Is It Unprofessional To Bring A Backpack To An Interview? 

 June 28, 2021

By  Keith Terrell

Looking professional during your interview is important, from your hairstyle down to your shoes and choice of bag. Backpacks are a popular choice for many reasons, but people still wonder if it’s acceptable to bring one to an interview.

It’s not unprofessional to bring a backpack to an interview, as long as it’s the appropriate style and design, and fits into the office culture of the company you’re applying to. No matter the culture, it isn’t acceptable to bring your dirty old school bag to an interview.

business man with backpack

Certain kinds of backpacks are appropriate for job interviews. There are certain features and qualities to look out for. Keep reading to learn more about the right backpack for interviews.

Certain kinds of backpacks can definitely be brought to an interview. Compared to other kinds of bags, backpacks are more practical especially if you are commuting to the interview. The good news is that they come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges these days, so it’s easy to find a design that is suitable for taking on a job interview.

Here are some features you should look out for:

  • Structured backpacks, which stand up on their own even when it’s nearly empty. They add an elegant, sleek, and professional touch to just about any outfit. Most structured backpacks come in small and medium sizes, which are ideal for a professional setting.
  • Go with backpacks that are made with quality materials and lend a professional touch. These include leather, faux leather, waxed or tightly-woven canvas, cotton twill, coated fabrics, or similar. Again, it would depend on the office culture of the company you’re applying to. If the company encourages employees to wear sneakers and jeans to work, you can play the part by choosing backpacks made of synthetic leather, canvas, or similar.
  • Backpacks designed with plain, neutral colors and are devoid of any prints are always a good bet if you want to look professional. Black, brown, camel, beige, and grey are usually a safe choice and can go with almost any outfit. If your outfit is a monochrome neutral, choose a backpack with a solid color on its exterior such as red, emerald green, deep violet, or navy blue. On the other hand, loud and flashy colors or patterns will do the opposite of making you look professional.
  • Use a smaller, more compact backpack. Generally speaking, use a backpack that is anywhere from 6 to 20 liters in capacity. Anything larger than this volume range will already be a bag suitable for the outdoors. Backpacks should only carry just what you need, so if you need to bring a laptop to your interview, then you can go with a taller laptop backpack for as long as it isn’t bulky. Ladies can use formal mini backpacks that are on the smaller end of the range.
  • Compartments for documents or a laptop are a practical feature that you’ll appreciate even if you are no longer doing interviews. Before the interview, these compartments are helpful in storing documents that you’ll need such as copies of your resume. Compartments may or may not be padded, but they are helpful in protecting your laptop and keeping documents crease-free.

Avoid bringing a full, bulky, or large backpack at all costs. A backpack should be used to help you stay and look organized, but you also don’t want to look like you’re bringing around everything that you own.

Interview Friendly Backpack Examples

Here are some great examples of professional backpacks that you can bring along to an interview, depending on the office culture:

Traditional corporate/formal attire:

Casual yet professional attire:

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of backpack should not be brought to an interview?

Backpacks that are made with sporty and rugged fabric such as mesh, nylon, bungee cords, reflective material, or other technical features made for the outdoors won’t match the professional attire you’re wearing to an interview.

What should I add to my backpack when going to an interview?

There are only a few essentials you’ll need to bring during an interview. These include your wallet, copies of your resume and other documents, a notebook, a pen, portfolio, and breath mints. Be sure to take a professional-looking notebook or notepad, and an extra pen or two.

Unless you have been asked to present during the interview, there isn’t really a need to bring your laptop. You might also want to bring a bottle of water, which you can keep in your backpack. Other emergency items that you may want to consider bringing include a stain corrector, band-aids, make-up, tissue or handkerchief for sweat, and deodorant.

All these job interview essentials don’t take up much space, so don’t bring a backpack that is too large – or one that gives the idea that you’re heading off for a weekend trip.

How should I pack my interview documents in a backpack?

Arriving prepared with the right documents (and spare copies) during your interview will increase your chances of success. The most important document you should bring is your resume, and it would be good to have several copies since you may be interviewed by different people. In the best case scenario, your interview goes so well that the recruiter immediately sends you for another interview within the same day.

Printed copies of your work portfolio are great to bring along, too. Showcase examples of your previous work such as ads, designs, marketing collateral, or similar by having it ready to give a good impression to the recruiter.

Don’t forget identification, too: a driver’s license, even if you aren’t driving to the interview, can be used as your ID if the building has strict security measures in place.

All these documents should be neatly put together inside a professional envelope or folder to bring to the interview. It’s not unprofessional to carry it by hand, though backpacks with folder, envelope, or laptop compartments will protect the documents and prevent creases. Handing the recruiter wrinkled documents will make you look unprofessional.

Is my backpack too big to bring to an interview?

The size of the backpack you use for your interview should be proportional and appropriate for your torso size. Not only will it look good on you, but it also ensures you’re comfortable.

To get the right measurement, have a friend with you and a measuring tape. Stand upright, chin to chest, and ask your friend to help you find your C7 vertebra, which is the most protruding point at the base of the neck. It also sticks out more than other parts of the vertebra. This point is where the measurements will start.

Extra-small or mini backpacks are around 14 to 15 inches from the C7, and are usually designed for women. Small backpacks are 16 to 17 inches, medium are 18 to 19 inches, and large backpacks are 20 to 22 inches.

Are there backpack alternatives I can bring to an interview?

If you don’t have a backpack that is suitable for an interview, there are other types of bags that you can bring along. Go for a solid structure and look for classic shapes, such as satchels, minimalist totes, doctor bags, tote bags, or a messenger bag. Leather, patent or faux leather are always a good bet if you aren’t sure. Similarly, you can always bet a black color will go with just about any interview outfit.

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