Your License To Brag: The Brag BookBy Donald J. Strankowski
Ascend Career and Life Strategies, LLC
Throughout my professional career, I have interviewed hundreds of people for many different types of positions. Some candidates had great looking resumes that boasted of relevant skills, accomplishments, and achievements. Some of them conducted solid phone interviews which resulted in me inviting them to a personal interview. A few select candidates even seemed like a solid fit when I conducted a formal interview in that they presented themselves very well in person.
But I also went through plenty of Rolaids and Tums while interviewing and recruiting. Hiring the wrong person is a major career faux pas and can be a highly visible blunder. In addition, some of the potential fallout may include:
-Looking bad and being perceived as having bad judgment (or just being known as a "dolt").
-Blowing your chance for a raise during your next review.
-Being sent to do the next 4-day company career fair in Gary, Indiana.
-Costing your company LOTS of $$ because now they have to start the hiring process all over again if the person didn't work out.
-Creating more work (for the already 'overworked') for all involved including the people picking up the slack due to the hole in the roster.
-Your next career move ending up in the mailroom.
The above fears were not only my inhibitions, but those of most every recruiter and/or hiring manager. Well, maybe being demoted to the mailroom and having to spend four days in Gary were mostly mine. The fact is, poor hiring decisions cost companies money and can really put a dent in any well-respected hiring manager's career. But the enigma is that most candidates rarely do anything above the ordinary to put the hiring manger at ease and provide validation that they are a sold fit for the job.
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My greatest apprehension as a recruiter was that the person I was interviewing was possibly exaggerating their abilities or maybe even fudging a bit regarding their skills and achievements in order to land the job. Without any steadfast validation, I had no choice but to accept what they were saying (or not), use my intuition, and hope they would do well if I hired them.
It’s one thing to state in a resume and/or in an interview that you have certain skills and a specific level of experience. It’s another thing to actually provide tangible evidence to validate your claims.
One of the major reasons people are eliminated in the first stages of the interview process is that they assume the screener will easily recognize that their skills and experience will be a match for the position. They are hoping that the interviewer will “read between the lines” so to speak, and make the connection.
On a rare occasion, a candidate would present to me some form of validation regarding their accomplishments, abilities, or skill set. It was usually a sales report detailing selling success, a letter of recommendation, or sometimes even an assessment test detailing certain job-related personality and skill strengths. Regardless, the fact that this candidate took the time to provide “proof” and validate that they were a solid fit for the position and back up their performance claims, usually shot them to the head of the hiring candidate class. This single element—providing validation—greatly increased their chances of advancing in the hiring process and will increase yours too.
How to assemble a Brag Book
One of the most successful strategies a job seeker can utilize to separate themselves from the job search masses is to assemble a Brag Book.
A Brag Book is a professional portfolio—usually a three-ring binder with page protectors—that details documented academic and professional achievements. I recommend assembling your Brag Book in reverse chronological order with the most recent information first, similar to the Experience section of your resume. By employing this strategy, you are stating to Company X that you are someone who always does more than expected, are a high-achiever, and approach your job in a very well organized and pragmatic manner. Some ideas for the Brag Book contents may include:
- For recent graduates, college transcripts (rule of thumb is to include anything over a 3.0 GPA)
- Letters of recommendation from past professors or employers
- Former academic or professional projects or reports
- Past business or sales proposals
- Results of skills and assessment tests
- Favorable employee reviews
- Awards or certificates of accomplishment
- “Great job” emails from peers, supervisors, or clients
- Company newsletter write-up’s
- Newspaper articles mentioning your company and your name
- Community or volunteer awards or distinctions
- Anything else that offers proof or validation that you have the skills and work ethic that you are claiming to have
Use the Brag Book to your advantage
Carry your Brag Book with you to all job interview situations. Cover the pertinent contents and incorporate this into your overall strategy when meeting with employment decision makers. In an interview situation, it is essential that you present the Brag Book and cover all relevant contents at the appropriate time. For example, if your Brag Book is 30 pages, don’t plan on covering the entire contents. Simply cover the contents that are appropriate for the position you’re applying for. In preparing for a job interview, I always went through my Brag Book and placed Post-It Notes on the 4 or 5 pages I wanted to discuss during the interview. This way, I could flip to the relevant page and discuss the information and get my point across without fumbling through the entire binder.
When to present the Brag Book
During the interview, when you are answering questions simply ask, “May I present to you my professional portfolio which offers some examples of my work quality and work ethic?” Most interviewers are blown away at this point. Very few people ever take the time to assemble and present a Brag Book or provide any sort of validation for that matter. It shows the interviewer that you are serious about the success of your career and also that you are a high achiever who goes up and above the ordinary call of duty. You have proof! You are also selling the interviewer on the fact that you are an accomplishment-oriented individual and not simply a clock puncher.
Above all, the Brag Book puts the interviewer or hiring manager at ease in that you are validating what you’re saying and will increase their comfort level on choosing you for the next interview step or as the person for the job.
Start compiling information and contents for your Brag Book as soon as possible. As a career coach and keynote speaker, I have met with countless people who can remember receiving, but never bothered saving, anything that documents their past job performance or accomplishments. Don’t fall into this trap! Remember to always ask for a letter of recommendation from past employers—no matter what the position. I have found that offering to actually write your own letter of recommendation and then having the employer look it over, make any changes or edits, and then sign it can garner great results and expedite the process. Remember to keep any and all documentation of successes and accomplishments; professional, volunteer, or academic throughout your professional career. Keep a Brag Book file at home and update your Brag Book on a regular basis. Anything that depicts you as someone who goes up and above the ordinary call of duty will increase your chances of advancing in the hiring process tremendously.
Give yourself a convincing competitive edge when it comes to the interview process and ultimately landing the job. The Brag Book concept and strategy can separate you from the vast majority of other job seekers and will assist in propelling you to the final interview stages. It will also act as an integral part for increasing your chances of being hired!
Donald J. Strankowski Jr. is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career management firm for businesses, professionals, executives. He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.AscendCareers.net
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