THINKPIECE: Are you looking for a new job? You might be better offkeeping your portfolio at home

A cell phone, e-mail and a work portfolio have one thing in common:

all may be distractions.

The distraction of a portfolio is particularly felt at an interview.

That's the message we deliver to junior and mid-level professionals at

conferences and seminars.

Indeed, the executives we work for often discuss the challenge of moving

beyond the portfolio when they interview junior professionals. Senior

executives are well aware of the downside of portfolios.

The portfolio shifts the focus to clips, annual reports and myriad

material things, limiting substantive conversation. As a result,

exciting areas of promise that may make or break the candidate may be


The portfolio also has another drawback in the first interview. It often

forces participants, once sidetracked, to go deeper into the

'show-and-tells.' The conversation dwells on the person's history, but

tells virtually nothing about aspirations, or the ability to answer

forward-looking questions and think on one's feet. The portfolio may

produce some interesting war stories, but so what?

The portfolio also presents another issue: what you see isn't

necessarily what you get. Whether it's a speech, an op-ed, or a

marketing brochure, the material in the portfolio has been edited -

slightly or extensively.

Finally, if you are more junior, you probably don't have much you can

show which really is all yours. And, if you are a mid-level

professional, what do the brochures emphasize? Do you want to be a

brochure writer or a strategic planner?

There are dangers, too. In one situation, an agency professional

included an item she said she had done recently. She was a little loose

in her wording: she actually had 're-done' it. The person she was

interviewing with had written the original. That interview ended


Yes, the portfolio sometimes serves as a conversation starter or bonding

experience. It can even serve up a surprise ('You've had experience in

writing about derivatives?'). But that's the exception rather than the


But, the portfolio can be important in the follow-up letter. It can be

greatly enhanced from 'it was good to meet you' to 'I've enclosed copies

of two brochures I prepared in support of the product launch that we

discussed. I'd be delighted to show you more along these lines ...'

That game plan almost always inspires a second interview, assuming the

first was satisfactory.

In short, the portfolio era is over.

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