All of us here at Splash Resumes are always looking for ways to help our clients set themselves apart from other candidates. While it takes some effort, a portfolio or brag book, is an excellent way to visually showcase your accomplishments. While portfolios are expected in certain “creative” professions, jobseekers in many more “traditional” fields could benefit from preparing a brag book to use in an interview. Not only is it an excellent way to prepare for a job interview, but it is also an excellent confidence booster! There’s just something about seeing all of your accomplishments in print that boosts your confidence and self-esteem.
A brag book is useful in a job search to:
- Showcase your accomplishments
- Document the breadth/depth of your educational credentials, training, and professional development
- Set you apart from other candidates who are interviewed for the job
- Give you a “prop” to make you more comfortable answering questions in the interview
- Allow you to provide greater depth and detail about your qualifications than you can on the résumé alone
The brag book is primarily designed to be used in the job interview — both to illustrate your qualifications and (possibly) as a leave-behind piece. Developing a customized brag book for use as a leave-behind can be a very effective strategy. It shows you prepared for the interview. But, a brag book can also be used in your current job — for example, in a performance evaluation meeting or when requesting a raise and/or promotion.
What To Put In Your Brag Book
- A copy of your college or university transcript
- Copies of the certificates or diplomas for trainings/workshops/degrees listed on your résumé
- Example of major class assignments — report, presentation, or project (for recent graduate
- Documentation of knowledge of a foreign language (certificate, grade, or test result)
- Performance evaluations (or excerpts of evaluations) from supervisors or managers
- Work samples (projects, newsletters, photographs, case studies, proposals, surveys)
- Papers/reports/publications you’ve authored
- Samples of communication/writing skills (writing samples)
- Evidence of computer/multimedia skills
- Logs/lists/charts that document your performance
- Sales information — but make sure you are not disclosing confidential information
- 30-60-90 Day Plan — what you plan to do in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job in your new position
Awards and Honors
- If you mentioned an award on the résumé, include a copy of the certificate or photo of the trophy
- Photos of individual or team participation in an event or award
- Scholarships received
- Include copies of any thank you letters you’ve received, including letters and emails from customers and/or co-workers
- Letters of recommendation from previous supervisors and managers
- LinkedIn Recommendations — you can either select a few and put one on each page, or put together a page of Recommendation excerpts
Community or Organizational Involvement
- List of professional affiliations, including leadership roles
- Clubs or activities you’re involved with
- Photos of events you helped organize
- Newspaper clippings featuring you at work or your involvement in charity work or with a nonprofit organization
Other Documentation to Include
- Personal statement or philosophy
- LinkedIn summary
- Career overview (bio or list of positions/dates)
How To Create Your Brag Book
First, assemble any and all materials you are considering including in your brag book. Start a file of all of the documents that you may possibly want to include.
- If you don’t already have them, contact previous supervisors and request letters of recommendation.
- Call your college or university and request a copy of your transcript. Or check the school’s website — some allow you to order transcripts online. If you have to, pay for a certified copy of your transcript rather than logging into an online account and simply printing out a list of classes.
- Next, review your materials to prioritize what to include. Create a logical order and structure for your brag book. This can be reverse chronological or by section. Start with your most recent accomplishment and work backwards.
- Your brag book should be 10-25 pages in length. If it’s more than 20 pages, it should include a table of contents, listing the documents that are included (although you do not have to number the pages). But, don’t make it too long! You’ll figure out the appropriate length.
- Consider creating sections to make it easy to navigate. If dividing the brag book into sections, use professional divider tabs. You can purchase these in an office supply store. Generally, a 5-tab or 8-tab configuration is sufficient.
- You can purchase a view binder from an office supply store. Choose the most durable (heavy-duty) option they sell — and opt for the “D” ring style instead of the standard “O” ring. (This makes it easier to turn the pages.) A 1” or 1-1/2” size is sufficient to start. You can also have it professionally bound at Staples or FedEx.
- Have a cover made for your portfolio. If you are not that savvy with design software, you could barter with a friend. Splash Resumes’ resident designer, Maureen, would be happy to help! You can contact her here.
- Purchase clear sheet protectors — the kind you can slip sheets of paper into. Either top-loading or side-loading sleeves will work. Purchase the heaviest (strongest) ones they have — and make sure they will hold 4-5 sheets of paper. (You will include multiple copies of each page in one sheet protector, so you can give a copy to the interviewer — at their request.)
- Have color laser prints/copies made of your photos and documents — or, if you print them yourself, make sure you choose the highest quality setting on your printer. Color prints are preferable to black-and-white.
- Do not, under any circumstance, include original documents in your brag book (except for your résumé). This way, if you are asked for your transcript, for example, you’re giving the interviewer a copy (one of several you’ve made), not your only copy (your original).
- Take the time to “polish” the materials. For example, type a key phrase or phrase from a performance evaluation on a single sheet, listing the name of the supervisor who wrote it and the date of the review.
- Design your pages. Don’t just include a photo — to be sure to put a description of what’s going on in the photo, who is in the photo (identify the scene/setting/participants), and your role. Use captions to explain/highlight the specific skills or experience you are emphasizing (if the item is not self-explanatory).
- Proofread and edit carefully. Review all the materials in your brag book for typos, spelling, grammar, and formatting issues. Have a friend or family member proofread it too. Or, hire a professional editor. We have a professional editor on staff at Splash Resumes, Leah. You can contact her here.
- When possible, tailor your brag book specifically for a desired job. If you use a 3-ring binder with page protector sheets, you can simply insert the pages you want to include for a particular job interview. For example, if the position requires public speaking skills, include a photo of you delivering a presentation to a large crowd. If the position does not require presentation skills, then you could leave that page out.
- For maximum results, personalize the portfolio — especially if it’s a leave-behind piece.
At the beginning of the job interview, let the interviewer know you’ve prepared a “portfolio” that illustrates your qualifications and accomplishments. Offer to let him/her review it. If the interviewer declines, set it aside until you need it to illustrate a point or answer a question in the interview.
Building your brag book from scratch will take some time, but you can start small and improve it over time. Keep it updated and when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready to respond. Do you have a brag book? Let me know in the comments below!