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  3. Stand out and come prepared with a portfolio for a job interview
Stand out and come prepared with a portfolio for a job interview

Stand out and come prepared with a portfolio for a job interview

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What are interview portfolios, and why should I have one?
  • Why do professionals make interview portfolios? 
  • Which industries really want to see work portfolios? 
  • What do interview portfolio layouts look like?
  • Title page
  • Contact information
  • Table of contents
  • Personal statement
  • Work samples
  • Awards, certificates, & licenses
  • Testimonials & references
  • Sample portfolio template
  • How should you change portfolios for jobs you apply to?
  • Key takeaways

Want to impress recruiters at your job interview? Come prepared with a portfolio full of work details that’ll make you stand out!

You’ve got a professional resume. You’ve picked your best outfit. You’ve rehearsed answers to every possible job question. What else can you do to prepare for your upcoming interview? A lot of the time, bringing a professional portfolio to your job interview is a great way you can make yourself stand out. When recruiters page through a well-made portfolio full of relevant work samples from past careers, they’ll see clear proof you’d be a great new hire for their company.

In this blog, we’ll explore the following aspects of crafting the right portfolio for your upcoming job interview: 

  • What interview portfolios are and what they’re good for

  • Businesses that want to see portfolios

  • Common layouts for work portfolios

  • Customizing your portfolio for specific jobs

What are interview portfolios, and why should I have one?

Professional resumes and portfolios both let you share your work history with others. Sometimes, these two kinds of documents have identical sections. Fundamentally, though, resumes are designed to make general claims about your past careers and accomplishments, while portfolio documents prove that your greatest accomplishments really happened.

Nearly every modern interview portfolio contains a set of work samples—sections or pieces of documents you created while on the clock at past jobs. Specific portfolios may also list specific honors or awards you received from academic institutions or former workplaces. A few portfolios might even contain personal statements—paragraphs that describe your work style, your short or long-term goals, and the steps you’ll take to achieve them in the near future.

Why do professionals make interview portfolios? 

Simply put, a good interview portfolio shows hiring managers you can complete the tasks of your new job, shows them you’re good at boiling down complex information, and proves that you can adapt to the needs of your company. Because of that, bringing portfolios to an interview really boosts your odds of getting hired - not just because they prove your past accomplishments are real, but also because you’ve made it easy for recruiters to learn your abilities.

Which industries really want to see work portfolios? 

Interview portfolios are very visual documents, which makes them extremely useful if you’re seeking creative careers such as

  • Writing/journalism. Creating articles, blog posts, etc. 

  • Illustration/graphic design. Creating paintings, graphic icons, etc.

  • Photography. Weddings, schools, newspapers, etc.

  • Copywriting. Creating advertising materials, technical manuals, etc.

  • Social media marketing. For companies, high-profile professionals, etc.

  • Architecture. Creating blueprints for homes, public buildings, etc.

  • UX Design. Websites, apps, video games, etc

  • Computer programming. Writing and tweaking code for software.

  • Voice acting. Video games, tv shows, public service announcements, etc.

  • Sound engineering. Musical productions, tv shows, etc

  • Musical composition. Albums, live band performances, etc.

If you’re looking for work in one of these industries, it's important you add work samples that are polished, professional, and show off your creativity. The samples you share should also have some link to the job you’re currently seeking. In other words, don’t add a sample of a poem you wrote if you’re applying to an SEO Management position.

What do interview portfolio layouts look like?

A copywriting portfolio, full of excerpts from professional documents, and an artist’s portfolio full of images can have wildly different layouts. Depending on the job you’re seeking out, the portfolio you design might even be a website, video, or audio track. Text-focused portfolios, however, almost always have layouts with the following sections

Title page

This section, centered on the first page of your portfolio, is where you’d put your name and your primary job title in a large professional font.

Contact information

Here, you’d add the same sort of contact information you’d put on your resume - phone numbers, emails, website links, your personal address, etc. Depending on the portfolio layout you choose, you might put this section on your title page, right below your name and job title. Alternatively, you might place this section at the end of your portfolio.

Table of contents

Here, list every section in your portfolio document followed by the page number where each section starts. Make sure the table of contents in your portfolio has an easy to read, aesthetically looking layout. Also double check the listed page numbers every time you update or expand your resume document.

