Don’t tell me – show me
How do you “Wow” HR, recruiters, and hiring managers during the interview stage?
You must be able to provide concrete “proof” of your career successes that you refer to in your résumé and other career marketing collateral. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of hot air.
There is a tool that jobseekers can use to show evidence that supports their claims of how they did things “successfully”. The thing is, most people don’t have this tool, so when you use it, you will have a competitive advantage.
What interview tool am I talking about?
It’s sometimes referred to as a “brag book”. Others call it a “work portfolio”. I’ll use both terms in this article.
Whatever label you prefer, it’s simply a physical or digital file that contains compelling evidence your awesome contributions that you made throughout your career.
It really doesn’t matter what your job function and level of experience is or what industry you work in, anyone who has notable contributions and accomplishments can develop a work portfolio.
The benefits of this interview tool
Creating a work portfolio will give your résumé much more credibility because you are able to show actual proof of your key contributions and accomplishments you have showcased in your document.
A brag book is an excellent thing to take to interviews for a number of reasons.
First off, by being able to show proof of what you say you did, you will boost your chances of moving through the process.
For instance, if the employer asks about your experience in a particular area and you have some related accomplishments, you could whip out your portfolio and hand them that piece of information to review on the spot.
This will remove any doubt in the mind of the interviewer that they may have had about your experience.
It’s also a good tool to start a conversation about your career success stories in the event that the conversation kind of lags or the hiring authority is talking too much and not giving you an opportunity to really shine.
This is where you need to put yourself out there a bit and get a little uncomfortable.
You could politely interject and say something like “May I take a quick second to show you something that provides some insight into how I can help you achieve X, Y, and Z?”
If the employer is really serious about filling the role, thinks that you are a contender, and have a few minutes to spare, they would likely agree. If they decline, then that might be a clue that they’re not that interested in you.
What is a brag book exactly?
A brag book or work portfolio isn’t reserved just for creative types – virtually anyone in any type of profession can create one.
All it needs to be is a well organized and professionally presented file that gives concrete proof of your achievements which could also include samples of some of your best work.
It’s recommended that you have both a physical file such as a binder as well as a PowerPoint presentation in the event that it needs to be emailed to a hiring authority.
The kinds of things you include in your brag book will depend on what you have to show, but it could be photos, reports, marketing collateral (brochures), correspondence, and other things.
For instance, let’s say you created a successful advertising campaign that exceed targets. You could include a copy of all of the advertising collateral you were responsible for creating and a letter of praise from the various stakeholders like your boss or a key account.
If you were responsible for solving a major customer issue that prevented them from leaving for the competition, you could provide a copy of the customer’s testimonial.
I include a detailed list of what you can include as proof farther down this article.
It’s important that your portfolio be well organized, neat, and professional looking. This isn’t something you want to whip together at the last second. In fact, doing this properly will take some time, so don’t rush it.
For the physical portfolio, I recommend using a good quality binder and organize the contents by including a tables of contents, using dividers to break up content into categeories, and also protect each document in plastic sleeves.
For a digital presentation, I recommend that you create a slide deck that has a crisp, clean, and professional look.
What to include in your brag book
The general rule of thumb is to include anything that you can think of that makes you look good and helps to communicate your unique value proposition.
❐ Performance reviews from current/former employers
❐ Awards/ Rewards Letters (official recognition of doing a good job)
❐ Letters of recommendation
❐ Congratulatory notes (anything that compliments you on doing a great job from employers, co-workers, customers, clients)
❐ Client testimonials
❐ Certificates of completion of career-relevant educational courses, workshops, seminars
❐ College/University transcripts (only if you’re a new grad and your marks are good)
❐ Copies of industry-related articles you’ve written
❐ Writing and design samples (sales/marketing collateral you’ve helped develop)
❐ List of specific accomplishments that are not on your résumé
Ensure that the physical copies that you make are good quality and legible. Presentation is everything!
Benefits of the brag book
Even though you might not need a brag book, it’s definitely a good idea to take one with you in the event an opportunity arises for you to reference an example of something you did particularly well.
Going through the process of creating your portfolio will actually boost your self-confidence when you see how many times you made a positive impact in your career and where you really shone.
This will make you feel more positive every time you go into an interview and reduce your performance anxiety, knowing that you have evidence literally at your fingertips that you can produce to show our worth.
This is particularly important if the job search is taking longer than anticipated and eroding your confidence. Being able to reflect on your career successes will give you the morale boost that you need to soldier on through what could be a challenging process.
But more importantly, taking an impressive-looking work portfolio with you into the interview will show that you are well-prepared and have gone the extra mile which will make you stand out from the other candidates.
At the end of the day, it’s the little things that can make a world of difference.
Do you have a brag book? I’d love to know what you’ve included and if it’s helped you.
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Hi! I’m Diana.
I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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