Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Seeing is believing: Portfolio offers employers tangible evidence of your skills

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Hiring managers generally are more likely to hire you if they see tangible evidence of your skills rather than if they just read about them in your résumé or hear them described.

Consider accommodating this “seeing is believing” principle into your networking strategy. A case in point: I know a computer mapping specialist who cold-called an Environmental Protection Agency manager to discuss a computer mapping issue that was relevant to both of them. Then, after the specialist kicked off a job search several months later, he again called the EPA manager to tell him how his innovative computer mapping strategy might be useful to EPA. That phone conversation led to a presentation by the mapping expert before the manager, and ultimately to an EPA job.

Also, consider accommodating the “seeing is believing” principle into job interviews by providing to interviewers a “success portfolio” — a collection of materials that validate your skills and reputation.

Package your portfolio in an easy-to-skim folder that has pockets or a binder with dividers. Your portfolio should include copies of your well-formatted resume (instead of your hard-to-read, format-less USAJOBS résumé) and your business card.

Your portfolio may also include:

  • Writing samples, such as reports, articles, newsletters, press releases, press clips or print-outs of presentations that you produced or that cover your projects.
  • Programs from events you organized or conferences that featured your presentations.
  • Explanatory maps, charts and photos.
  • Positive annual evaluations; praising emails from managers or clients; evaluations from trainings or other events you organized; and copies of awards you earned.
  • Relevant academic papers and transcripts.
  • Your reference list and perhaps a written recommendation from a reference.
  • Samples of your online and video work products via print-outs of relevant screen shots and files on a CD, DVD or thumb drive; a list of websites that feature your work; a self-created online portfolio (password protected, if you prefer); or an iPad presentation.

For example, I recently coached a social media expert who bookmarked on her iPad her relevant reader-friendly online contributions to social media sites, and then showed them to her interviewers during her job interview. The result: She got the job. Her interviewers later told me that the iPad presentation together with the applicant’s smiling, engaging manner vaulted her ahead of her competitors, some of whom were more technically qualified for the job.

Some pointers:

If you plan to present an online portfolio during an interview, confirm in advance that you will have an Internet connection. And even if you are assured of such a connection, arrive equipped with a backup plan if unexpected snags kill your connection or if your hardware or software malfunctions.

Position your most impressive pieces first and last in your portfolio. And limit your portfolio to your most relevant highlights that reflect the breadth of your work. Don’t make the mistake of one federal attorney whose success portfolio backfired because, according to his interviewer, it was “fat enough to choke a rhinoceros.”

Give a portfolio to each of your interviewers to keep, if possible. Label and annotate your portfolio to be self-explanatory to managers who may review it after your interview. Identify your contributions to group projects.

Stay ethical. Your portfolio should not reveal any confidential information.

 

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