Remember in Mean Girls, LiLo and her cohort had a chintzy pink “Burn Book” detailing all of their peers’ most embarrassing moments – from Trang Pak making out with Coach Carr to Amber D’Alessio making out with a hot dog? Whatever you do – don’t bring your burn book to your next interview, but do bring your brag book.
Brag books haven't been on the interview scene for long. They were initially used by sales professionals as evidence of their performance, which makes sense as those guys need to prove they can meet and beat targets. More recently, savvy job hunters from other professions have adopted the technique as a way to beat the competition; showcasing professional and personal achievements in a tangible and appealing way.
As most of you guys are students and recent grads, I highly recommend you get on this trend. If you lack professional experience, you more than any other candidate need to go that extra mile to clearly demonstrate that you are skilled enough to do the job.
Coming Up In Why You Need a Brag Book:
Do I Really Need a Brag Book?
What Even is a Brag Book?
Why Employers Like Them
Put This in Your Brag Book...
But Don’t Put Any of This In
How to Arrange the Contents
How to Use Your Brag Book
Why You Are Sure to LOVE Brag Books!
Do I really Need a Brag Book?
Yes. Even if the hiring manager hasn’t specifically requested one, it’s a good practice which immediately reveals you as a proactive candidate. What’s not to love?
What Even is a Brag Book?
A Brag Book is the equal and opposite force to a Burn Book. Instead of hating on other people, brag books are about giving yourself a lil’ love. A brag book will be chock full of all your accomplishments, demonstrating to employers that you really did all the cool things you’re claiming to have done, and you really are qualified for the job.
Why is a brag book so hot right now? It’s a relatively new concept. Sure, creative workers have been dragging hefty portfolios to job interviews for decades – it made sense because they’re in a visual line of work. As 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and 65% of people are visual learners it makes sense for all of us to teach people about ourselves in a visual way.
That doesn’t mean hefting elaborate painted portraits of the time you lead a project that finished on-time and on-budget. A print-out of a brief visual timeline breaking down the steps you took during that project you’re so proud of would be more than enough.
Why Employers Like Brag Books
This all comes back to what employers want. Ultimately they want to know that you’re more trousers than mouth, they want to know that you really can do all the things you say you can do. Hiring you is a risk, particularly if you lack experience. Creating a brag book is a great way to put their mind at ease.
During an interview, employers are desperately trying to get to know the real you. Interviews are not the most natural social situation to find yourself in; nerves and brain-blanking might stop you from saying everything you had planned to say, or you might not really get affected by nerves and end up talking yourself up like Kanye. Employers simply can’t be sure.
A brag book serves two purposes. It gives both you and the employer something tangible to focus on – which takes the pressure off when answering questions. It will also reflect certain soft skills, too; you took the time to compile the book, it’s tailored to role responsibilities, it shows you care, it’s meticulously put together etc.
A great brag book will tell the employer a little bit about you and what you’re like to work with, too. So what should you put in? More importantly, what should you leave out?
What to Put In Your Brag Book
Graduates, even if you lack experience you will have more to add to your burn book than you might think. Regardless of your field of study, we should all be able to call upon our proudest moments and achievements. There are two tiers of information to include; the basics and bonus bits.
You might want to include a copy of your university transcript and any favourable reports you received from lecturers along the way.
If you received any awards or nominations for awards, bung that in, too! If you held any positions of responsibility during your time at university, such as student rep, in it goes.
As we said, employers want to see examples of your action and proactivity. Include any project work you undertook to a high level at university.
If you’ve completed any work experience or held down jobs alongside your studies, well done! If you have any documentation that charts your progress in those roles, include it.
Consider including evidence any additional skills you gained alongside your field of study; perhaps you know a foreign language, or you can play an instrument to a high level, or you’re a pretty good athlete. Showing you have a rounded skills profile demonstrates your versatility and talent!
Anything that demonstrates the upstanding citizen you have become should be in this growing mound of achievements, for example you could consider including your clean DBS check (if it feels relevant).
These are additional pieces of information that really give your future boss a proper idea of who you are, what you’re like to work with and what you would like to achieve. It’s a little bit of extra work but after all the build up getting to the interview stage it’s totally worth it. Plus, the extra effort is sure to impress.
