Interviewing? Get the Job Offer: How to Use a Brag Book to Differentiate Yourself from the Competition

I know what you are thinking: mom told me that bragging is a bad thing. I agree that in many situations bragging is not a trait that you want to be associated with. In fact, word association may yield terms such as arrogant, audacious and egotistical.

However, I’d like to a make the claim that while in job search mode, if going about it in the right way, “bragging” might just be the key differentiator between getting the offer and coming in second place. We all know what second place feels like in the interview process – no one remembers the bridesmaid, only the bride.

The key here is to get clarity on your career accomplishments and get comfortable talking about them! Yes, there have been many articles written on how to verbally convey your accomplishments during an interview (for example, the STAR methodology: answering a question by articulating the situation/task, the action you took and end result).

Instead, the subject of this article is how to differentiate yourself by assembling a “brag book” as a leave- behind at the end of a job interview. The brag book is best used during the interview process and not so much during the networking process (a bio is a better bet while networking; see this article for more information).

What is a brag book? It’s a collection of documents that demonstrates and validates your candidacy as a professional in your field of expertise. It is one stop shopping where you can reinforce to the interviewer that you are the real deal and not just a smooth talker! After all, if you are pretty good at interviewing – you have practiced a lot, you understand that every interview question falls into one of three categories (Do I like you? Are you motivated? Can you do the job?), and you answer these questions clearly and concisely using the STAR methodology – the interviewer will be impressed but may be wondering if you are all sizzle and no steak! The brag book shows that there is substance behind your interview answers.

The brag book should be a polished piece bound by a presentation binder (or similar item found in your local office supply store). It should include a table of contents. All documents should be in a similar font with your name, contact information and page numbers.

Here are some suggestions for key documents to be included in your very own brag book:

Table of Contents – includes your name and the position and company you are interviewing along with page numbers

Resume – tailored to the job for which you are interviewing

Bio – Your one page bio - see link above for more information

Professional Organizations – demonstrates that you get involved in your function/industry, that you are aware of best practices, or can quickly find out about best practices in your area of expertise and may show your leadership skills

Awards – shows your level of expertise and, likely, your willingness to go above and beyond

Letters of Recommendation – letters from former bosses, colleagues and mentors, etc. – powerful because what others say about you can be more impactful than what you say about yourself

Endorsements and Testimonials - gather all of the great things that have been said about you – examples include “great job” emails and LinkedIn recommendations

References – a list of key stakeholders who will vouch for you as an employee and person of character

Once assembled, you have a great leave behind to remind and reinforce to the interviewer who you are and what you bring to the party! In summary, your brag book:

. Shows that there is substance behind your interview answers

. Provides a leave-behind to help the interviewer remember you

. Differentiates you from the competition

. Demonstrates by your effort that you are sincerely interested in the job

So what does the finished document actually look like? In order to provide you with a template and some ideas, I’ve uploaded a sample into my LinkedIn profile. Comments, questions, suggestions and success stories are always welcome. In the meantime, get out there and differentiate yourself with your own brag book!

About the author:
Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional with fifteen years of broad experience in both specialist (e.g., recruiting) and generalist (e.g., HR business partner) roles at blue-chip companies, including Merck, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson.

You can see Matt’s bio by visiting his LinkedIn profile at He blogs at and can be followed on Twitter at

Matt would love to answer your career-related questions. You can reach him via email at

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