It’s an ancient tradition to bring gifts when meeting someone for the first time. Heads of State do it, Michelle Obama did it. Even the three kings brought gifts to the baby Jesus. When interviewing for a job, it’s not expected that you bring a physical gift. But, if you are really savvy, you will bring an intellectual gift to your interviewer.

Remember that you are being evaluated on your thinking skills. Find a way you can contribute to the business, bringing in expertise you have gained from other jobs. Study the company website and read all the press stories you can find. Chances are, you have something to contribute—an idea, a provocative question, even a story about a similar challenge another company faced. There is some risk to this strategy: your ideas might be slightly off because you don’t know the full story. However, if you present your work with that caveat, the prospective employer will respect your effort, thinking, proactivity, and your professionalism in preparing these documents. Here are some types of Interview Gifts you can provide:

  1. A SWOT Analysis: You could take a product or service the company is considering. Even without all the data, a SWOT analysis can show your critical thinking skills and background experience.
  2. A planning document: This could take the form of “How I would approach this important assignment.” As a marketing director candidate, I wrote a document outlining the steps to creating a marketing program. I got the job, and actually used the plan during my first 90 days on the job.
  3. Relevant case studies: Create a document listing some of your major projects with situation, strategy, tactics, and results. You can present these verbally, or leave the document for your interviewer to read later.
  4. A list of challenges and recommendations: If you are moving from the buyer side of the business to the vendor side, you might prepare a document such as “10 Ways Consultants Can Increase Value for Their Clients.” Because you have been the client, you are offering insights from your perspective.
  5. Portfolio: If you are in advertising, marketing or graphic arts, it just makes sense to bring in a portfolio of your creative work. Many other job seekers—even administrative assistants—can prepare a portfolio that shows their work. If you have saved newspaper clippings, blog posts, invitations, advertisements, sample proposals, etc. you can turn these into a portfolio to prove your skills.
  6. A White Paper: This is an opinion essay–500-1,500 words–about some important issue facing your business. It doesn’t even have to be published. With the White Paper, you demonstrate that you are on your way to becoming a “thought leader.” Who wouldn’t want to hire that?

If you’d like to follow all the coaching provided for my Parade Magazine job seeker, log onto Parade’s What People Earn page. Be sure to hit “previous” and “next” to see all the articles.

For more success tips for your job search, read New Resume New Career, now in bookstores nationwide and on For a free 30-minute consultation about your own career goals, contact Catherine Jewell by emailing

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