Should You Bring a “Brag Book” To Job Interviews?

Granny's Brag Book - a Mini Album, originally uploaded to Flickr by campbelj45ca.Should you create a “brag book” containing various career-related things you’re proud of — and then bring it to a job interview? Reader E wonders…

I have recently started a new career in the Privacy Field. After college I worked as a paralegal for about 5 years, then I took a break for graduate school, where I earned a Master in Information Science. I’ve held my current job in my field for about 6 months and I am gearing up to start looking for the next step in my career. With that in mind, I was thinking about creating a “brag book” for interviews. I’ve done some online research, and there are some good resources on the books, but I would love your opinion and the opinion of fellow readers on the value of such a “book,” what to include in the book, etc.

Congrats on your new career, E! I’ll admit it: I had to Google “brag book” in the job interview context, since I’m mostly familiar with it in the “grandma” context. (As in, the grandmother carries a small book of photos to brag about her grandchildren.) I will say that I think it’s kind of an unfortunate name, but it’s a great concept, at least for your personal use. I’m not sure I would bring it on job interviews, though.  (Pictured: Granny’s Brag Book – a Mini Album, originally uploaded to Flickr by campbelj45ca.)

During my journalism years, I kept something similar. I went to Kate’s Paperie and got a big book with letter-sized inserts and started keeping my “clips,” as we call them —  pages of magazines and newspapers where stories I had written appeared. I’ve continued to add various legal articles that I’ve published, even though it’s just for my personal use — and it’s one of my most cherished possessions. I also keep a listing of all of Corporette’s mentions in the press, which is my current (online only, though!) “brag book.”  I’d say that these brag books are more for browsing, flipping, and less for reading.

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That said, it’s much harder for me to imagine a brag book in other, less visual career fields. For example, while I remember bringing writing samples on interviews when I was younger, they would have made for a very boring brag book.  Some of the other things that I’ve heard people advised to keep in there — written performance reviews, accolades, etc — honestly sound a bit petty to show off on a job interview.  That isn’t to say you shouldn’t talk them up — your last supervisor said you were “brilliant” at your performance review!  You were thrilled to do a great job for client X and even be recognized by Y for your work! — but something about presenting interviewers with an entire book of every single accomplishment feels a little bit like asking for gold stars.

That said, I think everyone should keep a brag book: a nicely put-together collection of some of your proudest job accomplishments, whether they’re writing samples, job reviews, or more (preferably in reverse chronological order, with the most recent stuff the most accessible).  I think flipping through such a book would be an amazing way to prepare for job interviews, both to be able to point to specific pieces in it as evidence of skills learned, as well as to freshen your own memory as to the stories behind the experiences, hopefully showing off some of your harder-to-quantify-but-vitally-important worker traits, such as creativity, persistence, and more.

Readers, what are your thoughts — do you keep brag books for your career?  If so, do you bring them on interviews? 

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  1. I think having a book like this is great, but bringing it to an interview is a no-no unless you’re asked specifically for a portfolio. I once had a candidate for a job bring something like this and at the end of the interview said, “Can I show you some of my work?” It was so awkward, and made us go over time and into what should have been the next meeting. Definitely don’t do it unless they ask for it.

  2. While a full blown brag book may be a bit much in most circumstances, I have started to bring along copies of things that interviewers might find interesting… copies of articles I have published, copies of a syllabus for a course I was teaching, etc. Recently I had a day long interview, and handed a copy of my syllabus to one of my first interviewers when she expressed interest. At the end of the day, I ran across her in the hall moving from one interview to another and she asked me a question about it, and I was able to answer in front of two other interviewers. It played very nicely, and I got the job.

    • Former MidLevel :

      Now, this makes sense to me. I have honestly never heard of this “brag book” concept before today. But having samples and being prepared – always good.

    • Yes! I came to the comments to say exactly this. A brag book would be weird, but having samples of all your relevant work, copies for the interviewer on request, is wonderful.

