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I have an interview for a job and I'm wondering how I should give print items to the interviewers. I have a resume, references list, my current business card, and 4 pages of sample code. I've thought of three ways I could give the items, but I'm not sure what would be most effective:

  1. I could give each item as asked for or if it seems appropriate.
  2. I could volunteer the resume and business card, and perhaps offer the sample code and references only if requested.
  3. I could volunteer a packet of all 4 items paper clipped together, 1 set for each interviewer.

Which do you think would be best?

  • Another idea: buy a bunch of USB sticks and hand one over at the end of the interview. Put it up on a website and control access with a customized passwords like "johns_apple_interview" – Hilmar Mar 8 '13 at 12:08
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    At my company I wouldn't be allowed to plug in that USB stick, and in this case I actually agree with our IT folks. – Monica Cellio Mar 8 '13 at 17:45
  • Valid point. For us it would okay though, the candidates get thoroughly vetted before we fly them in for an interview and I don't think there is a high risk of picking up a cyber terrorist. Anyway, caution is always advisable. – Hilmar Mar 9 '13 at 12:55
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    @Hilmar It doesn't need to be a cyber terrorist; it's quite sufficient for it to be someone who doesn't know their USB stick is infected. – Jenny D Jan 2 '15 at 15:58
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This is definitely one of those details that job seekers stress about and some hiring managers care about, but at the end of the day really don't matter to the vast majority of people. But that doesn't mean the details aren't important (we even have a question on Workplace SE about the quality of paper for such things), if not just for the sake of clearing one's head of details to stress about.

First and foremost, if you weren't told what to bring, just ask ahead of time what they want to see. That erases any doubt about what to bring.

As to how to present it, you could do any of the things in your list and be well within the bounds of etiquette and preparation. As a hiring manager, I would consider it a positive factor in your favor if you did any of them.

What I would want to see from you, no matter what position I'm hiring for, is a sense of preparation. To wit, I might not care at all about a paper resume (because I will have already seen it electronically), but if you walk in with one I will think:

  • How nice, a reference copy. Thoughtful!
  • Probably no one uses paper these days, but the candidate didn't know that I was one of those weirdos who does, and thus they are prepared for any eventuality!

Let's assume you were told to bring precisely these 4 items, and the question is how to hand them over. If they've told you that they want these 4 items, then they will probably ask for them specifically. If they don't, I would probably offer them at the outset: "I've brought the items you requested. Would you like them now?" Individual packets are nice, if you know how many people will be in the room.

Let's now assume you weren't told to bring precisely these 4 items. Make sure, then, that you're bringing value. Why these 4 items? From the perspective of a hiring manager who didn't ask you to bring them, I would be totally fine with the resume and reference list (because as commenters have noted, perhaps I didn't see your materials ahead of time in a useful way), wonder why you're giving me a business card for a company you're going to be leaving (unless it's your personal card, in which case, that information also should be on your resume), and I would wonder why you randomly picked 4 pages of code to print out, because I'm not going to look at it in the interview and if I'm interviewing a developer I'm going to ask for a GitHub profile or something not printed and out of context. But that's just me, and still, at the end of the day, it wouldn't affect my judgement one way or the other.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write all that; makes sense to me. The interview is tomorrow morning so I won't have an appropriate opportunity to ask what to bring, unfortunate that I didn't think ahead. So sounds like it would be best just to put together my resume with my reference list and offer them from the outset, and use the other items only if appropriate. Thanks! – Stupac Mar 8 '13 at 2:12
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    In total agreement. The business card doesn't provide any value. Neither does code on paper (unless you invented a portable scanner/OCR device that detects the language and auto-compiles or something). Bring a few copies of your resume, though they will have their own copies, and relax. – jmac Mar 8 '13 at 2:39
  • Because many systems ask for the resume in text form, or ask to to paste it into an eform to answer specific questions, they may not have a readable copy of the resume. – mhoran_psprep Mar 8 '13 at 3:12
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    I have been on interviews where someone was called in to be one of the interviewers at the last minute (do to someone being sick or called awy for somethign urgent) and had not read my resume. It helps to have a paper copy if this comes up. – HLGEM Mar 8 '13 at 16:07
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To this excellent answer I'd like to add a few points, based (most recently) on interviews for which I was the candidate.

First, sort your materials into things to pass around and things you'll keep unless you need them. Code or writing samples are an example of the former; extra copies of your resume are an example of the latter.

During the first meeting in which you're talking with one of the interviewers (not the receptionist), say something like "I've brought some code samples, in case you want to circulate them while I'm here". In my case this was a 3-ring binder with several documents (I was applying for a technical-writing position), but this works for code too. I'll say more about the contents of this binder in a minute. The point is that it's possibly a larger item (so you don't want to just make copies for everybody), it requires some time to review (looking at it during an interview isn't practical), and, possibly, you need to take it with you when you leave (like if it were a design portfolio). If the interviewers are at all interested, they can circulate this among people who are not currently interviewing you and give it back at the end of the day.

The second type of item is stuff you might or might not need, like extra copies of your resume. Keep these to yourself and offer them as necessary. If an interviewer walks into the room holding a copy of your resume, you're good; if someone walks in empty-handed, you can say something like "I've brought spare copies of my resume" and offer one. Interviewers do sometimes get tapped for this at the last minute, so that's helpful.

Now, assuming you're bringing samples of your work, like code: don't just print out some code and hand it over; nobody's going to know how to evaluate that. Write a little documentation -- a cover sheet explaining the following:

  • what this is an excerpt from (or, if it's a complete project, what it is)

  • any important constraints that affected how you wrote the code (to fend off "why didn't you do such-and-such that would have been easier?" thoughts)

  • explanations for key design decisions that are evident in this example ("I chose to use delegation here because..." in a case where that's not an obvious thing to do)

If there's a relevant design document or architecture diagram, include that too. Help your interviewers understand what they're looking at without having to go line-by-line in your code.

By the way, if it's a code sample you may score bonus points by also including your unit tests. As an interviewer I have seen that exactly once; it made an impression.

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