How to Build an Employment Portfolio

Look professional carrying your portfolio to interviews.

Look professional carrying your portfolio to interviews.

A portfolio is a binder or folder that holds supporting materials for your resume. Recruiters don’t just have to rely on your word that you’ve got talent. The proof is in the portfolio. In addition to your resume, cover letter and references, a portfolio should hold samples of your previous work, awards and recognition you’ve received and only the most glowing recommendations.

Start with the cover letter. Each portfolio should include a personalized cover letter written to the recruiter about the specific job you’re seeking. Use the first page to introduce yourself and parlay your intentions. Instead of repeating what’s in the resume (that should be the second page of the portfolio) expand on your objective and let the recruiter know what a great fit you’d be.

Place your credentials after the resume in the portfolio, especially if you’re going for a job that requires a degree, a license or other certifications. The interviewer isn’t going to be interested in your other achievements if you don’t meet the minimum requirements for the job. Include copies of those documents, as well as honors you may have received in school.

Arrange samples of your work that highlight your talents if you are a creative of any type. For example, writers should include copies of published articles (never more than three to five). Illustrators might include hand-drawn and published pieces, while a designer should insert copies of drawings. Web designers can print copies of pages for a hard-copy portfolio and include a list of Web links.

Use the space to slip in a paper you wrote on economics, an org chart you created or any other business-related works you published if you don’t have creative original material. You may want to include a list of software you can use or a sheet that contains a bulleted list of machinery you can efficiently operate. Make it relevant to the job.

Follow your samples with copies of articles in which you’ve been mentioned, like the program from a workshop you led or an article in the newspaper about your achievements. This section of your portfolio should read like a booster club for you and can include letters of recognition and copies of awards.

Items you will need

  • Folder or binder
  • Cover letter
  • Resume
  • Copies of credentials
  • Work samples


  • Create an electronic portfolio that you can email to the interviewer. Electronic portfolios also are good to send when you apply for jobs online. In addition to copies of everything in your hard-copy folder, you can include links to work you’ve had published online – a great tool for journalists, photographers and Web designers.
  • Leave a list of references and their contact numbers in the portfolio until and unless you’re asked for them. However, you may want to bring it out if you’ve got some really big guns on the list, like the CEO of the company or major names in the industry you can drop.


  • Don’t leave your hard-copy portfolio behind after the interview. Instead keep extra copies of various pages that you can remove and give to the recruiter, like your resume, cover letter and copies of your licenses. The portfolio is supposed to serve as a prop and not as the main attraction in an interview. You -- not your portfolio -- should hold the recruiter’s attention.

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About the Author

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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