Include a personal statement. Talk about what you’ve done, where you’re at right now and where you hope to go from here. You can also include a description of what you’re like to work with and what matters to you – but remember to keep it concise!
If you really want to knock their socks off, and you feel you have a good understanding of the job role, you could include a 30, 60 and 90 day plan for your first 3 months in the job. It shows you mean business and even if you’re a little off the mark, it shows you’re results-oriented with a good work ethic.
Recommendations. Letters of recommendation from former employers and academic staff are the cherry on the cake of success you’re about to hand-feed the hiring manager at interview.
Honesty is the best policy. Never, ever exaggerate your experience or what you can do. You might think you’re convincing, but someone who’s been there and done the job you’re interviewing for will be able to see straight through it.
What Not to Put In Your Brag Book
It depends which stage of your studies and career you’re at, but certain academic achievements become a little redundant with the passing of time. An award for your GCSE results is diminished if you’ve just graduated your master’s course. Basically omit any achievements that aren’t representative of your skill level or work-related aptitudes, such as winning crufts with your dog.
How to Put Your Brag Book Together
There are two elements to consider. How will the book look, and more importantly, how will it read?
Looks-wise, there are a number of options available. I quite like Pampa portfolios. They’re smart and stylish, reasonably cheap and spiral bound, so you can move pages around easily. You are job hunting so don’t feel as though you’ll be judged on the fanciness of your accessories, an A4 folder will do. Just make sure it takes clear plastic wallets; don’t drop loose sheets in a folder because you won’t be able to steer your interviewer through the content.
Brag books were initially popularised by sales staff, who are particularly results driven. Their whole currency as an employee is based on how well they can sell – and that starts with selling themselves. We spoke a bit about branding a few weeks ago. When it comes to getting a job, knowing your Unique Selling Points are vital. You need to know how to sell your personal brand, and the best way to do that is by telling a story.
Take your interviewer on a journey through your highs and er, highs. Some people like to order their brag books chronologically, but it makes more sense to create sections and organise those subsections with the most recent achievement positioned at the front.
Start with a bio, perhaps open it up to discuss your professional/ project based successes, follow that with some info about how well you did at university, followed by some evidence of hard skills, rounded off with some A*** recommendations. NICE!
If it’s long, paginate it and include a table of contents, for ease of use, y’know.
How You Should Use Your Brag Book
Don’t cling to your brag book like a life-raft once you get to interview. It’s an accessory, not the main event.
Get to know your brag book by heart. These are things you’ve done. You don’t need to hold the book. It’s for the viewing pleasure of the interviewer.
Let the interviewer know you’ve compiled examples of work and educational achievements and hand it to them. It’s there if they want to reference it, and you can use your excellent memory to draw their attention to particular pages as you talk.*
Practise using it in this way with a friend, if that’ll help!
When you answer questions at interview, you should lead all your answers by referring to how you acted in similar situations. Use your brag book to illustrate the efficacy of those actions. Sometimes nothing in the brag book will be relevant, so cool it, cowboy.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can include a folder filled to the brim with “choice cuts” – copies of letters of recommendation, CV, 90 day plan etc. Why not make sure a little bit of you is present when the hiring managers review your application alongside everyone else’s whack nowhere-near-as-much-effort applications? Make sure you include enough copies for everyone (3 or 4 of each item will be enough, and it doesn’t need to be fancy-pants printing either.)
*Listen to the cues the interviewer gives you re. the brag book. Remember, you are the focus of the job interview, the book is an illustrative device. They might not want to refer to it for each and every answer. Don’t let that put you off. When it comes to interviews, show how flexible you are and go with the flow.
Why You Will LOVE Brag Books
Unlike burn books, brag books are a huge confidence booster. They remind you of all your successes, keeping your spirits up while you await that perfect opportunity. They form part of a process of self-appraisal which helps you to refine your direction just that little bit more.
If you know your brag book back-to-front, it’s a great device to return to if you find you’re a little nervous. They will make you look good at interview and even if you don’t get the job, it’s an opportunity to practice your presentation skills which doesn’t hurt.
Here you go, gang. A treat for getting to the end of the articru. You earned it –