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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 Black backgrounds look outdated.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.

 

By | October 5th, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

Grand Rapids celebrates first anniversary!

I’m very happy to announce the one year anniversary of our Grand Rapids office. We opened up on April 11th of 2016 to better support a large client in the area. Over the past 12 months we’ve had the pleasure of developing so many new relationships with clients, talent and various organizations. Hannah Staal, who is also celebrating her first anniversary with smartdept. inc., has done a tremendous job building our talent pool at the local level and building our brand in the Grand Rapids community. We are very proud to be the only niche creative, interactive and marketing staffing company in Grand Rapids and look forward to continued growth and success in the years ahead. If you work for a company that hires talent in Michigan or are seeking new opportunities, then please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

By | June 3rd, 2017|Tags: , , , |

Advice for Companies Looking to Attract Top Talent

The beginning of a new fiscal year always brings new project budgets, additions to headcount and unexpected turnover — all resulting in the need to identify good full-time and temporary talent. As a 20-year veteran of the staffing industry, I’ve been approached many times by companies to discuss what attracts good candidates. There are many factors that can influence a prospective candidate’s decision, including salary, benefits, location of company/potential commute, off-site work options, and work-life balance. Companies have gone to great lengths to put together great packages and attract good talent, only to lose them due to a very simple reason — the hiring process takes too long.

There’s an old expression in business: “Time kills all deals.” And this holds very true for hiring top candidates. Think about it — top candidates are consistently being recruited (even when they may not be exploring a new job). Often they are juggling opportunities with multiple companies. A lengthy interview process and the inability to make quick hiring decisions can impact the odds of landing a top candidate.

It seems the hiring process has become more drawn out since the Recession of 2008. For several years afterward, companies redefined roles to keep headcount down, and many employees took on additional responsibilities. Employers wanted candidates who fit every criterion of a job description — from industry experience to very specific software skills — and, of course, they also had to be a cultural fit with the organization. This added steps to the interviewing process, from executives scheduling interviews with non-direct reports to panel interviews with various team members. Today it’s not uncommon for the average role to take three or four steps between phone screens, in-person interviews and skill assessments. The average life cycle of an open position is now typically about three months or longer.

And it’s not just full-time roles that have developed a long hiring cycle — it takes much more time to on-board temporary help than it did five years ago. Many assignments of three months or longer in duration require an interview process very similar to that of a direct placement. At the very least, there are two interviews: a phone screen and an in-person. Add on skill assessments, waiting for hiring managers’ feedback and pre-employment screenings, and it can easily take up to four weeks just to start a temporary employee. Working in the creative, interactive and marketing niches, we staff a variety of roles in which talent is in great demand — especially anyone with digital experience. Often these candidates are sought out weeks before finishing a contract and have little or no downtime before starting somewhere new. They won’t be available long enough to endure a month-long interview cycle.

My advice for companies that are looking to obtain top talent more consistently is pretty simple: Go back to the basics and examine your hiring process. How long does it take you to vet resumes? How many people need to be involved in a new hire? How efficient is your company at getting quick feedback after interviews? How quickly can you make a hiring decision?  

While taking time to appropriately vet potential hires is very important, be aware of the parts of the interview process that stall. Try to structure interviews so candidates don’t need to come on-site more than twice during the hiring process. Block interview days and times so multiple candidates can go through the process at the same time and comparisons/feedback can be drawn more quickly.

And if you identify the perfect candidate early in the hiring process, don’t stall things by comparing that person to others who are not as far along in the process. Candidates are very aware of companies that move too slowly. Good talent tends to have strong networks, so word gets around. And good candidates appreciate companies that move the process along quickly and show consistent interest in them. Again, “time kills all deals” — so once you identify a good candidate, don’t let them get away!

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

By | June 3rd, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

Happy Anniversary to…Us!

This month, smartdept. inc. is celebrating our 15th anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since we began our lives as smarties back in Seattle, with just me and Michelle. Boy, have we have come a long way! We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and in between we’ve managed to accomplish a number of positive things that relate to staffing – like matching more than 3000 creative professionals with more than 500 of our clients! And, while not quite related to staffing, we witnessed the Cubs win a World Series.

We would not be here today (still going) without YOU, our amazing clients and creatives. You are (all) the reason we keep those creative wheels turning. So, as I wipe a tear from my eye, thank you for the past 15 years and cheers to 15 more! High fives all around (or a fist bump if you prefer)!

For fun, we decided to look back and pick our top 15 highlights from the past 15 years. And yes, there will absolutely be a Cubs World Series win in there! Enjoy!

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

By | February 8th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

Advice for Companies Looking to Attract Top Talent

 

The beginning of a new fiscal year always brings new project budgets, additions to headcount and unexpected turnover — all resulting in the need to identify good full-time and temporary talent. As a 20-year veteran of the staffing industry, I’ve been approached many times by companies to discuss what attracts good candidates. There are many factors that can influence a prospective candidate’s decision, including salary, benefits, location of company/potential commute, off-site work options, and work-life balance. Companies have gone to great lengths to put together great packages and attract good talent, only to lose them due to a very simple reason — the hiring process takes too long.

There’s an old expression in business: “Time kills all deals.” And this holds very true for hiring top candidates. Think about it — top candidates are consistently being recruited (even when they may not be exploring a new job). Often they are juggling opportunities with multiple companies. A lengthy interview process and the inability to make quick hiring decisions can impact the odds of landing a top candidate.

It seems the hiring process has become more drawn out since the Recession of 2008. For several years afterward, companies redefined roles to keep headcount down, and many employees took on additional responsibilities. Employers wanted candidates who fit every criterion of a job description — from industry experience to very specific software skills — and, of course, they also had to be a cultural fit with the organization. This added steps to the interviewing process, from executives scheduling interviews with non-direct reports to panel interviews with various team members. Today it’s not uncommon for the average role to take three or four steps between phone screens, in-person interviews and skill assessments. The average life cycle of an open position is now typically about three months or longer.

And it’s not just full-time roles that have developed a long hiring cycle — it takes much more time to on-board temporary help than it did five years ago. Many assignments of three months or longer in duration require an interview process very similar to that of a direct placement. At the very least, there are two interviews: a phone screen and an in-person. Add on skill assessments, waiting for hiring managers’ feedback and pre-employment screenings, and it can easily take up to four weeks just to start a temporary employee. Working in the creative, interactive and marketing niches, we staff a variety of roles in which talent is in great demand — especially anyone with digital experience. Often these candidates are sought out weeks before finishing a contract and have little or no downtime before starting somewhere new. They won’t be available long enough to endure a month-long interview cycle.

My advice for companies that are looking to obtain top talent more consistently is pretty simple: Go back to the basics and examine your hiring process. How long does it take you to vet resumes? How many people need to be involved in a new hire? How efficient is your company at getting quick feedback after interviews? How quickly can you make a hiring decision?  

While taking time to appropriately vet potential hires is very important, be aware of the parts of the interview process that stall. Try to structure interviews so candidates don’t need to come on-site more than twice during the hiring process. Block interview days and times so multiple candidates can go through the process at the same time and comparisons/feedback can be drawn more quickly.

And if you identify the perfect candidate early in the hiring process, don’t stall things by comparing that person to others who are not as far along in the process. Candidates are very aware of companies that move too slowly. Good talent tends to have strong networks, so word gets around. And good candidates appreciate companies that move the process along quickly and show consistent interest in them. Again, “time kills all deals” — so once you identify a good candidate, don’t let them get away!

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

By | February 8th, 2017|Tags: , , , , |