Designing a Standout Interview Portfolio: What HR Looks For
When applying for a job, most people assume that whether they get the gig depends mostly on who they’re competing against and their personal presentation. The logic is sound, but it may not be entirely accurate. In fact, simply including one additional document along with your resume and cover letter could significantly increase your odds of getting hired.
The next time you head to an interview, try bringing along your interview portfolio.
What Is an Interview Portfolio?
Interview portfolios are common in many design-focused fields, including illustration, graphic design, and interior decorating. They offer a way to show interviewers examples of your past projects, the kind of work you’re passionate about, and particular skills you have. In today’s competitive marketplace, everyone can benefit from having an interview portfolio — even those who work outside of art and design fields.
Filling Your Portfolio
If you’re not in a design field, it can be hard to think of what should go in your interview portfolio. However, as these presentation packages have become more common, other fields have begun to standardize their contents.
For example, The Muse recommends including six basic elements in your portfolio:
- Summary of professional experience
- STAR examples demonstrating problem-solving skills
- Recommendations and awards
- Sample work
- Concluding page
Some parts of your portfolio will repeat elements of your resume or cover letter, but this package ultimately gives a more nuanced and comprehensive presentation of what you can do and what you can bring to a position.
In addition to including all of the appropriate content, it’s important that you present your portfolio well. Consider having it printed and bound as a booklet, rather than just clipping it together or sticking it in a binder. That extra touch shows you value presentation, take pride in your work, and always want to put your best foot forward.
Why Hiring Managers Want a Portfolio
A lot of people advise that you should never send extra materials when applying for a job. Stick to what the company explicitly asks for, they say. That’s good advice — which is why you should not submit your interview portfolio with your application.
Instead, as the name suggests, you should bring your interview portfolio with you when you’re called in for an interview. If your cover letter and resume aren’t enough to get you that far, you’re probably not a good fit. Extra materials won’t save your application.
Once you have landed an interview, these extra materials can help you establish a strong personal brand in the eyes of the interviewers. Your portfolio also allows you to give stronger, more detailed examples of your skills and experience. It’s one thing to describe your previous projects to an interviewer, but you make a much bigger impact if you can actually show them those projects.
In addition, HR pros appreciate receiving candidate portfolios because these documents can save them time and help them choose the right candidate the first time around. Hiring is expensive and time-consuming, and no one wants to run a search twice because the first hire was a bad fit. When you provide a portfolio that tells your work story, HR is better able to advocate for your candidacy and move you forward in the process.
Extra Portfolio Elements
You can always enhance your portfolio with a few added features beyond the basics. For example, including graphics can make your portfolio more aesthetically appealing and help readers navigate your content more easily. In certain fields, it could be beneficial to structure your interview portfolio as an interactive website. Doing so allows you to include video and audio content, which may better show off your work than text or still images could.
However you choose to approach your portfolio, the fundamental goal should be to make it easy for your interviewers to navigate the contents and understand the extent of your professional experience.
In the near future, interview portfolios are likely to become standard parts of the hiring process across industries and companies. For now, creating such a document can put you ahead of the curve and make your application more competitive.
Don’t lose out on a great job because you only provided the basic documents. With an interview portfolio, you can be the applicant everyone remembers for the right reasons.