By Pat Criscito, CPRW

Most people picture designers, models, artists, photographers, and actors when they think of a portfolio. If you are one of those people, don’t feel bad. You are in good company, but you want to stand out from that group, so let us help you manage your personal brand with e-folios on the Web and paper versions for your interviews.

Increasingly, employers want to see concrete evidence of the experience, skills, education, and accomplishments shown on your resume. Have you ever been asked in an interview, “Can you tell me a little something about yourself?” Even if you rehearsed your answer a million times, you probably floundered a bit, right? We have been taught all our lives not to brag, so blowing our own horn makes us very uncomfortable.

Now, picture entering the interviewer’s office with a neat leatherette binder in your briefcase. You shake hands and have a seat. The dreaded question is asked, “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” You answer, “I would like to show you instead.” You open your briefcase, remove the binder, stand up, and walk around to the interviewer’s side of the desk. “As you noticed in my resume, I have . . . ” and you launch into your work history and accomplishments, turning the pages in the binder and pointing to key items to reinforce what you are saying. Now, you are in control of the interview.

That binder should contain no more than 25 pages of documentation, neatly organized into four or five sections with dividers and page protectors. The first section will contain your resume. The next section will serve as an outline or overview without the detail. As you discuss achievements, turn to the third section with proof of those accomplishments—things like newspaper clippings, magazine articles, company newsletters, at-a-boy letters from the boss, testimonials, a performance evaluation with key accomplishments highlighted in yellow, the list is endless. If you designed presentations or brochures in a previous job, include a sample. If you developed a new software program, include a color copy of the box front. If you wrote an article or white paper, include a copy. If you are in sales, represent the amount of money you made the company in color charts or graphs. In the fourth section of the binder, include credentials (licenses, diplomas, certifications, etc.). And lastly, in the fifth section, incorporate letters of recommendation.

By the way, use copies and not originals of these documents, and make sure you create labels to identify each piece. In the inside front pocket of the binder, you should place a few extra copies of your resume. In the back pocket, include some copies of your letters of reference, a reference list, or any other key information that you think you would want to leave with an interviewer. Never give away anything else from your portfolio, although it would be fine to remove something for your interviewer to copy and then return to you right then.

The key to an effective portfolio is to research the company first. Determine what their needs might be and then select key items for the portfolio that you think would be of special interest to that employer. The portfolio you take to the next interview might be totally different. However, you must be able to tell a coherent story with the information. Make sure there is a connecting thread so you can easily transition from one item to the next. Practice before you interview!

Besides formal interviews, a well-planned portfolio can be used for networking, informational interviews, performance evaluations on your current job, admission to colleges or universities, and as a place to organize your career paperwork. It is a professional self-marketing tool that will make you stand out in a crowd of other applicants and give you one-up on your competition.

Before the interview, though, recruiters and HR staff are "Googling" candidates before deciding whether to even call them for an interview. By creating an e-folio (personal website, sometimes called a personal branding portal), you can manage what people see when your name is "Googled". Besides the information already mentioned, you can create a blog, links to your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter accounts, and other unique information.

For help in creating a dynamic, job-winning portfolio, contact ProType/ProWrite, Ltd., at (800) 446-2408 or email us at We provide individualized consulting services at $96 per hour or would be happy to put the entire portfolio together for you at the same rate.


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