11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview

11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview

11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview

Job interviews are stressful. Unfortunately, nothing can change that. There’s a lot on the line. However, you can minimize the stress of interview day by being prepared. A big part of that preparation is having everything you could potentially need for the interview. Bring these 11 essential items with you to your interview to reduce your stress and maximize your chances of landing the job!

A few copies of your resume

  • Odds are your potential employer already has a copy of your resume in digital form. However, you may be interviewing with multiple people or might be asked for a hard copy during the course of the interview. Have several copies ready to hand out and you won’t have to worry about it coming up.
  • PRO TIP: Go to a print shop and have your resume printed out on nice paper. It’s cheap and will take about 10 minutes. It makes for a much better presentation than if you just run a few copies off your home printer.

A folder or bag

  • You’ll need something to keep your paper and notes in. I recommend a padfolio because it allows for paper storage and easy note taking. Whatever item you select for this purpose keep it clean, organized, and professional.

A pen and notepad

  • Taking notes during your interview is a must. It shows that you’re engaged, diligent, and actively listening. Make sure that your pen works and that your notepad clean and crisp. Keep these items simple. Your bobble head pen won’t be cute, it will be a distraction.

Some prepared responses

  • Read our blog post on tough interview questions. Make sure that you’ve written out answers to each of them and any others that you think might come up. Now, don’t read these responses during your interview, but keep them in a side folder in case you need to review them before your interview.

Some prepared questions

  • Much like your notes on responses listed above, you need to prepare questions for your interviewer. Nothing looks worse than when an interviewer wraps up an hour-long conversation with “So, what questions do you have for me?” and your response is “Um, nothing really.” Prepare insightful questions that display your understanding of the role and the business.

Job description

  • You should already be very familiar with the job description. It can be helpful when preparing responses and questions. Bring it with you if you have a particular question about the role or just in case you need to review it last minute to get in the zone.

The interview details

  • Bring MapQuest directions. Don’t laugh! Detours, accidents, and road construction are everyday occurrences. Best practice here is to drive to the interview location the day or evening before so that you can be sure you know where you’re going. Have your interviewers contact information handy in case something comes up.

Turned off cell phone

  • If you need to bring your phone turn it off. The best option is just to leave it in your car. If you’re bringing the other items on this list with you, you won’t need it.

Grooming essentials

  • Bring whatever you’ll need to spruce yourself up the last minute. Could be a hairbrush, comb, or lint roller for your suit. The more confident you are about your appearance, the more confident you’ll come across in the interview.

Mints or gum

  • There’s nothing wrong with freshening up at the last minute. No one likes coffee breath. However, don’t chew gum or mints during your interview. It’s distracting and unprofessional.

Bottle of water

  • Many offices will offer visitors water or coffee on arrival. Don’t rely on that. Bring your own small bottle of water. Few things are worse than trying to sell yourself for a job and struggling with a tickle in your throat the whole time.

Use this list when preparing for your next job interview. You’ll be ready for anything an employer can throw at you and will be significantly more confident when speaking with them.

For more information on interview preparation read our article on “How to Prepare for a Job Interview”.

Did we miss anything? What item are you always sure to bring on a job interview?

10 Hiring Red Flags You Need to Watch For

10 Hiring Red Flags You Need to Watch For

Hiring a new team member is a bit like getting engaged after the third date. You’re making a big decision with a limited amount of information. There are three methods of reducing new hire risk. Increase the amount of information you have about the candidate, draw new insights from the information that you already have, or work with an experienced recruiter who specializes in your field.

We’re going to focus on the second method and share the warning signs to watch for when hiring a new team member.

Resume Errors

  • This is pretty self-explanatory. In today’s job market, candidates must proofread and present pristine resumes. If they don’t spend the time to review a 1-2 page document what does that say about their professionalism, preparation, and attention to detail?


  • Bad traffic, accidents, and car trouble happen every day. However, lateness suggests that the candidate didn’t proactively plan ahead and build buffer time into their schedule. While not the biggest red flag on our list, it is a mark against the candidate.


  • Much like their resume, a candidate’s appearance should be professional and pristine. First impressions are critical to the job interview process. How serious can someone be about the opportunity if they don’t bother to dress the part?

Lack of Research

  • In our opinion, this is the biggest job interview sin on the list. In the internet age, there’s simply no excuse for failing to brush up on the history, products, and key players within a firm. If you ask a candidate “Are you familiar with our firm?” and they are not, you can probably end the interview right there.

Explain Their Interest

  • Ask your candidate “Why this position? Why our firm?”. There are a lot of correct responses, but just a few wrong ones. If he or she doesn’t have an answer, says something like “A job is a job”, or “My mortgage won’t pay itself” you aren’t dealing with someone who is legitimately interested in your firm.


