If you want to stand out in a crowded market, one of the most impactful changes you can make to your job applications is focussing on your portfolio. It can make the difference between getting an interview and not.
We have taken real feedback from practices on their turn-ons and turn-offs and what makes an exceptional and impressive portfolio.
Download a PDF copy of our Portfolio Guide here.
Tailor your portfolio to the job
In a competitive marketplace, applications per job are much higher than usual. You will stand out if you have thought about the job on offer, the type of work they will want you to do and how you can prove that you have the most relevant experience.
It can be tempting to add a piece of work that you are proud of, but if it isn’t relevant, put it to one side. Every time you pick a piece of work to submit into your portfolio, go back to the job advert and think ‘Is this relevant?’ ‘Does this prove I have the right experience?’ ‘Will this make them want to pick me for an interview?’
Ensure it is your work
Your portfolio should consist of only your work and any images, drawings or visuals that you have produced yourself. Remember, if you get through to interview stage they will spend time talking through your portfolio. You will need to be able to able to speak confidently about the processes and skills it took to create a piece of work.
If you have collaborated on a piece of work that fits the experience they are looking for, then you should indicate what you contributed and what has been done by others.
Clarify your software experience
Hiring Managers want to know what software packages you are trained and experienced in. Make sure you pick work for your portfolio that shows your skills in the software that they have asked for.
If you have other software experience on top of what they have asked for, include this too. It can be highly impressive if you have more than what they have asked for and will show your dedication to your craft.
Choose your best creative/technical pieces
Your portfolio should be a sample of your best work, highlighting who you are, what experience you have and what you can do. It should demonstrate your creative or technical flair.
Most practices are more interested in your portfolio and experience rather than just your CV. We see a direct correlation between individuals who have the best portfolios and who secure the most interviews and job offers.
Pick your most recent designs
Try to use your most recent work as examples. If the experience and skills you are looking for are shown in work from years ago, include these in your portfolio. However, you must be ready to answer questions on how you will still be able to deliver this calibre of work with no recent experience.
Let your portfolio tell a story
Don’t make it difficult for a Hiring Manager to understand your portfolio. Add structure to your portfolio, and design it as a case study with a clear beginning, middle and end so that you are highlighting your full skill set. Adding a contents page at the start of your portfolio will make it easy for Hiring Managers to find an example of work that they are especially keen on.
Try to start with creative, concept designs or hand sketches, moving on to any visuals and then on to drawing packages.
Try to limit photography to a minimum. Rarely do clients wish to see the finished building or interior, they care more about the quality of the work you have completed in the lead-up and how you apply yourself to the processes, not what it looks like after it has been built.
Your portfolio is not war and peace
Hiring Managers only have a short time in their day to go through applications so limit your portfolio to 7MB. This is a sample of your work to get to the interview stage. It should be your most recent and most creative/technical work, that highlights your software skills and that is tailored to the position on offer. It is not everything that you have ever done.
Use a professional file name
Naming your portfolio file with a professional title, not only sets you up as a serious candidate, but it also helps Hiring Managers and Recruiters identify the position you are applying for. Great Examples include:
First Name Surname – Portfolio- Job Reference Number
First Name Surname – Portfolio- Job Title
First Name Surname – Portfolio - Practice Name
This also makes it clear that you have tailored your portfolio to this position.
Use this checklist before you hit send:
- Choose your best creative pieces
- Ensure it is your work
- Pick your most recent designs
- Clarify your software experience
- Let your portfolio tell a story
- Limit photography
- Tailor your portfolio to the position
- Contain some variety of creative e.g., hand sketches, various drawing packages as well as design examples
- Remember this is a sample of your work – make sure your electronic portfolio is no bigger than 7MB
The team here at FRAME are always happy to talk to you individually to discuss your portfolio in detail or give advice so please call the FRAME design team on 02382 025240.