When an interviewer asks me to leave my portfolio with him, and then hires someone else, is it gauche for me to ask for the portfolio back? May I offer to swap it for a less-expensive portfolio?

Here's the background: Portfolios, like resumes, are something I customize for each job. So the specifics will differ, but I have two types of portfolios:

  • Giveaways: Between 10 and 20 pages of my design work. Basic color laser prints in a thin, black binder. The whole thing costs me about $10.
  • "The Prestige" 20 pages of my design work. Continuous-tone prints (dye-sub or silver halide) in an Itoya portfolio book with black leather cover. Costs me about $100.

I bring "the Prestige" to all interviews. Usually, I only bring a giveaway copy if I have reason to believe there will be multiple interviews. A giveaway can also be helpful if more than one person is interviewing me: it speeds up the conversation if we're not passing one book up and down a conference table.

At an interview on Tuesday, I delighted my interviewer by closing. He told me I was a top-tier candidate, he'd have an answer for me by Friday, and "Would you mind if I held onto your portfolio?"  For a fraction of a second, I thought about offering to FedEx him a giveaway copy, but I was a top-tier candidate who wanted to stay top-tier, so I smiled and handed him my $100 portfolio.

I learned on Friday that I didn't get the job. The interviewer was effusive in his praise of me and said he'd mention me to other people who might be hiring. Maybe that's just something you say.  Now this company that turned me down has my $100 portfolio. Is that just the cost of doing business? Should I offer/request to swap it for a cheaper portfolio?

RichRuh's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I'm answering this one as a photographer, as I have no experience as a manager in this field.

I'd ask for it back.

TNoxtort's picture

You should definitely call them up and ask for it back. You didn't get the job, so what do you have to lose?

I'm familiar with copyright law so I'll just share this. Since it was your creation, without any agreement, it is your copyright. So they can't use it or take it for anything. And they know that.

I'm sure once you ask, they will send it to you right away.

afmoffa's picture

Thank you Richruh and Artsmith. I'll ask for the portfolio back.

It was something of a faux-pas for him to ask (it would have been fine if he'd asked me for one ahead of time; the whole reason I have giveaway versions is because interviewers do ask for them). But, having been asked, I wasn't about to refuse him and end the interview on that note.

I was already inclined to ask for it back, but the reason I asked the forums is I wasn't sure how much credence to give his "I'll mention you to other organizations I know." That comment was probably just a platitude. And I didn't want to appear cheap or petty; $100 probably means more to me than it means to a potential employer. But I'll call him on Monday, thank him for his consideration, and ask him to mail me the portfolio.

(Side-note regarding Artsmith's comment: I don't hold the copyright to 75% of the pieces in my portfolio. Most of my portfolio pieces are "works for hire." They belong to my employers, not to me. But there are some projects I made for my own company, and those are mine.)

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

If he doesn't immediately fedex it back, don't think of him as a professional.


eagerApprentice's picture

Yes, something that so obviously cost you that much time and effort should be returned. He should (and hopefully does) realize you left it by mistake.




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