Where’s Your Executive Portfolio?

Ready examples of your work can help you close the deal.

While it’s important to have an outstanding one- or two-page resume, here is a supplementary credentials strategy for your job search. In addition to your resume, create a world-class executive portfolio. I know, I know; virtually every book on resume writing and almost every career counselor, resume writer, recruiter and HR manager across the country will tell you to write the traditional resume. Of course, you should do that. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to break out of the resume “box.”

In today’s tough job market, you need to create a competitive difference or ” brand ” to generate interviews. To achieve that end, I encourage you to build an executive portfolio.

The portfolio is focused on your expertise and ability to make a bottom-line contribution. It requires extensive preparation with many long, hard hours of work. The end result will be an extraordinary set of marketing credentials. Typically, these credentials will run six to 10 pages in length.

The critical key to the success of an executive portfolio is that it is presented directly to the decision maker — typically a C-level executive, president, vice president, department head, executive search team or person most likely to be your boss. If the organization has a need for someone with your expertise (notice I said expertise, not experience), she will read every word. The use of this approach by thousands of my clients has demonstrated that it generates interviews at a rate far greater than any other approach.

The exact content of the portfolio will vary for each individual. Links to two examples are provided in this article. Descriptions of the most common elements are as follows:

NOTE: It is not necessary that every item listed here be included. This list is to serve as an idea generator.

Resume: The focus should be on key accomplishments. Quantify the results if possible. At the very least, provide good qualitative results. Most importantly, include a visual where possible. Yes, that’s right. Visuals may include graphs, tables or charts. People are visually motivated; powerful visuals are used to stimulate the buyer for every product or service nationwide. Why shouldn’t you do the same to generate an interview?

Accomplishment Summaries: One-page summaries of key accomplishments you have achieved throughout your career. Place each summary on its own page. These summaries should include a powerful descriptive title, a brief description of the problem or situation, a bulleted list of your actions and a two- or three-sentence quantitative/qualitative summary of the results. You should develop at least 10 of these summaries for use in different situations, but you will typically include only three to five summaries in each portfolio.

Project List: This option is perfect for engineers, programmers, consultants or anyone whose career centers on projects. List all the major projects in which you played a key role. The list should be confined to one or two pages. Each item will typically be limited to one or two sentences.

Field Research Summary: This document demonstrates your intense interest in the reader’s company and industry. It may include a summary of interviews with customers, distributors, association executives or employees. For business development people, a review of the competitive marketplace is very effective. This document may also contain data on field surveys you conduct.

Independent Study Summary: This is an excellent document for people undertaking dramatic career transitions. It can demonstrate your knowledge and insight into industry key issues, emerging technologies and products – even though you may not have experience in the industry. Generally this document will contain a summary of the information plus a bibliography supporting your conclusions.

Synopsis of Patented, Copyrighted or Authored Material: Examples of published material can include:

  • A one-page review of a patent, including application and benefit
  • A summary of a software program you designed, including application and benefit
  • A synopsis of a book or article you published

If the article is not too long, include a copy if the information is relevant to the position for which you are applying.

Summary of Industry or Position Insights: This can be the most important document you create. In one page, using a bulleted or narrative form, present the key issues you would address if you were in that position. This document demonstrates your insight, industry/position intelligence, initiative and proactive thinking. It is rare that any individual will take the time and effort to create this document, but when properly used, it typically results in a grand slam home run for generating interviews!

  1. Online Multimedia Format: Placing your portfolio into a Web format is extraordinarily powerful. It demonstrates that you are current and contemporary. The visual impact is striking. You can use photos, sound bytes and even video introductions. Video clips as part of an executive’s credentials are exploding in popularity and relevance. They are here to stay. Further, visuals of all types are expected in Web sites. It will knock their socks off! To get it in front of the decision maker, just send him a short two-sentence e-mail cover letter with a link to your portfolio. From a legal standpoint, companies cannot request a photograph or video, but it is legal to voluntarily submit one.
  2. MS Word Portfolio Resume Format: These portfolios are great as an attachment to an e-mail. However, an even more powerful strategy is old-fashioned “snail mail.” Print out your portfolio in color. Place it into a presentation folder with the cover letter and resume on one side, and the supporting documents on the other side. Include a business card in the card slot. Snail mail it direct to the decision maker.

A well-written resume portfolio represents a powerful, out-of-the-box alternative to a traditional resume strategy. When targeted to decision makers who seek credibility from executives, it can often open elusive doors of opportunity. Leaders go where others fear to tread. Go ahead and “break the rules” with a resume portfolio. You will be glad you did.