  • Anyone who runs down their former employer or co-workers won’t hesitate to speak ill about your firm in the future. Integrity could be an issue for this candidate.

Doesn’t Take Responsibility

  • We all make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. A candidate who won’t admit to failing or making mistakes in the past are either delusional, egotistical, or lacking self-awareness. All three traits are to be avoided.

No Enthusiasm

  • Most hiring managers want to see passion and enthusiasm from job candidates. It’s often seen as an indicator of a candidate’s true interest in the firm and the opportunity. It’s definitely noticeable when a candidate is dull or just going through the motions and it’s a red flag that there’s no drive or passion for the opportunity to work for your firm.

Doesn’t Ask Questions

  • There comes a point in most interviews when the hiring manager pauses and says “Now, what questions do you have for me?” Again, there are a lot of correct responses and just one incorrect one. If a candidate doesn’t have any questions after an hour-long conversation with you, he or she either wasn’t listening or isn’t invested.

No “Thank You”

  • A post-interview “Thank You” note is to be expected. It won’t get a candidate any brownie points, but it’s absence is likely to be noticed. A “Thank You” note is a minor sign that a candidate is professional, polite, and at least a little bit organized. The absence of such a note is a red flag that your candidate may be inconsiderate of your time and lacking some professional polish.

We’ve looked at the 10 biggest and most visible red flags you’ll encounter during the hiring of a new team member. While they may seem insignificant, these cautionary signs provide valuable clues and insights into who your candidate really is and what they might be like to work with. Watching for these red flags will help you make the best decision possible throughout the hiring process.

For more information on hiring right check out our infographic “Don’t Make a Hire You Regret: 6 Simple Tips”.

What hiring red flags have you encountered?

Career Advancement Reading List

Blog Title - PP - Career Advancement Reading List

To say that “Knowledge is Power” is the height of cliché. It’s also undisputedly true. The more you know, the better off you are. Few forms of knowledge are as beneficial as a firm understanding of how to develop yourself as a person and advance your career.

With that goal in mind, we’ve compiled our list of the best career and professional development books that we’ve read:

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

What Is It About?

  • Written by the COO of Facebook, Lean In covers the obstacles, both internal and external, facing working women. Sandberg examines gender interactions in the workplace, the idea of “having it all”, and how to make the best career choices.

Who Is It For?

  • Both women and men

Most Important Lesson?

  • Increasing the number of women at the top of the business world will benefit everyone.

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

What Is It About?

  • Gladwell examines the upside of our disadvantages and the downside of our advantages. He talks through dozens of historical examples of how underdogs best powerhouses and the hidden advantages of being the little guy.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone considering taking a leap

Most Important Lesson?

  • Don’t wait. You have all you need to get started. Start today!

Never Eat Alone: and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

What Is It About?

  • Never Eat Alone could be the How to Win Friends and Influence People of our generation. It’s full of short, impactful chapters on how to connect with others and build your business or career by forging and managing relationships. Networking isn’t about collecting contact information, but sharing your expertise and providing value for others.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone who wants to expand their network

Most Important Lesson?

  • Be bold and go after what you really want.

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

What Is It About?

  • Co-written by the founder of LinkedIn, The Start-up of You instructs you how to take control your professional future. To maximize your career, you have to know what you’re good at, what you want to do, and what the job market values. Merge all three and you’ll set yourself up for the best career possible.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone!

Most Important Lesson?

  • You’re the boss of your career.

Smartcuts by Shane Snow

What Is It About?

  • In Smartcuts, Shane Snow dismantles the idea that climbing the corporate ladder is required to reach the top. He argues that waiting your turn and paying dues is not only the wrong way to get ahead but can actually hinder your progress. With case studies and real-life experiences, Snow makes the case for “lateral thinking”. “Later thinking”—solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, is highlighted as the way that most successful people have made it to the top.

Who Is It For?

  • Professionals who feel stuck and are open to alternative routes to success

Most Important Lesson?

  • Shifting gears and continuing to add to your skill set is very often the best way to get ahead.

Knock ‘Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Handbook by Martin Yate

What Is It About?

  • Martin Yate is considered the job search guru. This book and its companions are the handbook that every job seeker needs. They provide a step-by-step, in-depth understanding of what hiring managers want, how to sell yourself, and win the job you want.

Who Is It For?

  • Each and every job seeker. If you have a resume, you should own this book

Most Important Lesson?

  • It’s not what you know, but who knows you that will land you your next job.

More Best Answers to The 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions by Matthew J. and Nanette F. DeLuca

What Is It About?

  • While Knock ‘Em Dead covers the A-Z of the job search, More Best Answers guides you across the goal line. It’s a tactical and practical handbook for interview prep, interview strategy, interview follow-up, and compensation negotiation. It gives readers the tools to land the interview, feel more comfortable and in control during interviews, and answer tough interview questions that cause other job seekers to stumble.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone with an interview coming up

Most Important Lesson?

