all opinions are my own ;; this post was not written in conjunction with any PT program
Thank You Cards + Envelopes
I pack thank you cards and my favorite pen in my purse before I head to an interview. Once it’s over, I go to a nearby coffee shop or to my car and address the cards appropriately. I then take them back inside and leave them with a receptionist to be given to the professors and other staff from the day. This method prevents me from forgetting to send a thank you card and eliminates the time that snail mail will take to get them the card- some programs and companies will make a decision about you before the cards even make it to their mailboxes, so it is important to thank them early.
This one was recommended to me by a friend. In her words, she insists, “[it’s] not like I’m slapping it on in the interview room!” Nerves are a real thing- better safe than sweaty.
Kleenex, Chapstick, Extra Bobby Pins
See “Questions for the Interviewer” below.
Notes About the Program
Not only will knowing a great deal about the program you’re interviewing at help you understand what you’re getting yourself into, but it will give the interviewer confidence that you’re committed to them, in addition to being committed to the field.
Pro tip: take brief notes during any tours or presentations. I jotted down a couple of key points about the professors who introduced themselves at the beginning of the day and later had one of those professors as my interviewer. I was able to bring up his specific research interests to show that I had been paying attention!
Copies of Your Resumé
I have found this to be surprisingly rare amongst graduate school applicants. At an interview during my PT school application process, I was the only one in my small group to have brought a resumé. Even if others aren’t doing it, bring a resumé to show your preparedness, professionalism, and organization. It will only help you in the interview process (provided your resumé is an appropriate length and does not contain any red flags. If you want a blog post on resumé writing, let me know in the comments down below)!
Small Water Bottle
Aim for a small, refillable, bottle- something that is easy to stick in your pocket or purse, or is not a hassle to carry around. Large water bottles can be a nuisance and if you use a tall reusable water bottle, you are pretty much stuck with it all day. With small recyclable bottles, you can throw them in the recycling bin if you plan not to refill them at any point during the day and they are taking up too much space in your hands as you navigate the interview day. Whether disposable or not, bring something– you don’t want your throat going dry halfway through an interview. Programs will likely provide you with something to drink, but bring your own to be on the safe side.
See “Questions for the Interviewer” below.
Questions for the Interviewer
I have one portfolio that I take with me to every interview. It already has a pen inside, so I never have to worry about remembering one or fishing around in my purse during the interview if I need to write anything down. While I would advise against taking notes during an interview, it is okay to jot down a couple of reminder words after you ask a question. I always arrive with a prewritten list of questions on the pad of paper that is included with my portfolio so that I don’t lose the questions, as I might if they were on a separate sheet of paper. Additionally, having a portfolio with an inside pocket for copies of your resumé keeps everything safely tucked away until you need it during the interview.
This is more of a “what to wear” for the interview, but there is almost nothing worse than trying to focus on conversation while fighting the urge to kick off uncomfortable dress shoes. I would recommend a flat or low-heeled shoe that you have worn and walked around in before- DO NOT WEAR NEW SHOES. New shoes might look great but your gait will be off and you will feel it the next morning. The shoes shouldn’t be worn down, but a loved shoe is a successful shoe. Plus, you won’t feel the urgency to change shoes after the interview as you make your way back to where you were staying (I always keep a pair of comfy shoes in my car if I am driving to an interview and plan to wear heels while I’m there). If you do choose the beauty is pain route, I would suggest bandaids as a precaution.
I recommend below that you should leave your cell phone at home or turn it off, so having a working, silent, watch can be helpful to keep you on schedule in case there are any breakout sessions or breaks during your interview day. Just make sure you don’t check your watch DURING the actual interview.
To leave in the car:
- Jacket. If it’s raining or very cold and you absolutely need to have a jacket with you- bring it. However, I will say, it can be a burden, especially on a full interview day. It can also be kind of awkward to carry into an interview [speaking from experience as both an interviewee and an interviewer]).
- Cell phone. This is assuming that you are driving yourself to an interview. if you would need to contact a ride after the interview or are planning on taking a cab to the airport/hotel, then make sure that it is OFF- not on silent. Even Silent Mode can go wrong (sometimes, alarms will go off and you might forget that you have one set). Plus, you don’t want to be tempted to check your phone, even during lunch. Push yourself to make conversation with the people around you instead.
- Headphones. You will likely be evaluated even during your breaks. Take that time to network with the other interviewees and with the professors and program directors. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the program and your potential fellow classmates; don’t isolate yourself by putting in headphones or checking social media.
- List of observation hours. The interviewer won’t have time to go over the list and will likely have already seen it in your application. Instead, talk about what you learned from your shadowing as part of the conversation.
- Gum. Opt for a mint that you can get rid of. You don’t want to forget to spit out your gum and end up trying to hide it during the interview. I tried to stick my gum to the roof of my mouth during a Q&A session (I’m a student ambassador in my program and was working an admissions event) to answer a question and it did not work as well as expected.
Did I miss anything? What are your interview essentials? Be sure to share in the comments section below!