The Value of Portfolios

Back in October, I spoke to a college class about the importance of portfolios in the UX world.

I’ve been in management roles for a combined 8 years, and have interviewed hundreds of people for web design and UX jobs. Now more than ever, I’ll make this blanket statement – no matter how experienced or inexperienced the candidate, I will likely never interview someone who doesn’t provide a portfolio.

In the UX world and design in general, it’s imperative to show your work and the processes behind it. If you’re in school or fresh out of it, there are still things to show. Class projects that demonstrate some level of UX understanding are great. Maybe you’ve done a freelance project for a family member or friend. Heck, if you’re serious about UX and the opportunities haven’t come your way, invent a project and build a story around that.

What I look for is if a candidate either has UX design chops or the interest, initiative and aptitude to grow in the field. Haven’t nothing to show for yourself doesn’t demonstrate either.

There have been times when, even though we clearly ask in advance that  candidates come to the interview prepared to share key portfolio examples, an interviewee seems surprised or disorganized when it’s time to show stuff.

I’ve had people pull up their portfolio site and start saying, “Okay, let’s see what I could show you here” and proceed to click through their own site, deciding on the fly what’s best to share. 

Don’t do that.

Do some prep work. Have a story or two ready. Get that narrative lined up to show you are passionate and put together. Don’t assume technology will be fully at your disposal either – sometimes WiFi connections fail. If at all possible, bring your own device with your examples loaded. If you have a Mac or iOS device, bring dongles that ensure you can connect to HDMI or VGA.

Talk about what you did, why it mattered, and what you learned from it.

Don’t blather about the product itself or get hung up on details. And focus on YOUR role – not constantly saying “we” and leaving it vague the exact role YOU played in the project. Be a “we” person as a professional, but be a “me” person when communicating work you’ve done in an interview.

You have no idea how many people you’re competing against for the job. The best way to get a leg up is to be put together, interesting, passionate and driven. Tell a story using real examples, even if they aren’t grandiose projects done at some company.

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