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How to Build a Professional Portfolio for a Job Interview

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A professional portfolio is a collection of documents that highlight your career achievements and includes extra copies of your resume, reference letters and introductions. Impress recruiters by supplying them with a portfolio. It saves them the time of researching your background and gives them something tangible to keep after the interview.

Copy Relevant Materials

Each portfolio should be customized for the job to which you’re applying. Gather the materials you think will be relevant for each interview and make copies of those documents. Include your resume or CV, transcripts from college, industry certifications and any relevant licenses you need to perform the duties. Add copies of awards you’ve received and stories from your company newsletter, the local paper or industry publications. Insert copies of documents that provide evidence of professional memberships you hold and samples of your work. Include copies of letters of recommendation and a list of relevant referrals.

Arrange Documents

The portfolio should be easy to use for recruiters and begin with a short table of contents, giving the interviewer a glimpse of the portfolio contents. Use index tabs and dividers between sections. Label the tabs with numbers relating to the index. Keep the portfolio professional looking and avoid colored paper or fancy dividers. Rely on sheet protectors to cover each page, and arrange the documents in a logical order, beginning with your cover letter and followed by your resume, certifications, awards and references. Keep the entire package light, from five to 10 pages.

Assemble Portfolio

A portfolio is designed to be left with the interviewer so choose inexpensive yet professional binders or folders. A three-ring binder is a common tool used for assembling a portfolio. Use a binder with a clear cover to insert a title page with your name and contact information on it, and the professional title you use or the job you are applying for. At the same time, arrange your documents online in the order you’ve placed them in the binder so you can send electronic copies to potential employers. Include a thumb drive or CD with the contents of the portfolio in the inside pocket so that the interviewer can pass on the information to others in the company.

Use It Wisely

Carry your portfolio to interviews with you. When asked about various credentials or work product samples, open the portfolio and take out the related document. After the interviewer reviews the paper, replace it in the portfolio. Use the documents to add credibility to your statements, not as the sole focus of the interview. The portfolio should remain with the recruiter after the interview to leave a lasting impression and to remind the interviewer of highlights brought up during the meeting.


Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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