When you leave an interview, you can be sure that the interviewers will write down some thoughts about their overall impressions about your qualifications. Often, the details of your fantastic accomplishments may be lost — or you may even falter over them yourself. Remember that sometimes interview teams don’t get to meet to discuss the candidates until days, or even weeks, after the interview has taken place. If you were able to provide them with something concrete that they could review after the interview, they’d be able to read through everything later and, better yet, have it on hand to use in that meeting. This could be the difference between being the #1 and #2 candidate.
The best way to solve this problem is to have a brag book. Anyone who has interviewed for sales positions probably has one. Just as creative professionals have portfolios, sales people have documentation of their accomplishments and accolades. This is their proof that they have performed at the level to which they claim. It’s the evidence in their case for why they should be hired. Who says this just has to be limited to sales? After all, in an interview, aren’t you selling yourself to the company? Here are a few tips for leaving a brag book that will keep your accomplishments fresh in the interviewers’ minds.
Capture events as they occur
Don’t make the mistake so many people make when writing their resumes — waiting until you need it. Start now. Think about the projects and assignments you have working on now—where are they? Where have you made great contributions? Have you been recognized by your boss, or even by your company? Have you taken a class or become certified in some area? Remember, you can always edit for content, tailor, and update. Your details will be easier to gather during or right after a project while they’re still fresh and available in your mind. For your own copy, fill it up with information. It’s always easier to pare down than to beef up!
Pulling it together and formatting
Make your document easy to read. The format should be clean and bullet-pointed. Keep your writing to active voice—“I changed/implemented/organized.” Be concise, accurate, and specific. Assign numbers to your achievements. The sections you’ll include in the book will vary, depending on your field. You’ll want to include elements such as your resume, education information (perhaps a copy of your diploma or even your transcripts), certifications and certificates earned, continued education, performance reviews, letters of commendation or recommendation, materials you helped to create (note your contribution), and projects you’ve worked on and completed. Sales people include company ranking reports and photos of their accolades. There’s no rule that says you can’t do that, too. Just be sure that your presentation is professional overall.
Some people have an online portfolio of their work or their own website, which is great. Some sites like LinkedIn have a place where you can upload documents and other files to support your profile. However, sometimes you don’t want that information floating out there. It’s nice to have a little more control over some of the information that you don’t necessarily want to be online and public. Remember, if the information supporting your claims is proprietary, respect that and note it. Everyone understands having to keep information confidential and it won’t count against you. Give the information that you’re able to give. Not every company would be comfortable with you sharing business details, and you may have a confidentiality agreement in place (usually signed with your new hire paperwork).
The length, format, and content is all going to vary— after all, it’s about YOU and your potential value to the organization. Once you have your information pulled together and organized, have someone look at it. Pick a critical friend or a trusted colleague. Better yet, both! Make sure that you have no typos, no errors, no missing documents that you make reference to, and no photos that are unclear. Now, you’re ready to bring your brag book to your interview.
Using your brag book
Often, people get a little intimidated when they’re told to brag about themselves or their accomplishments. After all, what qualifies as going too far? How do you demonstrate your achievements without sounding like an arrogant jerk? Here’s the deal—if you can prove that you’ve done the things you say, if you can talk about your projects with the authority of someone who has been in those trenches, you won’t sound arrogant. After all, you’re presenting facts. Of course, tone counts for something, too. Make sure you give credit where it’s due and that you are not cocky, just knowledgeable. Use your brag book as an aid in your interview. This is where, when you give an example of “a time when…” you can reference something in that book to demonstrate your point.
You’ll want to have your master copy at home, but also a working copy for the hiring manager to keep and reference later. Bring another copy for yourself to reference. If you’d like to have something for each interviewer, that’s perfectly acceptable, too. It all depends on your interview panel. In some cases, it makes a lot more sense to provide it to the whole panel rather than just the hiring manager. As the scouts say, “be prepared!”
It’s nice to have something bound in a report folder. You don’t want to hand over loose sheets or a bunch of papers with a staple in it. After all, this is the impression you’re leaving with them. It represents you after you’ve left the building. It should match the level of the position for which you’re interviewing, or even reach a little higher. Remember, you’re demonstrating what you can bring to the company, why you are the best investment they can make. Hires are business decisions and no hiring manager wants to make a bad hire. Bad hires cost companies money. Show them why hiring you will be among their best decisions.