes as soon as you can so you do not forget key things), & also the questions (& answers as I noted previously). I have had anywhere from a 20 minute to 2 hour interview (1-4 people). The 2 hour interview also involved testing prior to going into the interview. I do not study or review the night before an interview, I try to relax! If you do not know something by that time it will make no difference and will only make you more stressed. I look at all interviews as a learning event. The more you go through the more you learn about the process (It has changed over the years). I sometimes find myself walking out of the interview and saying why did I say that or why did I not say that. I would say my best advice on interviews is to be confident with your skills and be brief with your answers to their questions. Do not give any more info than what is needed.I have found that the interviewers try to get you to talk yourself out of a job. I have been told that I would be bored in this position, I will get easily burned out, I'm overqualified, this is a high stress position, etc, etc, etc. The point is they should be interested in filling their position not talking a person out of it. But this is sometimes a trick as they want you to fight for the position if you really want it. Good Luck to all!!!!
  • Donna C
    Donna C
    This information was helpful especially if the one being interviewed has had limited experience.
  • Kate H
    Kate H
    The first three are copies of your résumé  and why would you bring a thank you note and stamped envelope with you? Are you going to hand it to them?  Will you forget you had an interview by the time you get home?
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the great comments. @carol w, it is frustrating when you don't get feedback, however, if you were asked to interview, then at least you know that you made it to the final round, which is sort of feedback in itself. It means that you are applying for jobs you're qualified for and that hiring managers are considering you. Maybe you can tweak your interview strategy and work on marketing yourself differently, make sure to send a thank you note and always follow up. Once you've done that, you've done the best you can. Keep trying and I'm sure you'll find the right place for you!
  • gautam s
    gautam s
    This is a great article and provides valuable advice. I think the biggest thing to do for a major job interview is to always practice and run through a mock interview in your head. The key as you suggested is to be prepared and that should help with the anxiety in going to the job interview.
  • carol w
    carol w
    thank you for the great tips - but even when you are prepared for the interview and follow all the rules - you don't get the job - and the most stressful part is you will never know why! NO FEEDBACK!!!!!!!!
  • Pabi A
    Pabi A

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