  • Interviewing is a skill. It can be taught and learned. The recipe for becoming a great interviewee is one part preparation, one part observation, one part improvisation, and one part negotiation.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

What Is It About?

  • First published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s the spiritual successor to Dale Carnegie’s famous How to Win Friends and Influence People. Universally applicable business and networking advice is abundant, as Hill tells of his journey from the poor house to prosperity.

Who Is It For?

  • Everyone!

Most Important Lesson?

  • The power of positivity

What have you read that has added to your career or professional development? We’d love to hear from you!

“Have you ever been fired-”

“Have You Ever Been Fired?”

“Have you ever been fired?”

“Have you ever been fired?”

Being fired is the worst. However, it’s also very common. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that an average of 55,318 people were laid off or fired each day. The total for the year was 20,191,070.

It happens. If it has happened to you it’s likely that you’re going to be asked about it. Your best bet is to be prepared. Follow these tips and you can turn a difficult question into a springboard to a new job.



When hiring managers ask about an employment gap they are asking because they want to know:

  1.  Are you a risky hire?
  2.  Can you handle a tough question / adversity?
  3.  How do you handle pressure?
  4.  Are you honest?



  • Realize that this question is not an attack on you or your skills.
  • Being honest and forthcoming says a lot about your character.
  • Take responsibility for your role in the situation.
  • Frame your response in terms of what you’ve learned—not what happened.
  • Explain what you learned from the situation, and how you’ve improved since then.
  • Don’t speak negatively of your former employer, ever!
  • Avoid going in to detail about how it happened, your emotions, how it affected your family, etc. All the hiring manager wants is a simple answer to a simple question.
  • Keep it brief! Rambling will only get you in trouble.
  • After you answer, turn the conversation back toward the new position and how your abilities match what is needed.
  • Keep it positive and focus on how it makes you a better candidate today.


Thousands of people are fired each day for a myriad of issues. It has no bearing on your long-term career prospects, your ability to land a good job, or the skill set that you possess. Don’t beat yourself up or adopt the mind-set of nobody will hire you because you’ve been fired. How you deal with questions about your firing will depend a lot on how you have resolved the issue with yourself.

Promo Interview Questions

Promotional Products Job Interview Questions | CSR Edition

Promo Interview Questions

Most promotional product job interviews are a challenging experience for everyone involved.

The candidate is nervous and on edge. Most candidate’s greatest fear about a job interview is that they’ll be open, honest, their best self will shine through, and they still won’t get the job. To hedge against this, most study up on inauthentic, rehearsed answers that they think the hiring manager will want to hear.

Often the interviewer is less than prepared and would rather be doing something else. The biggest mistake most hiring managers make is taking a candidate’s answer at face value. That’s not to say that they are lying, but talk is cheap.

Canned Responses and A Wasted Hour

Here are 5 very common traditional interview questions that you’ve probably asked or been asked.

  • What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?
  • What did you enjoy most/least about your last position?
  • Describe the best boss you’ve ever had.
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • How would your coworkers or supervisor describe you?

9 out of 10 times these questions get you absolutely nowhere. You’ll learn nothing new about your candidate and be no closer to discovering what they would be like as a co-worker. Candidates have prepared and rehearsed these answers to death. The canned answers are designed to make the candidate look great and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. As a result, the interviewer and the candidate part ways knowing very little new, honest information about each other.

How can you be expected to make the very expensive of decision of hiring a new employee with such murky information?

Behavior-Based Interviewing

The solution to this predicament is behavior-based questions. These questions are built on the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Traditional interview question: “How do you handle stress?”

Behavior-based interviewing question: “Tell me about a time you had to perform a task or project under a lot of stress?”

20 Terrific Interview Questions for CSRs

  1. “Describe a time you exceeded the expectations of a client?”
  2. “Sometimes sales reps will drag their feet in taking action on something or be out of the office and unreachable. Tell me about a time you that quick action was needed on something and you took it upon yourself to lead the effort.”
  3. “Describe a situation where you had to collect information by asking many people a lot of questions.”
  4. “Give me an example of the kinds of issues you have talked to your sales rep about rather than handling them yourself.”
  5. “Tell me about the most difficult customer with whom you have had to deal?”
  6. “Tell me what tool you would use and how would use it to source 144 US made hot pink widgets priced below $6.00.”
  7. “Describe a time where your patience in gathering information paid off.”
  8. “Tell me about your most challenging sourcing project and how you overcame the obstacles.”
  9. “Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks?”
  10. “Tell me about a time you needed to get cooperation from a vendor for you to be successful on a task or project.”
  11. “Describe a time when you were able to become personal friends with a customer.”
  12. “Tell me about a time when you caught an error that others had missed.”
  13. “Describe a time you were not able to deliver a product to a client on time.”
  14. “Give me an example of a time you identified a potential problem and resolved the situation before it became serious.”
  15. “Tell me about about the last time you missed a project deadline because you were not well organized.”
  16. “Describe a time you had to make a quick decision with incomplete information.”
  17. “Tell me about a time you had to work with conflicting, delayed, or ambiguous information. What did you do to make the most of the situation?”
  18. “Describe the worst-on-the-job crisis you had solve. How did you manage to maintain your composure?”
  19. “Tell me about a situation in which a customer was so difficult that you just gave up trying (or were unable to satisfy him / her?”
  20. “Describe the most creative work project you’ve ever completed.”

