By Kristen Bohlander

UX designers, are you open to a recruiter’s perspective? 

Now might be a good time to update your portfolio. 

Things are changing fast! Luckily, when your portfolio is up to date, you’ll be more likely to get interviews with your top choice employers. 

I’ve seen underqualified candidates get interviews solely based on their portfolios! I’ve also seen well-experienced and otherwise qualified candidates NOT get the interview for the same reason.

As a recruiter, I am thrilled when you have a good portfolio because I know you will be marketable and will get interviews!  A good portfolio clearly shows your process and tells your story concisely.  There is enough detail so your work can be understood but not so much that your narrative becomes too word heavy.  

When thinking about your portfolio, ask yourself if it:

  • tells a story? 
  • shows how a business problem was solved?  
  • demonstrates what your part was?

Remember that good portfolios show:

  • Your process
  • The iterations your project went through
  • Evidence/data behind your work
  • Before & after/ finished product screenshots

Investing a little time and effort into polishing up your portfolio now will put you in the ideal position for success when you’re looking for that perfect new role. 

Ways to Improve Your Portfolio

Once you’ve assessed your current portfolio, think about ways you can make your work stand out even more. A few pointers to consider include: 

Only show your best work. Leave out the really old stuff, if possible, and put the new stuff in front.

Use a lot of white space. A modern, easy to navigate aesthetic is also key! 

Reflect your personality. Personalize your portfolio with an introduction and use narrative to keep your readers hooked. Creating your own web site (rather than using a social media platform) tends to get more positive attention.

There’s no tried-and-true formula for portfolio success, but remember that clarity, brevity, and personality go a long way. 

Common Portfolio Mistakes

When I see a candidate with a bad portfolio (or no portfolio at all), it is difficult for me to get them an interview. Unmarketable portfolios tend to have these qualities:

  • Only screen shots and no process
  • Only process with limited graphics
  • Outdated graphics
  • Older projects
  • Poor navigation/ user unfriendly
  • Links that don’t work

Candidates have given me the following reasons as to why they don’t have an updated portfolio:

  • All of my work is under NDA 
  • I worked on boring products so the portfolio won’t represent what I can really do 
  • I’ve never needed a portfolio. I’ve always gotten work without one
  • I don’t have time to improve my portfolio

Without a portfolio, I (as a recruiter) cannot help you find a job. Our hiring managers always require one!

NDAs are not uncommon. I have seen people successfully “scrub” information and create a portfolio around NDA material without revealing sensitive material. I don’t exactly know how they do it, but it has been done! Password protection is important, even when sensitive material is removed.

Some of you also know how to create modern, aesthetically-savvy case studies around not-so-savvy products, so that, too, is an obstacle that can be overcome. 

I want you to succeed and I want to get you interviews and, eventually, the job offer! Your portfolio will be key to your success (and, frankly, mine).

Next Steps for Your Portfolio

So, where do you go from here?

  • Have other professionals look through your portfolio and ask for critical feedback
  • Look for other portfolios you like, comment on them, start conversations with their creators
  • Find examples and tutorials. Here a few sources of inspiration:

Portfolios on Medium

Best UX Writing Portfolios (2020 update), UX Collective

31 Impressive UX Portfolio Examples and a Guide for Creating Yours, uxfol.io

Thanks for reading! I encourage comments, opinions, and other feedback. Feel free to email me at kristen@clearpnt.com.

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