5 ways your portfolio is hurting your job potential

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When I post a job posting for a graphic designer or another creative role, I find the responses interesting. There is often a disconnect in people’s interpretations of skillsets, what’s represented in their portfolios and how they can be an asset to my team. And, because I get a lot of portfolios, it’s hard for me to focus in on ones that aren’t structured in a strategic way. Here are five of the key issues I’ve come across:

  1. Untailored content: When I’m hiring, I like to see that candidates have tailored their portfolios toward the role. Even if they show me some really fabulous conceptual work, if it’s not tied to what I’m looking for it’s difficult to look beyond that. While it’s good to also have a cross-section of work, highlighting work that’s aligned to the job is much more impressive because it shows (1) you looked at the job description, (2) understood what I’m asking for and (3) have some great applicable pieces to share.
  2. Lack of organization: In addition to highlighting the right work for the role, your digital portfolio should categorize pieces appropriately—whether it’s campaign work, event collateral or other types of work.  You should always leading with your most impressive pieces within those categories. Make sure there are also some strong pieces that you can speak to proud. That allows me to walk in your shoes and get insights into the direction you were given, how the project went from the beginning and your creative process. When I get a portfolio that hasn’t been organized, and it’s really just a mishmash of things put together that aren’t in categories, it makes it difficult to understand what you’re like as a designer.
  3. Limited experience across media: It’s always interesting to see how well-rounded a candidate is and what exposure they have had. Our team gets all types of requests, whether a campaign, sales collateral or an HR initiative. We constantly have to shift who’s doing what. And, while I always like to align projects to the strongest skillsets on my team, that’s not always possible. due to the sheer volume of projects or because I want to provide growth and development opportunities. If I see a portfolio with only print experience, for example, that’s not going to be a fit for the needs of my team.
  4. Little to no innovation: One of the most important things to see in a portfolio is if you are able to think outside of the box in your design approach. That can be very apparent in a portfolio. If someone has expanded beyond basic design principles, that’s exciting to see. I know I’m going to see some very basic collateral, such as event signs, but I get excited seeing how they have brought it altogether.
  5. Digitize it: Lately I’ve been getting lots of digital portfolios followed by supplemental items sent to me on paper. I understand the intention is to showcase the work in its intended format, however it comes across to me as wasteful. Just as I would review work (even if it’s print) in a digital format before printing, I would prefer to receive an entire portfolio digitally. Candidates can even use a tool, like Hightail Spaces, to create and customize their work for each job application.

Creative directors are busy. Getting your portfolio noticed among the sheer volume of work they manage is key. By addressing these five common mistakes, your portfolio can get to the top of the (digital) pile.

Now that you have fixed your portfolio, it is time to nail the interview. Read my article on key qualities creative directors look for in candidates on the OpenText Hightail blog.