Career Portfolio – Important or a Distraction?

A career portfolio is appropriate for certain positions and industries where you need to showcase your creativity and achievements. However, before you launch into taking a considerable amount of time to create a portfolio, you need to understand whether that is what employers and interviewers want.

You will need a Portfolio in addition to your resume when your role includes a creative component, such as a designer, architect, journalist, etc., and that is the best way for others to fully appreciate it.  Your resume is the textual document that focuses on what you want, what your are best at doing, and outlines your career path. Your Portfolio is a visual representation of what you have achieved and shows your creative skills.

For most people in mid-career, such as in accounting, human resources, IT, logistics, manufacturing, operations, R & D, sales, etc., a resume is all that recruiters and employers expect to see. You may need to also send a cover letter if you need to clarify something in your resume to tailor it to the particular company or position. If this applies to you, do not send or take recommendation letters, testimonials, or any physical evidence of your past work to recruiters or employers unless they specifically ask for it.

Purpose of interview

Employment interviews enable recruiters and employers to assess and decide on the following three things about you (note the underlined text):

  1. Do you have the skills and experience to do what we (the employer) want you to do for us.
  2. How well do we think you can adapt to our culture and fit in with the team with whom you will be working.
  3. Do I feel you have been candid and forthright about yourself, did we connect with one another, and, most importantly, do I like you.

Interviews have structure

Interviewers typically schedule several interviews on the same day. Here’s a typical scenario of how they work. In my executive search practice, we allotted two hours for each person. We set a maximum of 1 1/2 hours for the interview followed by ten to fifteen minutes for making notes on the interview after the candidate left. That left only about fifteen minutes to deal with telephone calls, a trip to the rest room, and prepare for the next interview.

We had to work efficiently as we could only see about five people a day and on most search assignments, we could have as many as twenty people to interview! In our interviews, as is the case with those of most others, we had our list of questions that we believed would give us the answers we wanted to know.

On those few occasions when a candidate arrived for an interview with their portfolio, our immediate impression of them was negative because we knew they often would want to start with their portfolio. None ever made it to a short-list.

Instead of preparing a portfolio to showcase your skills, experience, successes, and what you can offer an employer, put that information on your LinkedIn profile and/or your website. You can refer them to those sources if you think it is appropriate. If they haven’t already looked at those, they will if their answers to the above three assessments are positive.

There are some situations when you can write directly to organizations and describe how one or more of your skills, experience and achievements can help them. Even when your interest in helping them may not be matched by their interest in having your help at the moment, they may keep your letter for future reference. I know people that have found jobs at companies long after they wrote an appealing letter that resonated with the recipient.

You can find more help about making a career change by going to the Career Center. To download a list of the most common interview questions that executive recruiters will ask, click here.

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