At Hitmarker, we see countless creative job opportunities asking for the candidate to submit a portfolio or examples of their work as part of the application. While it might seem easy to just select your best artwork/writing/video and send it over on a pdf, having a great portfolio can take a bit of time and knowledge to create.
Fortunately for you, creative job seekers, that’s exactly what this article is all about! We’ve put together our top tips for those looking to showcase their work, so that you can land your dream role.
What should I put in my portfolio?
Before you consider how best to present your work—and don’t worry we will get onto that later—you need to decide what kind of work you want to showcase. Our advice here depends on how long you’ve been working in the sector, what seniority of role you’re looking into, and the breadth of your skills.
When you’re just starting out, or if you’re looking for a more junior role, perfecting your craft in the specific area you’re applying for is crucial. These roles tend to have fewer responsibilities outside of the specific skill set advertised, and while having a broad set of abilities is always great, a company wants to know specifically that a new hire can do everything they need for that role. Focusing the work you show on that one area primarily will help put you in good stead, as it will act as evidence that your ability in the role is top notch.
Moving into more senior roles, companies will sometimes expect higher level employees to be able to assist in areas outside of their core speciality. If this is the case, and it’s mentioned in the job description, you should make sure your portfolio accurately conveys your range of abilities.
An example of this is if a company was hiring a senior graphic designer, they might look to this person to also create motion graphics. If you see this mentioned in the job description, then it’s important to include some reference of motion design work in your portfolio so that the hiring company can see you’re proficient in it.
This generally applies to smaller companies much more than it does the larger ones. If you can see a job has a requirement for you to work across several branches of the creative discipline, including these in your portfolio is going to be a big help.
Now that you know what your portfolio should demonstrate, you need to decide exactly which pieces you’re going to highlight. When going through your work, try and select anything that:
– Is very relevant to the company you’re applying to. This could be that the art is in a similar style to the games they create.
– Is unique or creative. Having some work that you know no other applicant will have done is always going to capture the attention of the hiring manager, so including some more experimental work (that you’re happy with, of course) can be a great way of showing some personality while also highlighting skill.
– Is high quality. Choosing the work you’re most happy with is often going to be your best bet for creating a good portfolio, so long as it highlights the skills/techniques that the job description states.
One last note on how much work to include: don’t overdo it.
You might have hundreds of really impressive designs, pages of well written articles, or a channel of amazingly edited videos, but a hiring manager or recruiter is unlikely to have time to scroll through hundreds of examples. Our general advice is anywhere between 10 and 20 examples for most disciplines, as this gives a selection of examples that the hiring manager could be impressed by without overloading them or creating a layout headache for yourself.
How should I layout my portfolio?
When it comes to how you should present your work, less is often more. It can be tempting to go for a striking visual style with transitions and animations, but you have to remember that it’s your work that is on trial, not your ability to make a portfolio. You want your work to be easily accessible, viewable, and for nothing on your portfolio itself to detract from the viewer’s ability to do either of these things.
A clean, professional design with minimal extra frills (you can have a carousel to more easily lay out work, but that’s really as far as we’d advise you take it) is what you should be aiming for. Remember to keep the number of example pieces that you include to a sensible level, too.
Something that is often overlooked when making a portfolio is proofing and looking over the other aspects of the resource, outside of the work included. Are all tags and titles correctly spelt? Have you chosen a readable and professional font? Is everything grammatically correct? It’s very easy to overlook these things when you’re working on a largely visual resource, but mistakes can be hugely detrimental in an application.
Spending a few minutes rereading everything (out loud is often best to catch readability mistakes) or having a friend look over your work can save you small errors. In fact, having a peer or friend check over your portfolio before you advertise and use it is always a great way of having an objective eye to critique your work. Someone with a similar, but not identical, skillset is often best for this, as they can tell you if you’ve missed some great work or if something you’ve included should maybe be removed.
Where should I put my portfolio?
Now that you’ve created a really good resource, and you’re happy to share and promote it, what now? It’s easy to incorporate your portfolio into direct applications (linking to it on your resume if it’s being hosted somewhere online, sending a copy of it if not), but you also want to use it to find potential work as well. Making sure your portfolio is clearly linked on your social media, either prominently on a bio or link solution like Linktree, can help get more eyes on your work. A fair amount of creative and freelance work is hired for by word-of-mouth rather than a formal listing, so being someone that hiring managers can find is important to being able to take these opportunities.
Hopefully you’ve found this advice useful in guiding you to improve your portfolio and create a great body of work that can showcase your ability.