If you’re having trouble holding the hiring manager’s attention during job interviews, consider creating a portfolio of work examples to display your skills and expertise.

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“Sarah” was in her mid-30s and had worked as a freelance graphic designer since graduating from college. After deciding she wanted to get out of freelance work, she started applying online and had gone on several job interviews, but hadn’t received any offers.

“I’m comfortable during telephone interviews, but when I’m in person with a hiring manager, I don’t feel like I do a good job explaining my achievements,” Sarah says. “Yesterday, my mind went blank while I was talking to a hiring manager. My brain just froze. I was so embarrassed.”

Something that could help Sarah during her job interviews is a work portfolio – a collection of examples she can share with hiring managers to demonstrate and prove her skills and expertise. In Sarah’s situation, her portfolio could include examples of the client work she’s completed, such as logos, business cards, ads, sales promotions, web graphics and brand identities.

Having this handy during job interviews will also help Sarah avoid brain freeze. When a hiring manager asks Sarah to “Tell me about a time when you …” she can flip to one of her examples and use it as her prompt to explain the situation, what she did, and the results she achieved.

To benefit from a portfolio, you don’t need to work in a job that is typically considered “creative” like Sarah’s. Take “Rosemary” for example. She had moved to the Seattle area from the East Coast and was looking for a sales job in the hospitality industry. In Rosemary’s work portfolio, we included her hotel certifications, service awards and letters from customers and previous managers who praised her work. We put these into individual, clear protective covers and clipped them into a three-ring binder.

A work portfolio is a great way to help you stand out from other job candidates. Here are tips to create one for yourself.

  • Consider how you want to display your work examples. It could be as simple as a three-ring binder you bring with you to interviews. You could upload examples to your LinkedIn profile. You could create your own website to showcase your work. Or, you could do all three.
  • Choose examples of your work that will help you share your achievements: the situation, your actions and your results.
  • Don’t accidentally include any company confidential information. This is especially important if you plan to include any marketing plans or strategic plans that you’ve created.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.