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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

The New Secret to Interview Success: Leave Something Behind

One of the most common (and most important) pieces of job-searching advice out there is to be memorable.

And there are lots of ways to do it—give a firm handshake, look the hiring manager in the eye, ask smart questions about the position or company, and show just how well you’d fit in with the team, to name a few.

But while these tactics are important, none of them are as tangible as a leave-behind.

What’s a leave-behind, you ask? Sometimes referred to as a resume addendum, a leave-behind is similar to a portfolio in that it’s a collection of documents and work samples that showcases your abilities and skills in a real and practical way. As the name implies, though, you leave it with the hiring manager after the interview (whereas you usually keep your portfolio).

Leave-behinds are often used by designers, writers, or other creative professionals, or those in media or advertising, but there are several reasons that any candidate can benefit from having one. At the very least, putting one together is a great way to prepare for an interview—reviewing your past experience and committing it to paper will keep those bits of information fresh in your mind so you’re ready to talk about them in the interview.

What’s more, it’s a surefire way to show the hiring manager that you’re prepared and that you’ve put time and thought into the interview, which will go a long way toward being memorable. Having a leave-behind can also keep your resume from being bogged down (let’s be honest—even the most carefully crafted resume will lack the space to go into great detail).

Finally—and arguably most importantly—a leave-behind makes sure the hiring manager has a tangible reminder of who you are and what you bring to the position.

So, what does this look like? You can compile a leave-behind in several ways—I’ve seen simple folders, three-ring binders organized by tabs, and professionally-bound books. Whatever method you select, make sure that it’s cleanly organized: Include your resume on top, so it’s easily identifiable as yours, and arrange the supporting documents logically behind. While those documents will vary based on your work experience, specific skills, and industry, here are a few to consider:

  • Examples of Work Product: This is particularly common if you’re interviewing for a job that requires writing, design, or other artistic work, where it’s likely expected that you bring samples of your work. But no matter what you do, consider what you might share that showcases your skills and experience—an annual report you worked on, a massive financial plan you put together, or a project plan for an event, for example. (Just be sure that you’re not disclosing anything confidential!)

  • A Custom Creation: A fantastic way to impress a hiring manager is to create something specifically for the position you’re interviewing for. Consider outlining ideas that you have for the position—a sample marketing plan or a strategy for expanding business into new markets, for example. Not only will you give the hiring manager a glimpse into how you think, work, and present yourself, but you’ll prove that you take initiative and have an understanding of the company’s goals and mission.

  • Endorsements, Testimonials, or Recommendations: While you don’t need to include full letters of recommendation (if the hiring manager doesn’t request them, he or she probably won’t read them), you can make a big impact by compiling the highlights or a few sentences from targeted references into one “Testimonials” document. I once received a leave-behind that included two or three testimonial quotes from people who had worked with the candidate. One of those quotes was from a board member of my organization, and that carried a lot of weight.

  • A List of Awards, Professional Associations, or Other Accomplishments: If there’s information that doesn’t fit on your resume but that you’d like the hiring manager to know about, feel free to include it as a list in your leave-behind. For example, including a compilation of your professional affiliations, boards you sit on, or relevant clubs or activities with which you’re involved can show that you get involved in your industry, are aware of best practices, and have a professional network to rely on. Depending on your industry and the position you’re interviewing for, a list of prior speaking engagements, events organized, classes taught, or professional licenses and certifications can also really make you shine.

Of course, do be aware of how much information you’re including: You want to give people a taste of what you can do, not overwhelm them. (For example, unless the position involves audio or video editing, performing, or some other such skill, I don’t recommend a CD or DVD of your work—the hiring manager probably won’t watch it.) Think bang for your buck: Consider what’s relevant to the position, what would be the best fit, and what would help you stand out as a truly memorable candidate, and include only those things.

Job interviews are all about making an impression. And while, obviously, you want to rely on the strength of your experience and skills, having a leave-behind can help you effectively communicate them to the hiring manager, giving you a better chance of making the right impression even after you walk out of the room.

Photo of books on desk courtesy of Shutterstock.