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Portfolio Review: Expert Tips

When applying to a design role, one of the first things a hiring manager will look at is your portfolio. The creative consultants at smartdept. inc. review 100’s of portfolios each month and want to share their top tips on how to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Unsurprisingly, the one thing that everyone on staff wanted to talk about was organization. Whether you’re organizing by campaign, client, or type of medium, it should be very easy to navigate through and get to the right place.

See the rest of our expert tips below:

Hannah Staal, Creative Consultant in Grand Rapids

  • The most effective portfolio will tell your story, celebrate your brand. It will showcase your growth and development.
  • Flushed out campaigns: Does your messaging hold true for several different pieces? i.e. signage, logo, branding, sales sheets
  • Are you specialized? i.e. packaging, agency driven…or more generalized? Embrace it!
  • Concept to Execution: did you show process? That’s always a cool perk.

Jaime Sklar, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Functionality: Content and samples should flow naturally and easily. User experience is huge when looking at design portfolios especially. Nobody likes to waste time trying to click through different samples and images that are choppy and inconsistent
  • Layout and Design Aesthetic: If the color and design aesthetic is too bulky, showy, or flashy, it takes away from the work. Black backgrounds look outdated. The text should be easy to read on each page/sample.
  • Portfolio Site Used: Use a modern portfolio site and check it regularly. Coding changes and updates can pop up without warning.
  • Variety: I prefer portfolios that include several samples from each project, along with descriptions of that project and the work you contributed.

Colleen Walton, Creative Consultant in Seattle

  • Keep it simple! The background should be neutral and the navigation should be intuitive. Your site shouldn’t distract from your work.
  • Descriptions are key. They don’t have to be long, but one or two sentences about what the project is and how you were involved is very helpful.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you. Include your email or add a contact page. People can’t hire you if they don’t know how to reach you.

Nina Strolia, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Share some information about each sample to give the viewer context. What did you contribute to this piece? Was this an existing file that you updated or did you concept it?
  • Delete that distracting background. The highlight of the site is your work, not some crazy animated background. A simple, white background is always a winner.

Colin Wodarski, Business Development Manager

  • You should express your personality without it distracting from the main focus – your work!
  • Samples should include a pertinent description in an easy to find, quick, digestible format: where did you do the project; who was the client; if it was done as a team, what was your role; tools/software used; challenge & outcome (i.e. these direct mailers helped increase web traffic by 50%)

Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Hiring managers like to see a copy of or link to your resume on your portfolio. Put everything in one place. That goes a lot farther than the cutesy “about me” page.
  • Tread carefully with sensitive materials. Did you sign an NDA when you designed that nifty piece of internal software? Even if your portfolio is behind a password wall, your future employer may worry if you’re showing samples from legally protected work. Be sure you have permission before putting your work out there.
  • Building a responsive site portfolio site Square Space, Wix or WordPress using snappy template. Or if you’re targeting Web Design and UX roles, build the site yourself to push it the extra mile. Be sure to test it on multiple browsers, your tablet and mobile phone.

Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • When I am reviewing a portfolio I look for a clean and organized presentation.
  • Often the way a candidate presents their work in an interview setting can be a hint as to how they organize their work day.
  • Show up to an in person interview at the scheduled time. Late is never good, but too early can also be a deterrent for many hiring managers.

Michelle Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • Present your work in chronological order. Most recent work should be first and student work you are proud of should be last.
  • If your portfolio lacks depth, it is perfectly acceptable to include well-executed spec work.
  • Be honest with yourself and your recruiter about what your role was on each portfolio piece. Elaborate on working with a team, the software used, and if any special circumstances were involved.

 

The Zombie

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

1. The Zombie

Okay, it’s true, zombies are as popular as ever. Movies, shows, conventions about movies and shows — it goes on and on. Hey, for the purpose of entertainment, I love them too. But there’s one place that zombies are not welcome (anyone?). That’s right. In an interview. In this context, a “zombie” refers to a person who continually gives one-word answers and generally refuses to engage in a “conversation” during the interview.

There are many elements involved in successfully navigating the interview process. The most obvious is having the exact skill set the prospective employer is seeking. But perhaps the second most obvious is communication — being able to talk through a solution you’re offering in your portfolio, for example. Or, your approach to a difficult situation you encountered at another job and how you worked through it. Clear, concise communication can leave a prospective employer impressed and can sometimes be a difference maker if other elements of your interview come up short.

Besides, think of all the money you’ll save not having to buy zombie make-up! All by simply being conversational with your approach to an interview.

 

Introducing our new blog series – Interview Don’ts

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

I would like to formally (or informally) introduce smartdept’s new blog series — cleverly entitled, Interview Don’ts. This eight-part series was created to help give potential candidates an edge by making light of a few “don’ts” that we occasionally see while interviewing.