      Someone recently had it for me, and it worked very well (she got an offer). So when I asked “Have you worked on XYZ type project,” she said “Yes, I did at company Z. I have a copy of what I wrote, if you would like it.” I got copies of two things she wrote right there at the interview (I normally ask interviewees to email me copies of the relevant samples, because usually the writing sample I get is irrelevant to my field). I thought it made her look very prepared and professional.

      So, no book. Yes copies of interesting things.

    • I think the key phrase here is “when she expressed interest”. I also note that you gave her the doc that connected with her, not the whole thing.

  3. Research, Not Law :

    I’ve done it in my previous professional life. I once won a job by bringing in samples of program materials I had developed. I used them as ‘visual aids’ as I described my experience and skills.

    It wouldn’t make sense with my current work. I do keep artifacts and work samples, but it wouldn’t be useful in an interview. No one wants to review programming code in an interview, and they can view my published articles in pubmed on their own.

  4. Um. no. I can’t imagine a scenerio when whipping out a brag book would work, unless its a visual field like, a portfolio of articles. What would it be? Like a collection of emails telling you good job?

  5. Kontraktor :

    Another thing to consider is whether the work you’ve done is proprietary or not. I would love to show future employers some examples of my work, but not only is most of the stuff I’ve done technically proprietary property of my company anyway, much of it is classified so that doesn’t do me too well either. A lot of companies have very strict policies about what you can and cannot share, so I might be paranoid of accidentally including internal use only products in such a book that I was advertising to competitors. Also, you may have signed an NDA or property agreement when you joined your company, prohibiting you from sharing such items anyway. Just seems too risky to me, unless you are in a field where a portfolio is expected and/or required.

  6. When I was interviewing for an ESL program, I brought a portfolio of my past work as an ESL teacher: sample class work, the curriculum that I created, and a copy of an article that mentioned me (okay that one wasn’t past work, but it was in there anyway!).
    I think that for more creative and hands-on fields a “brag book” is more. standard. Isn’t that what a portfolio is?

    • okay, I think I have a better understanding of what a brag book is. All the “creative” people I know put important accolades in with their portfolio of past work. I wasn’t expected to bring a portfolio, but it was helpful for me to point to specific things during my interview.
      A brag book of just work-related gold stars sounds kind of lame and awkward.

  7. I thought that a brag book contained commendations and was different from a portfolio.
    I have successfully used work samples (IT-related documentation) in interviews even when they had not been requested beforehand. They were not bound in a book – I carried them as separate printouts in my, um, portfolio.

  8. I used a “Professional Portfolio” for my last job interview. It had my Resume, letters of references, a page of my “highlights”. It gave the interview panel something to thumb through even though I had sent these ahead of time. At the end of the interview I had a binder of a work project I had completed that showed a sample of my skills. This was a job in Educational Administration and in education a “hands on” tactile approach is acceptable. By the way I landed the job.

  9. K... in transition :

    These are super common for teaching positions, not so common for social work/therapy. I guess it depends on your field. That said, I DO keep an electronic “book” of sorts just to remind myself that I don’t s*ck in my field on days when my professional self-esteem is low.

    In other news, both jobs said they’re expecting to make an offer to someone this week, but so far, no word from either, so who knows. Super wishing I could make a living wage writing/editing/reviewing/etc. and doing skype/phone therapy rather than working for someone else and dealing with office politics! Ah, if only!

    • K... in transition :

      PS Kat, I’m so sorry I didn’t name this site by name in my article a few months back… I didn’t know if it’d be ok to do so though readers here recognized themselves, but I’d have been honored to have been a part of your electronic brag book. :)

    • Good things will happen for you! I’m certain of it. Your electronic book reminds me of a folder my friend keeps of all of the wonderful notes and letters she’s gotten over the years about her teaching and advising. She says that she pulls it out when she’s feeling down. She’s an awesome teacher so I’m sure it’s full!

