Wondering if you should have a portfolio for job interviews? Not sure what to include? Professional portfolios are most common with roles where a product is created such as graphic design, copywriting, architecture, software development, and more. But there are many more instances where a professional portfolio can help you stand out and land a job.
- Educators can showcase their best lesson plans.
- Non-Profit organizers can showcase successful fundraising initiatives.
- CPAs can showcase positive client testimonials.
- Social Workers can showcase case studies and workshops.
Still unsure what to include?
Research your field for the best ways to showcase your accomplishments or use the STAR method, which we’ll talk more about later.
What are the benefits of presenting a professional portfolio?
First of all, having a professional portfolio for job interviews gives you the opportunity to show examples of your best work. There’s no denying that real-life examples allow your resume’s bullet points to come to life.
Secondly, professional portfolios will act as a visual aid for your interview answers. With a well-organized portfolio, you can reference certain pages or documents for the interviewer to see some of your answers in action. As a bonus, if you get the jitters during an interview or have a shy personality, the portfolio can also assist you in effectively communicating your skills and experience.
Last but not least, having a portfolio for a job interview shows that you are serious about the position. Not everyone will go the extra mile to compile their best work in a clear and well-organized manner. According to Interview Penguin, only one in twenty interviewees will take this initiative.
What should be included in a professional portfolio?
Examples of your best work
The type of work samples you include in your portfolio for a job interview largely depends on your career field. Whatever you choose should demonstrate a range of skills needed in the role you are interviewing for. It’s also good to provide a short write-up of the project or task to give context.
Here are some ideas and questions to get your wheels spinning:
- Did you create a new logo for a company rebrand? Include the new design, explain what the company was looking to accomplish with a new look, and include any other marketing materials you designed with the new logo such as pamphlets or business cards.
- Showcase a variety of writing styles. Writing a front-page news story is much different than writing for a catalog or a website. But many companies are looking for an individual who can cover all the bases.
- Looking to move into a competitive district? Show off some of your unique and engaging lesson plans.
For Students or Recent Graduates:
- For students or recent graduates, some of your coursework may have included creating materials for more than one mock – or real – client. You can include these to show your creative flexibility to work across different industries.
If these tangible examples are not something common in your field, then we suggest showing your hands-on skills with this next method.
Examples using the STAR Method
If you’re not in a field where you can show specific examples like the ones listed above, you can always use the STAR Method. This framework shows how your skills and experience have contributed to successful solutions in your previous roles. It is commonly used in interviews to evaluate a potential employee’s problem-solving skills but can be used in a portfolio to highlight both hard and soft skills.
Here’s how it works:
Situation: Explain the context of the problem or challenge you faced in a previous role. It’s best to use a situation that illustrates transferable skills that are applicable to the job you are interviewing for. Remember to be as specific as possible and honing in on a particular project or instance. The details can help interviewers imagine similar situations.
Task: Explain your distinct responsibilities in the situation. Questions that should be answered in this section: What role did you play? Did you lead a team? What was the goal?
Action: This section should make up the bulk of your STAR example. Explain what actions you took to solve the problem. Be sure to include how you worked with others and what steps you took in achieving the goal. Talk about how your skills achieved results.
Result: Describe the outcome for yourself, your team, and your company. This section will illustrate the impact you had in your role. Use quantitative details in explaining your success. If possible, show how these results played out in the short-term and long-term operations.
Use at least three STAR examples in your portfolio that focus on skills and experience listed in the job description. If possible, include visuals to help tell the story of overcoming these challenges.
What others are saying about you
It’s always wise to include outside perspectives of your job performance. Doing so will illustrate that others are willing to vouch for your work and have seen your capabilities first-hand. Using evaluations, customer testimonials, or letters of recommendation can validate your accomplishments in the workplace.
One way to show third-party references is compiling one to two pages of quotes from previous employment evaluations and testimonials from happy customers. These examples should only be a few sentences long, talking about how you specifically filled a need or went above and beyond is extremely beneficial.
Letters of recommendation, on the other hand, can stand on their own since they are written with the intention to vouch for you in future job prospects.
Included in this section are any awards or certifications pertinent to the job you’re interviewing for. These should validate your work experience and skills from industry experts.
How should I provide my professional portfolio?
Finally, you should consider how to present your portfolios for job interviews. Should it be on a website for any with a link to access? A digital PDF you can show on your tablet? Or should you print several copies for a panel interview?
A digital portfolio is always a good idea. You can also make the material digitally available on your LinkedIn profile. Be sure to add a link to your resume, even if you plan to have a physical copy for interviews.
Whatever you choose to include and showcase in your portfolio, we strongly suggest having a second set of eyes to evaluate it. You want to put your best foot forward and have a portfolio that is clear, concise, well-organized, and truly shows your very best. We can help! Here at Career Climb, we want you to succeed with our high-impact resume writing and career coaching.