Accompanying these short bits of useful knowledge are video performances depicting, in a (not so) real way, how these scenarios might play out.

In addition, I am pleased to introduce, The Not Ready For Bedtime Players, a small, but mighty group of performers who took the stage in these budget-busting depictions.

Stay tuned for the first installment tomorrow, and enjoy!

 

 

 

Corporate Culture Helps Determine Fit

From the desk of Seattle recruiter: Beth Miller

Corporate Culture. It’s the newest catchphrase for employers and job seekers alike. As the job market evens out, candidates are more concerned with work/life balance than finding a job they actually enjoy rather than just a number on a paycheck. Similarly, employers understand that happier, more engaged employees will stay longer and produce more, creating a shift toward culture fit and soft skills in many of the creative and marketing roles we’re staffing. I’ve experienced both sides of the culture equation – a great culture fit (thank you, smartdept. inc.), and a lousy one (we’ll be vague on the specifics). I’ve found a company with values that are similar to my own personal goals of professional growth and philanthropy, and I feel supported in my role.

But what does “culture” look like when you’re a freelancer? Here are a few things I like to keep in mind to gauge whether a candidate is a good long-term fit for a client.

First, take note of the physical space of the office you might be working in. Is it loud and bright, or mellow and dark? Is it an open area, or cubed? Is there music on or does everyone have ear-buds in? As much as skill set is a factor in determining whether or not a candidate is qualified for a position, it’s equally important to ensure a candidate can work in the physical space.

Second, ask process-focused questions. Having a firm understanding of how projects and tasks are managed, what the daily workflow looks like and understanding how your peers, managers and teams will interact is important. As a recruiter I do my best to set clear expectations at the beginning of any interaction with our candidates. Communication is key, and understanding how communication works within an organization can determine whether a candidate will be a good fit.

The final thing to keep in mind when assessing culture fit is whether the core values of an organization are similar to your own values. Employees come and go, and yes, corporate culture can (and probably should) evolve as there are advances in technology, organizational growth and new hires joining a company, but if you agree with the core values of an organization that’s a huge indicator that the role could be a long term fit.

Spending time thinking about culture fit, whether you’re a candidate or employer, is an important piece to the hiring puzzle.

– Beth

A Simple Rule to Eliminate Useless Meetings

Ask your team to identify their biggest productivity killer and inevitably two issues will rise to the top of the list: managing their inboxes and their meeting schedules. I’ll tackle the former in a future post. For now, I’d like to focus on increasing the value of meetings by sharing a practice our team has implemented to great effect.

At LinkedIn, we have essentially eliminated the presentation. In lieu of that, we ask that materials that would typically have been presented during a meeting be sent out to participants at least 24 hours in advance so people can familiarize themselves with the content.

Bear in mind: Just because the material has been sent doesn’t mean it will be read. Taking a page out of Jeff Bezo’s book, we begin each meeting by providing attendees roughly 5-10 minutes to read through the deck. If people have already read it, this gives them an opportunity to refresh their memory, identify areas they’d like to go deeper on, or just catch up on email.

If the idea of kicking off a meeting with up to 10 minutes of silence strikes you as odd, you’re not alone. The first time I read about this practice it immediately conjured up images of a library or study hall, two of the last forums I would equate with meeting productivity. However, after the first few times you try it, not only won’t it be awkward — it will be welcome. This is particularly true when meetings end early with participants agreeing it was time well spent.

Check out the rest over at linkedin.com!

7 Questions Great Candidates Ask

At the end of the interview when you, the interviewer, ask the candidate, “Do you have any questions for us?” it’s often hard to know what to expect. Will the candidate ask a couple of superficial questions just to be polite, or will he or she ask deep, probing questions?

If a candidate appears to be simply going through the motions at this point, this is often a sign of a candidate who is not fully engaged with your brand and the hiring process. On the other hand, a candidate who probes and asks questions of substance is a more engaged candidate. The person is trying to form a picture of your business to see if it is the right cultural fit, job fit, technical fit and career fit for him or her. This more discerning approach is likely to be taken by the best candidates. But, what questions are these more engaged candidates likely to ask and how should you respond?

Read the rest on recruiter.com!

HOW TO: Jump-Start Your Career by Becoming an Online Influencer

For all the advice about how to approach and attract influencers, I haven’t seen much written about how to actually become an influencer. It’s important, because once you’re seen as an influencer, you’re seen as an industry equal and a resource. You’re no longer perceived as a nuisance constantly broadcasting your own agenda, hoping others will relay.

Being an influencer yourself is an often overlooked way to engage with other influencers. It takes time, but it is worth it. There is also financial benefit to becoming an influencer. People of influence have increased value, and can charge more for their services.

Always wanted to be an influencer but didn’t know where to start? Here are some effective techniques.

Read the full article here! (via mashable.com)

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