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Is it OK to bring my laptop to interviews to show websites and jQuery projects I have worked on? I have done this in interviews for previous jobs and got every one of them. Now it's time to get a job with benefits at a large company.

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Hi crh225, welcome back! Thanks for providing the update on your interview. It's great to hear this worked out so well for you. In order to better fit our Q&A format, I suggest taking the information from the UPDATE and posting it as a self-answer. On Stack Exchange, it's perfectly acceptable to answer your own question. Hope this helps! –  jmort253 Jan 9 '13 at 7:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 31 down vote accepted

It is always a really good idea to have a portfolio of your work handy. You don't have to use it but it's great to pull out if a relevant topic comes up. It's all about "being prepared". A few examples:

  1. Interview at Apple: the interviewers storms in and yells "where is your resume". I open it quickly on my Ipad, and shove the IPad in his face. Not only was I prepared for the him not having a resume, but I could show it to him on an Apple product. All of a sudden he is much friendlier and we're off to a good start.
  2. I've frequently brought a word document with pictures and descriptions of products I've worked on to interviews. These have been great conversation pieces and they can also help given clear and specific answers to interview question.
  3. Interview with an Electrical Engineer: The guy had worked on a fingerprint reader. Not only did he bring the gadget, he also had taken the screws out in advance so he could quickly and efficiently disassemble it for show and tell. It wasn't so much about the innards of the box, but about him thoroughly preparing, thinking through the interview process and attention to detail. I hired him.
  4. Just yesterday I interviewed a Mechanical Engineer. He had a well prepared portfolio as a power point and brought some tricky mechanical parts that he had designed. Big plus and recommended for hiring.
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I had an interview today, and before I went to the interview I called and asked if it would be OK to bring my laptop. The manager was stunned in a good way and he said in the past twenty years, nobody has ever asked to such a thing. I realize laptops were not around twenty years ago. In the interview, while showing my previous work, he called the President of the company to come to the interview. I showed some work that I have done, and then the president came in while I was demoing my previous work experience. The president was impressed and promptly took over the interview. This was great because I got to dodge all of the dreaded interview questions. He then proceed to ask if I have ever done XYZ, because they have a time crunch and needed XYZ done fast to meet a deadline. I then showed him on my laptop that I have experience in XYZ and the other two developers (that were mostly silent during the interview) started smiling and said that I would save them two weeks worth of research. The interview was scheduled for forty-five minutes and last two hours past that. Needless to say, this was the best decision I have made. I will update this post again if I get the job (The president will call me by Friday).

UPDATE: I received a job offer for this position on Saturday. It was not as much as I was expecting or as much as my previous jobs, so it was a bummer. I declined the offer over an email and expected to go on my way. He emailed me back and wants to make another offer.

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I don't think there's anything wrong with that but I'd let the company know in advance / ask since it might make them adjust the interview to allow time for it and let the interviewers know.

General rule of thumb is that you don't want to surprise your interviewers.

Edited to add small detail:

Make sure anything you plan to demo works, and works well - nothing will be more off putting than a flashy demo that crashes when the interviewer does something "unexpected".

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In my last interviews, when asked "Tell me a little about yourslef", I like to say/ask "Can I show you instead" and then bring out my laptop and as showing them my websites tell them about my work experience. –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 13:29
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That's reasonable but as an interviewer, when I say "Tell me a little about yourself", I'm looking at soft skills much more than demos. –  Michael Jan 4 '13 at 13:34
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what are "soft skills"? –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 13:35
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Communication, personality, friendliness, basically I'm trying to answer a "would I want to work with this candidate", technical strength is (usually) covered before that question. –  Michael Jan 4 '13 at 13:59

Having ready access to your work is always a plus - better to have it and not need it then the other way around.

Keep in mind, however, that some industries have limitations. In some high-security situations the company won't be OK with you bringing certain kinds of electronics into the building - typically the restriction is on smartphones, laptops, and occasionally USBs. They want to avoid you taking pictures or transferring data with the company systems.

Most companies with these concerns have a pre-made email they send to every visitor and you can check your vistor invitation paperwork to check the restrictions. It also doesn't hurt to check in with your main point of contact and ask if there are any limitations to bringing electronics into the building and if you need any sort of special paperwork. It's nicer to know you need this ahead of time and arrive 5 minutes early to fill out any paperwork than to not think about it and end up a few minutes late as you fill out paperwork in the lobby.

As a balance - such companies are fairly familiar to the difficulty of asking computer people to try to show thier work without a computer and will be able to work around your lack of electronics in the interview.

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Great minds think alike! Clearly we have both worked in the defense industry. –  HLGEM Jan 4 '13 at 15:06
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Yep!! I knew writing that my defense industry bretheren would figure me out the minute I posted. :) –  bethlakshmi Jan 4 '13 at 16:08

The one place where I would be concerned about doing this, and where I would ask in advance, was if I was interviewing for a some type of position where classified information was being handled. If the interview is in a secure facility, you might not get in the door without having to leave your laptop behind.

Otherwise I agree with @Hilmar, it is generally a huge plus to be able to show off your accomplishments and bringing a laptop to do show shows organization and forethought. One time I was hiring for over 100 open analyst postions and we interviewed all day long for weeks. Only one person out of hundreds interviewd brought a sample of his work and he was the top person on everybody's list for hiring (and the only one we put on the hiring list before we were finished interviewing everyone).

Do make sure if you are showing off samples of your work that they are good samples and that they are not violating any company confidentialty agreements. Usually when I have prepared sample programming work to show I have gone in and refactored to make sure it was the best I could do and I changed things so that the code was no longer company specific. If you can't find a way to make the sample not violate your company confidentiality, then create a personal project that does something similar to show off and/or show the public face of your work (if it is a public web site for instance) and talk about what specific features you worked on and what techniques you used to do them.

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