Turn Your Briefcase into an Interview Toolbox

by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Your resume has done its job by landing you the big interview. Of course you will take an extra copy of your resume along for this face-to-face meeting. But your resume shouldn’t be the only thing you take with you to the interview. What you choose to include in your briefcase can set you apart from the competition by showcasing additional strengths.

A good interview includes a number of different factors. There is the intangible interpersonal connection that cannot be manufactured. A positive attitude, energetic presence, and interest in the company are your best tools for creating a connection. Another strong tool is your approach to the interview. While you don’t want to take over the meeting, if you treat it as a sales presentation where you are the product, you have a strategy for success. Extend the presentation analogy to identify what else to include in your briefcase.

1) Mini-Portfolio

Create a small portfolio by using a binder or presentation-style folder to leave with the interviewer that contains your most impressive accomplishments in an easy-to-read format. Don’t sabotage your efforts by including every achievement since your first job. Be selective and choose those accomplishments that demonstrate your skills that are a perfect match for the position to which you are applying.

You may also want to include reprints of important publications, a list of articles, or perhaps high-profile client accounts you have signed. A list of references can also be incorporated into the mini-portfolio. The key is striking a balance between impressing and overwhelming the hiring manager. Match accomplishments to the position for optimal effect.

2) Electronic Presentation

Many options exist for presenting your skills and accomplishments in a more dynamic way. You may bring along an iPad or laptop with a PowerPoint presentation of your best projects, software, awards, sales figures, or videos of presentations.

Remember that you don’t want to monopolize the interview. You can be prepared with the presentation on your portable device, but also take along a flash drive or DVD that you can leave with the interviewer in case you run out of time. The hiring manager can review the presentation with the rest of the search committee. Just as with leaving the mini-portfolio, you can be certain your skills and interview will be remembered.

3) Plan, Proposal, or Project

An impressive way to showcase the research you have conducted on the company is to include a plan, proposal, or project that you can discuss during the interview and leave for the hiring manager. Options include:

   a) a plan for the first three months in the position
   b) a proposal for cost savings or increased efficiency
   c) an innovative project that aligns with the company’s latest initiatives

Giving value during the interview emphasizes your strength as a candidate and conveys your investment even before you land the job.

4) List of Questions & Key Points

Finally, include a list of questions for your own reference developed from your research. Use the questions to gain information, but also to showcase your accomplishments and demonstrate how your skills align with corporate culture and initiatives. The list is also practical in helping you recall important points and situations you want to present during the interview. The interview dynamic is intense and a simple list can help you stay on track.

Elevate your briefcase from a professional accessory into a toolbox to help you land the job. Be mindful of the limited time you have for the interview and carefully select the contents of your briefcase to set you apart from the competition. Leaving behind a reminder of your accomplishments is a sure-fire way to distinguish yourself and keep your value to the company fresh in the mind of the hiring manager!