      • K... in transition :

        <3 I also have every nice card/note/letter that anyone's ever sent me… including a couple from women here. They just mean so so so much and really do allow me to try to surround myself with kindness whenever possible.

  10. K... in transition :

    TJ: After thinking about Ru’s dilemma regarding arranged marriages paired with my apparent forever search of a good guy who is both old-school romantic/respectful and not so old-school as to take issue with my level of education (agreeing with the anon chick from a past thread), I almost wonder if I’d be better off in an arranged marriage… or at least an arranged relationship.

    Any chance we could create a c*rporette dating site? Betting some of you married/partnered ladies know some awesome single folks hehehe

    (love to Ru and tons of support as she holds her own!)

  11. Only if a design professional of some sort, or possiblya plastic surgeon.

  12. I wouldn’t bring it to an interview, but it helps to keep something like that for yourself when writing cover letters or a resume, or to look at right before your interview to remind your self of the accomplishments you want to talk about.

  13. One of my candidates brought a spiralbound portfolio of scholarship, etc. to her interview. She didn’t bring enough of them for everyone on the committee (or gave one away before she got to her committee interview, which was shortsighted, I think). It came off as braggy, not scholarly, and did nothing to help her chances in getting the job.

  14. I usually bring what I call a “Portfolio” to my interviews. I do a lot of direct mail, writing, and presentations, so keep them in sleeves in the binder and if anyone asks about my work, they can just read the pieces, and actually see them. It’s a nice visual to go along with the “yes, I really can create all these things.”

    I bought my portfolio at Barnes and Noble maybe 5 years ago, for about $20. They have a similar one now, but with rings and removable sleeves (mine is bound) for $30 here:×11/12604593

  15. Middle Coast :

    In the information science field, the trend for new graduates without any related work experience is to create an online portfolio of their graduate studies work and artifacts, including the website address on their resume. Once they’ve acquired actual experience, the portfolio is no longer used.

  16. As an attorney, I have never experienced (nor heard of) a law student or lateral candidate bringing a brag book to an interview. However, my husband works in the pharmaceutical/medical device field and candidates often bring brag books documenting their success in sales (i.e. national and district ranking numbers, evidence of bonuses, awards, and other distinctions). As a sales rep, he always brought a brag book to interviews, and it seemed to work to his advantage. Now that he is in management, he still sees a lot of brag books when interviewing candidates.

    I guess my point is that whether a brag book is appropriate is an industry-specific question. Additionally, presentation of the brag book and how you incorporate reference to it in an interview is probably the difference between coming across as arrogant and braggy vs. well-accomplished and organized.

  17. This sounds to me like the kind of very detailed documentation profs keep in the years before tenure. Most find it tedious. I can certainly see the value, though, in having a central, organized place, electronic or hands-on, to keep track of what ppl are saying about you.

  18. I have a similar portfolio, only I call it my Job Security Folder.

    (And it doesn’t accompany me to interviews).

  19. I don’t have a brag book but for my most recent round of interviews, I carried multiple copies of two dashboard reports (I’m in Finance) that I could use to showcase my Excel skills. Came in really handy when I squeaked by an Excel test (it was Excel 2002, and I had never used it before, so wasn’t fast enough in completing the tasks) and since making excuses about them using outdated software wouldn’t have helped, I whipped out one of my portfolio pages and handed it to the person proctoring the test, who immediately looked interested. I explained what the dashboard was about and why I had created it, and asked if she could pass this on to the interviewing team. Two days later, they asked me to come in for an interview.

  20. Timely post as I have just finished two grueling days of sitting on a team conducting interviews for teaching/school administration positions. About half the candidates brought something like this (binders with copies of resume, recommendations, and work samples). I don’t remember seeing this in the past. I’m wondering if somewhere in the blogosphere people are advising this? Anyway, I think it neither hindered nor helped each candidate. Only once did something come up in the interview such that the person said, “oh here, let me show you this…” and reached in to show something directly related to the question. Yes we are going to make her an offer…but we probably would have anyway as her whole interview was impressive.

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