Of Course You Should Have A Portfolio At The Interview --  Or Should You?

Post written by

Joanne Meehl

Principal of Joanne Meehl Career Services, getting managers and other leaders to do smart job searches.

It’s conventional wisdom that you should have a portfolio to show off at interviews. Portfolios give visual credence to what you say you can do and make you memorable among the jumble of candidates.

This could be something like a binder with pages, or a presentation (images, files, video) on a tablet or website where you can lead the interviewers through your content.

Of course, you should have one at your interview, yes? Actually, yes and no.

You want that content, for sure. It supports what you say you can do by showing proof. These don’t necessarily have to be your “best work.” In fact, it’s better if they are a match for what the company is looking for, as described in the job posting. If there’s no posting, and this is a company you sorely want to work for, match your portfolio examples to their culture. (How do you learn about the culture? Talk with people who work for or have worked for the company.)

Some samples — with narratives that tie them to the role — might be:

• Reports that show numbers you’ve generated representing an increase in sales or a decrease in costs.

• An industry journal article about how you’ve impacted the company or started a trend.

• A video snippet of you making a presentation at a conference to your peers.

• A description of an invention that earned you a patent (include the patent number.).

• A photo of you and your team celebrating a quarterly goal you’ve all achieved.

Whether in paper or on your screen, it’s excellent to make these part of your interview. Today, for most job categories (admin to executive), having an online portfolio serves you far better than one that’s in a binder you have to carry around and can only show if you are present. So I favor the digital version because of this flexibility. Having the portfolio content on your tablet or laptop (phone screens are too small) gives backup to content you may have on LinkedIn or on a website if you cannot reach it from where you are in the interview.

Here’s where I caution job hunters: Saving the portfolio just for your interview is dangerous because that one moment in your search is too brief. Instead, you want to be sure that in every step of your process, with each interviewer or contact there, they see it, because you can’t guarantee they’ll see your physical book or even your cool presentation.

This is because the interview process in each company or organization is usually not as neat as it sounds like it will be. They’ll tell you, “At 10 a.m., you’ll be seeing Maria from marketing. Then at 10:30, it’ll be Leroy in finance. Then …” Except what happens is that Maria had a fender bender on her way in, so she’s late, or Leroy had to run home because his toddler’s day care provider fell ill. So not everyone will actually see that notebook or your tablet, and you want them to!

Or maybe the day before, they switch everything to video conference format instead of being in person, forcing a sudden change in your plans to show the paper contents of that nice leather binder. Awkward! That’s why I strongly suggest an online version instead, because a sudden change of interview plans is not as disappointing to you if your portfolio is online.

So don’t plan to show your goodies only at one time, not mentioning them at other times. Instead, make sure the examples you want to show off are visible throughout your search, throughout the entire interview cycle with that company.

This translates into:

• Your job search business card should have a little more than just contact info on it; it should also have a link to your videos and other materials you have posted together online.

• Your networking handout should have a lot of that content in it, plus links to more content online.

• Your LinkedIn should be loaded with the content, including videos or at least links to your Vimeo or YouTube videos. Make it easy to click, click, click on your portfolio content. LinkedIn is perfectly designed for this.

• If the interview takes the form of a video conference, you can easily share your screen to the interviewers, showing your samples. And, share the link (to your Dropbox or Google Drive or similar) so they can look at it again later. They may even want to see it again and again (good!).

Another advantage of this share-it-every-step-of-the-way approach with all your goodies in one location is you can easily keep the material up to date instead of it being scattered all over, which would make it difficult to update as you go along in your search. Tip: Have it at two different locations, such as LinkedIn and Vimeo, in case the host of one site is under maintenance at any given time.

So tout your portfolio of successes at every contact point in the job search. Infuse every step along the way, not just the interview, with each contact, with some measure of “Here’s what’s made me successful to date,” and enjoy sharing this because it shows how you match the job and how you can help them if they hire you.

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Principal of Joanne Meehl Career Services, getting managers, directors (and those who aspire to be) to better see what they have to offer....