16 Career Documents to Boost Any Job Search

Portfolio of career documents to boost any job search

Job vacancies in Canada remain high and the news continues to tell us that many people are in career transition. As a career professional, you advise and coach your clients on the use of various strategies to connect with employers and distinguish themselves from the competition. A portfolio of career documents has the potential to strengthen a candidate’s confidence and credibility, yet some clients are reluctant to invest the time it takes to create such a portfolio. The following describes just some of the career documents candidates can have prepared to boost any job search.

Some job seekers may feel that all they need is a résumé. However, they’ll eventually notice that a résumé uploaded to an online application rarely produces an interview. It’s typically at this point they realize they are unprepared to effectively meet the challenges of landing a job. As the job search drags on, they recognize there is a need for a different approach.

A portfolio of career documents is like a merchandising package that introduces the job seeker to a networking contact, recruiter, or hiring manager. If a marketer were presenting a product or service to a company, they would be prepared with a customized proposal and supporting material in case questions came up. In the same way, when a candidate comes to a meeting as important as an interview, they must have the appropriate documents readily available.

The more documents, the greater the options for mixing and matching content across and among the items — allowing the candidate the flexibility to address unique opportunities that may arise.

1. Résumé

This is the mothership of the fleet in a job seeker’s career portfolio. Most job seekers use it as a stand-alone item for applying to job opportunities. The résumé is primarily used in job searches; however, forward-thinking professionals always have one handy. Those who are already working can provide it to superiors to indicate interest in a position, promotion, or project. The résumé acts a unifying piece that helps contacts see how distinctive and serious the individual is about their career development.

2. Cover Letter

This letter is designed to grab attention and inspire interest in prospective employers. Job seekers typically use it as a professional, yet conversational, lead-in to the résumé. However, this document can also be used as an executive overview within a polished portfolio package. In addition, the text in a cover letter can be modified to provide an introductory message in the body of an email application.

3. Narrative Profile (Biography)

This conversational marketing document is versatile and can serve many purposes beyond offering a variation of the résumé. A powerful online presence has become an expectation in many industries. These days, the biography is typically used as the professional summary in a LinkedIn profile. However, some job seekers add a narrative profile to their website or blog. Profiles may also be used on company websites, as the introductory page in a hardcopy portfolio package, and as an introduction to speaking engagements.

4. Recruiter Letter

A cover letter directed to an employer is quite different from one that is sent to an external recruiter or recruitment firm. The recruiter letter replaces the cover letter as the attachment to the résumé when applying to recruiter postings or when contacting recruiters directly. The tone and language of such letters should match the recruiter’s specific client base (employers, industries, levels, and regions served). The content can be extrapolated and massaged by the job seeker for use in an email or a voicemail message left for the recruiter.

5. Networking Letter

To facilitate a search, job seekers need to create and maintain a network of professional contacts. Those who are reaching out to potential contacts might make the first approach using a networking letter, which has a different slant than a cover letter. The purpose may be to request an informational interview, phone call, or meeting. This type of letter typically reflects what the individual already knows about a referred company or person. It can also be included as a piece of marketing collateral in a portfolio of career documents.

6. Thank-You Letter

It is vital that a well-worded thank-you letter is sent after every networking meeting, informational interview, and employment interview. Whether a formal or casual meeting took place, the letter shows appreciation for the person’s time. It also demonstrates an interest in continuing a connection. To be most effective, the content of the letter should briefly recap what the candidate has to offer, along with some new pieces of information. Sending the letter by email is most appropriate, however, in some circumstances, in-person delivery may be appreciated.

7. Confirmation Letter

This type of letter is a good tool to use as a follow-up strategy after sending the initial résumé and cover letter. After some time has passed, the job seeker can use a confirmation letter to contact an employer or recruiter to confirm understanding of the next steps. The content of the confirmation letter can also be used to develop a script for a follow-up phone call to a recruiter.

8. Resurrection (Follow-Up) Letter

Individuals who use this type of letter recognize the value in nurturing relationships with past contacts. It can be deployed after an exceptional interview where the candidate did not get the job but wishes to confirm a continued keen interest in the firm should another opportunity arise. This letter can also be used to reconnect with a recruiter and may be sent along with a new résumé or include updated information. A well-written resurrection letter sets the stage for future correspondence.

9. Referee List

Job seekers should always have a current and accurate reference list at the ready, but they must disseminate it wisely. A detailed reference page should be presented to the recruiter and employer only once a legitimate offer is made. For certain government or academic roles, references can be included as part of a hardcopy portfolio package. If the references are requested prior to an offer, they can be sent following an interview as an attachment to the thank-you letter.

10. Comparison T-chart

This short, easy-to-read table consists of two columns of corresponding bullets. It is an abbreviated format to highlight the job requirements against the strengths that the candidate brings to the table. The job seeker can include a T-chart in a cover letter or attach it as a separate document in an email. A T-chart is an ideal addition to a custom portfolio package created for an employer.

