Thursday, June 13, 2013

Assembling Your “Win” Book, Pt I

Everything I share with readers, and all the advice I suggest, is the culmination of best practices I’ve witnessed, learned and apply during the more than 20 years I’ve been a headhunter. They are all proven techniques, otherwise I wouldn’t exercise them; they may evolve to some degree from time to time, but these methods work.  

To set this up, here’s a true story. In the past I was involved in a large recruiting effort in which a pharmaceutical company wanted to grow a nationwide (U.S.), 300 person sales force for a new product launch – no small task. They organized regional assessment centers wherein they funneled applicants. Essentially a two-step process, those who made it through the assessment center successfully went to the next interview and then might receive job offers. It was a brief, fast paced and grueling process, with the primary screening interview conducted, as the best way to describe it, akin to Speed Dating – really, no kidding. They spent 5 minutes per station and then each person moved to the next. It was meant to put people under some pressure; it required them to be decisive. Since there was little time to discuss individual accomplishments they required each applicant to assemble a small binder or folder, what I call a “win” book. I have since adopted this as something I occasionally suggest to applicants depending on their background experience. 

Imagine for a moment if, during an interview, you are questioned about details of an accomplishment listed on your resume and you can reply by stating, “Yes, of course, I have that information right here”, as you retrieve your “win” book. Or, as you exit an interview you can channel Columbo, stopping for a moment to suggest, “One more thing, I have something else to leave with you, it has copies of the source information I refer to on the resume and some additional information.” How much do you want to bet you will have heightened the hiring manager’s curiosity as a result.

A “win” book is the compilation of materials you can present to a potential employer that might enhance your resume and interview performance. Your resume will likely have a listing of your accomplishments described very briefly, but your “win” book has the documentation that backs up your resume and claims. It is a thin but standard size binder or folder within which you can fasten and organize your documents in clear plastic sleeves. It should not be anything elaborate because the binder itself is of the least importance; it’s what it contains that matters. Keep it a low-cost effort because you may potentially create a few of them. Inside, place any documentation that is favorable to you and / or of which you are proud. For example: awards, letters of reference and recommendation, documents denoting exceptional performance. If you are in sales, have sheets showing your successes ranked alongside others; these are examples of what should be contained. You can black out and censor any company-sensitive information, such as the names of other individuals or confidential customer and client info. Ensure the contents are related to your professional job performance and accomplishments. Only if you are a young, fresh graduate and an entry-level applicant should you use scholastic-related items such as student organizational or collegiate sports-related items. Regardless of what you choose to use, it should be relevant information and should not contain fluff and stuff meant only to make it more voluminous -- that is not the goal. Random garbage will diminish the effect you seek. It is up to you, but since college degrees are a dime a dozen these days, I don’t think copies of your diplomas will carry much weight; however, any other certificates denoting specialized status can count. Regarding what to assemble, you might ask yourself, “Of what am I most proud?” as a guideline. It may be 3 pages or 10, depending on your past performance and the depth of that experience. This is also a literal description of what is meant by having a documented track record of success. If you have a lot of material, reduce it to the items with the most impact. If it contains too much or is too large, it is not likely to be passed around and might get lost. Ensure it is labeled “Confidential” on the front cover with your name and contact information, and page(s) should contain your resume.

Next time we’ll continue with more about how and when to use your “win” book.
(Part II will be posted on Monday)

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  1. Michael,
    This is very similar to developing an Interview Presentation which is a cornerstone strategy of Active Interviewing -

    An interview presentation is a bit broader than a win book and it includes all the information a hiring manager needs to know to make a good hiring decision.
    Eric Kramer

    1. Thanks Eric,

      Reactionary and defensive posturing during the interview process is a losing strategy no doubt, so I agree with you and indeed the technique of active interviewing is a good approach. However, I would caution anyone to adopt or adhere to "one" primary approach and I rather subscribe to having a variety of tools at the ready because no two interviewers approach the process in the same manner, just as each person has different strengths with which they can capitalize. The "Win" book component is just one of many methods to set oneself apart from the rank and file. Clearly we both agree that being proactive is more likely to gain better results.

  2. Really great idea and guaranteed to get you noticed.