The promotional product job interview experience and results can be greatly improved when hiring firms move from canned interview questions to behavior-based interview questions.  The answers that come from behavior-based questions gives the candidate a chance to truly reveal who they are, what they’ve done in the past, and what they can contribute to the hiring firm.  With this knowledge, hiring firms can make quality decisions that reduce ramp up time and improve retention.

"Sell Me This..."

This One Exercise Tells You Everything You Need to Know

There are thousands of questions that can come up in an interview.

Standard questions: “Tell me about yourself.”

Abstract questions: “What’s your favorite fruit and why?”

Behavioral questions: “Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult client. How did you handle it?”

No question can tell you everything you need to know about a job applicant.  However, this one exercise should sum up how a promotional product rep sells.

"Sell Me This..."

Hand the sales rep a blank promotional product and tell them, “Sell this to me.”

The rep’s response will to you a lot about how they approach promotional products. Responses will fall into one of three categories.

Product based responses will focus on the specifics of the item that you hand them. They’ll talk about the imprint area, decorating options, or the great quality construction of the item. This is the worst of the three responses. These reps love and know the products, but don’t sell solutions.

Solution based responses will address the business need that the product can fill. They’ll talk about the results achieved from using promotional products, such as an increase in trade show traffic, a boost in employee morale, or higher brand recognition.

Inquiry based responses focus on questioning. These reps will need you to tell them more. What events do you have coming up that this product might be a fit for? What business challenges are you facing now? They’ll ask questions that give them all the ammo they need to sell you the item.  If fact, they might even have you sell yourself.

This exercise will give you a terrific insight into the thought process and value proposition utilized by a sales rep. Here are five additional questions that will help to fill out the picture even further.

  • What do you like about prospecting?
  • What’s your social media skill level?
  • How do you feel about face-to-face networking?
  • How long do you think it will take you to put together a sales plan and begin to execute it?
  • What is the first thing you would do when you realize that you’re in a sales slump?

To read more on how to evaluate sales reps read our article on the “6 Traits of Top Performing Sales Reps”.

What are your go to questions when interviewing sales reps?

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

A resume is an ink and paper representation of your career. During the job search it can be the key to your next job. Like most things in the business world, it’s a good idea to stick with proven best practices. Below are several time-tested rules of resume writing.

Keep it simple and clean. Your resume should be built on your experience and accomplishments. It doesn’t need graphics, artwork, or “personality”. The structure and font that you choose does make a difference. Keep it orderly and easy to read. Nothing should detract from the content.

Include all pertinent contact information. This includes your cell phone number, personal email address and home address. Some younger candidates include social media handles. That can be helpful, but isn’t necessary in the promotional product industry.

Tell the reader what you want. This is your objective. Your objective needs to be a strong, bold statement about 1-2 sentences long. Follow this with your summary. This should be 4-5 sentences and tell the reader what they can expect to get from you.

Focus on your accomplishments, not your duties. Don’t tell the reader what you did, tell them what you got done.

If you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist. In the world of resumes, numbers are king. You grew your sales? Great. How much? You managed a team of sales rep. Cool. How many? Put a number to everything!

Many employers and recruiters will load your resume into a database immediately. They’ll use this database to search for job candidates just like you and I use Google. Take advantage of this and make sure that your resume contains keywords that make sense for the position that you want.

Your resume is not one size fits all. You need to customize, customize, customize! Customize it for each job and each company that you are applying for.

No matter what job you are applying for you have to highlight your qualifications for that specific position. Make it very obvious to the reader that you have everything they could want in an employee.

Resumes can quickly become stale and out of date. Set a recurring reminder to update your resume every 3 months.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, looks worse than grammatical or spelling errors in a resume. It shouts “Unprofessional!” Please proofread and have 2 others proofread it as well.

Promote yourself! Resumes are not for being humble or giving credit to others. Own your accomplishments and SELL THE READER! Provide all the evidence needed to convince even the most skeptical reader that you will be a difference maker for their business!