They’re likelier to live in the cloud than in bulky print binders nowadays, but portfolios of professional work remain the single most important piece of collateral a creative professional needs to prove their chops to their next employer. At any stage of career development — if your job is mostly about the work, your job tools are mostly about the portfolio.
Like other parts of a creative job search, self-expression is key to commanding attention — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some straightforward guidelines for packaging them.
In particular, many recruiters today say, the pendulum has swung toward a short list of web platforms optimized for graphical work. While in the past, visual designers might customize their own WordPress themes to showcase their portfolios, recruiting pros frequently mention Squarespace and Cargo as effective, graphics-driven platforms that get out of creatives’ way to let them showcase their work.
“Overall digital portfolios are the effective, modern way of sharing one’s work,” says Jen Pao, director of project management with Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco. “They better accommodate and showcase digital experiences, experiential and social work, and related stories. Also, digital portfolios are obviously less costly to users, easier to update, and eliminate the work on our end of managing space to store books and then return them safely to their owners.
“Digital portfolios are definitely preferred on our end,” concurs Kelly Tanchum, a recruiter at 72andSunny in Los Angeles. “These types of sites are easy to share, especially with hiring managers and the interview teams. If your site is password protected, let us know all the details so we can share accordingly. On the day of an in-person interview we typically include the links to a candidate's portfolio within our calendar invites so that they can look them over before their chat."
And don’t just plan on your digital portfolio appearing on computer screens; today’s busy recruiters are just as likely to pull your work up on a smartphone. Jaime Robinson, co-founder and CCO of Joan in New York, paints a vivid picture of the places your portfolio is likely to follow your future boss: “Portfolios need to be optimized for mobile now. Because we need to see them in taxis, while we’re at home running a bath, when we’re in between meetings, or even taking a poop.
"Yes, I guarantee your blood, sweat and tears was viewed by a CD/ECD/recruiter while they were doing a dookie. But remember — that is really special private time, so it’s kind of an honor.”
Don’t forget the paper
So should you consign your printed portfolio to the dustbin of history? Not so fast, creative recruiters say. If you use it to complement your digital portfolio — and executive well — a physical artifact still holds power to impress creative teams.
As VB&P’s Pao puts it, “A knockout printed book is still going to grab our attention and in this digital era can be an effective way to stand out.”