Personal statement

This part of the portfolio, 1 to 3 paragraphs long, tells job recruiters who you are. Like summaries on a resume, your personal statements should talk about your educational background, work experiences, integrity in the workplace, and finest professional accomplishments. Unlike resume summaries, personal statements on portfolios can also talk about your future - positions you want to reach, skills you want to master, etc.

Work samples

In this portfolio section, list and show samples of your past work: graphics you’ve designed, excerpts from documents you created, charts or diagrams you assembled, lines of computer code you wrote, etc. Make sure each work sample takes up no more than 1 or 2 pages, and make sure these pages are mostly free of blank “white spaces.”

Expert Tip

When you add a new work sample to your portfolio, reach out to supervisors from your old workplace and make sure it’s legal to include that sample. Some companies might have exclusive ownership rights over the material you created for them. Other companies may want certain information in your work to not go public.

Awards, certificates, & licenses

In this portfolio section, list awards you received from companies/universities, certificates for learning programs you successfully completed, and licenses that let you legally perform certain delicate or dangerous tasks. If you have official diplomas to mark these achievements, you may want to scan and paste images of them into your portfolio.

Testimonials & references

In this portfolio section, add quotes of testimonials written by clients or supervisors who appreciated your work and admired your professionalism. Here, you can also add contact information for your professional references (old co-workers or bosses willing to talk about your approach to work) or personal references (friends, teachers, or associates willing to talk about your character).

Sample portfolio template

Sample layout for a software or web developer portfolio (for both documents and websites):

1. Title page/home page

The developer's name and job title, centered on the front or home page in large font. 

2. About page

A two-paragraph description of the developer's background, followed by a list of the programming languages they know and a box containing their contact information.

3. Skills page/services page

A list of the developer’s software or web development skills. Each skill listed has a short, italicized paragraph that describes past work assignments where the skill was used.

4. Work samples page

A list of completed projects that show off the developer’s skills and attention to detail. In a portfolio document, the developer can add pictures, short paragraphs describing each project, and a URL link. On a portfolio website, the developer can also attach videos, audio clips, or downloadable software demos.

5. Testimonials page

A list of 3-5 quotes from clients or coworkers who appreciate the developer’s work. Each quote should be in quotation marks and include the reference’s name, profession, and workplace. 

6. Contact form

A feature for portfolio websites that lets clients send messages directly to the developer’s work email. Usually consists of four fillable fields where clients can input their name, email address, message subject and message.

How should you change portfolios for jobs you apply to?

If you’ve got a portfolio document written up already, make sure you update it every time you start work at a new job, expand your skill-set, or complete new projects. If you’ve booked an interview for a new job, be ready to completely rework your resume to match the interests of the recruiters who will read it.

Depending on the job you see, you might be better off cutting out work samples or professional references that are more than 10 years old or aren’t relevant to your target job. Do research for each interview, then rework your portfolio’s personal statement section so it contains keywords used in the company’s job description. Without lying or distorting the truth, describe your long-term professional goals in ways that make recruiters feel you’re passionate about the job they might hire you for.

Statistical Insight

Garron Engstrom, a Lead Product Designer and expert on UX Design, published an article on Medium about what makes design portfolios more or less effective. In it, he claimed that 80 percent of interviewed recruiters spend 3 minutes or less reviewing a candidate’s portfolio.

Finally, be ready to change your portfolio’s graphics and layout to create a resume that’s nice to look at. This might mean picking a portfolio template with pretty background graphics that fill in all the blank spaces. Other times, you might want to add action verbs that make sentences more breezy, or tinker with the fonts and text sizes of headers, lists and paragraphs to create text that’s easier on the eyes.

To boost your chances of getting hired even more, check out Career.io’s Interview Prep and Resume Builder services.

Key takeaways

  1. Interview portfolios boost your chances of getting a job by showing recruiters evidence of your accomplishments.

  2. Interview portfolios are popular with recruiters for creative jobs such as copywriting, advertising, graphic design, and computer programming.

  3. Interview portfolios often have title pages, tables of contents, personal statements, samples of prior work, and listings of awards and certifications.

  4. To make sure your portfolio leaves recruiters with a good impression, regularly updates it with new work samples, layouts, and nice-looking graphics.

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