11. Key Initiatives

A key initiatives sheet is typically a document that describes a candidate’s top few accomplishments in greater detail than a two- or three-line bullet. It is an ideal handout that can be offered during an interview. The document is often used as a supplement to the portfolio package, fleshing out some of the details in the résumé for readers who want to learn more about the candidate. Job seekers often forward a key initiatives sheet to the recruiter or employer as a recap following an interview. This document is well-suited for use as an attachment to a thank-you, confirmation, or resurrection letter.

12. Business Case

Experienced candidates might want to offer up a business case, written to address the requirements of a specific company. A business case is an impressive addition to a custom document portfolio package for an employer. It can also be used as a networking tool to reinforce an individual’s industry-specific knowledge. Some job seekers leave it as additional reading after a particularly significant meeting, such as a second or third interview.

13. Networking (Marketing) Presentation

A brief PowerPoint presentation has almost endless applications, not only because it takes much less time to review than a résumé, but also because it is still a relatively unique item to be received by contacts. The job seeker can email the presentation to people in order to invite networking opportunities. Another interesting application is to include it in a digital format within the portfolio package. The presentation can be repurposed and sent to event leaders where the person is offering to be a presenter.

14. Samples of Work

Work samples can be the the real treasures of a career portfolio. It’s an opportunity for the job seeker to showcase their best work. Depending on the industry or field, samples may include — among many other possibilities — articles, reports, presentations, project materials, and/or photographs. If possible, it’s best to include samples that demonstrate a range of skills.

15. Recommendations and Testimonials

Letters of recommendation, testimonials, or reviews of previous work can have a powerful impact on prospective employers.  They provide evidence of professional qualities, hard and soft skills, and abilities. Be careful to ensure the privacy of the individuals who gave the endorsements or obtain their permission to include contact information.

16. Business Card

It is tricky to have hard copies of the résumé in pristine condition and available at all times. Although not always considered a full-fledged “document,” a personal, professional business card is an absolute necessity. The job seeker can hand it out in formal or informal networking situations and give it to each interviewer upon introduction. An effective use of the business card is to attach it to the cover of the folder that contains the polished portfolio of documents.

Many of the career documents in a portfolio can be mixed and matched for various purposes. For example:

  • key initiatives sheet might be included with the thank-you letter after a particularly successful interview. This gives legitimacy to a follow-up strategy by reinforcing what the job seeker has to offer.
  • To reopen an old opportunity, a T-chart and additional copy of a résumé might be included with a resurrection letter.
  • Rather than sending the résumé, a networking presentation can be sent with the networking letter. This allows for a marketing approach rather than a typical job search strategy.

There are no limits to the mix-and-match possibilities of these documents! In fact, the content within the documents can also be cut-and-pasted into new documents or emails as required. The more documents a person has in their career portfolio toolkit, the better the ability to customize the job search or career growth strategy.

What pieces do you love most in the career portfolios you develop? Have you uncovered other ways to use the documents or presentations that you have? Please help others understand what is in — or could be in — a well-rounded portfolio of career documents by sharing your ideas.

Sharon Graham is founder and executive director of Career Professionals of Canada. Committed to setting the standard for excellence in the career development profession, Sharon has authored top selling paperback publications and textbooks, and has established a range of certificationprofessional developmentcommunity developmentmentoring, and award programs. As executive director of CPC, she provides foresight and leadership within the sector and ensures that the mandate of this national organization is upheld with integrity.

Photo by artursz on 123RF

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What a great outline of career documents. Love your point about mixing and matching, and it also speaks to the point that job searching is a full-time job! It takes a lot of time, research, energy and strategy – if you’re doing it right – and this article is a great refresher and talk point we can share with clients.
As we all know, organizations struggle to find the right candidates, especially if their recruitment methods aren’t quite up to par…we still see this challenge in the not for profit world, and this means that job seekers have even more responsibility to present and market themselves using a strategic tool kit such as the examples you’ve outlined above.

Great point. A strong résumé strategist can use the right mix of documents to help recruiters find who they need.

[…] thinking about additional portfolio items that could sway a company’s decision, consider 14 extras outlined by Career Professionals of Canada, a membership organization of job training and […]

Thank you so much Sharon. Such valuable information to share with clients when faced with the challenging steps in their job search journey! An excellent summary for me to review when advising my clients on next steps. The mix and match strategies can address so many situations. Your experience and expertise is much appreciated!

Thanks for your comment, Cathy. It’s such a pleasure to work in career development alongside you.

Sharon thanks for this valuable information! I think you have a lot of great ideas of how you can use a variety of different career documents for job search. I think as a few people mentioned that it comes down to being able to mix and match depending on industry and position. It isn’t one way to job search but many different tools you can use.
Also, I have recently seen resume videos and youtube self-marketing videos that can be sent to recruiters or employers as another tool to use for job search. Of course, this would depend on how appropriate it would be for the industry sector or position. 

Self-marketing videos are great too! You are on point. It’s always best to think about the needs and wants of the recipient before sending them something like that.

Great article!

I found this article very interesting. Our company has been offering on line career portfolios for years, The problem a lot of people have is they are not aware of portfolios if they have been in the job market for any length of time. We are starting to notice more and more students are using our portfolio, because schools are starting to make having a portfolio a requirement.

Margaret Anne
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