I’ve seen some amazing and intricate portfolios with crazy die-cut covers or hand-bound edges, but in the end you should try to create a portfolio that makes your work look best.
It’s not always the flashiest one that is best suited for the job.
You will be judged based on your email address. Apply from a professional email address. No one wants firstname.lastname@example.org on their team.
Gmail and/or custom domain ONLY. Don’t be eliminated from the pack because you used a Hotmail, or AOL email address.
Share only the work you want to do, and tailor it, every time, to the specific job you’re seeking. Curate! Limit yourself to only a handful (or even less!) of projects that you are your best. Have a website, but don’t discredit the humble pdf. Both are simple tools that’s very effective at getting people’s eyes on your work.
Smart companies are foregoing posting jobs altogether and straight up looking for people on portfolio sites like Behance, Dribbble & Coroflot. Be found there.
Use social media as your recruiter. Follow companies you admire, have interest in and terms that are applicable to your job hunt. You can literally wake up to an entire job hunt done for you every morning with no work on your part besides initial setup.
Social media is a gift and a curse. Your personal life and professional blur together. Have a strategy for each individual network and determine whether or not they play a part in your job hunt and how you choose to promote yourself.
Don’t mount your work on sheets of glass, or any other tricky presentation method. Just like your resume treat your portfolio like a design problem… The purpose of your portfolio should be to frame your work. Don’t let it overshadow the work inside.
Not doing enough research about your reviewers. Knowing more about the person looking at your work will help stimulate and guide the conversation. And when you haven’t asked enough questions after the person has looked at the work—this is a missed opportunity to gain valuable insights.
Pass the beer test.
Be clever and piece together email addresses.
Find out who your heroes are and work for them/with them. Read about how Big Sean got to work with Kanye, then figure out how to work with “your Kanye.”
Put yourself in a position where your heroes can hear you.
If you want to be the designer that stands out of the rest, do something more than just designing. Make an interesting project like for charity, start an agency, hold an exhibition, start a design festival or build a site like Behance. Become interesting.
Write a cover letter that actually describes how your experience is relevant to the place you’re applying. Be concise but specific. When it comes to setting up an interview, make yourself available, but not too available. It doesn’t hurt to schedule multiple interviews on one day, and to let your interviewers know that (in the most unassuming way). Look like you’re in demand, even if it’s more illusion than reality. During an interview, follow their lead. Don’t launch into a diatribe if they just want to scan your book quietly and then talk about it afterward. This is partly intuited, but you can also just ask what they prefer to do if it’s not apparent. Lastly, post-interview, send an email thanking them for their time and consideration.
1. To include a letter starting with “Dear Madam/Sir.” In my studio, those go right into the trash can. If somebody does not take the time to find out my name, I don’t feel obliged to read the letter.
2. To only include posters and book covers. Most design studios make a living organizing large amounts of information. Posters and book covers are not strong enough mediums to demonstrate that ability.
3. To include pieces in which a found piece of art with itsy-bitsy type on it is prominent. It is easy to make a magazine spread look good when it features a bleeding Richard Avedon photograph, and it says absolutely nothing about the talent of the designer.
Don’t lump too many things onto one page. Give the work some breathing room. This is especially true of logos, which many students tend to present together on one page. They each represent different ideas, so why show them as a group? This is even more problematic in that truly great logos are hard to pull off, so you shouldn’t be showing a ton of them anyway.
Ninety-five percent of the people who come through my door are students who have little interview experience. So I usually take far too much time—an hour or more—trying to set them on the straight and narrow, as one particular guy did for me many years ago. This is what I learned:
1. Ask how much time you have. This lets the interviewer know you appreciate the value of time, and allows you to then take control as much as possible.
2. Divide your interview into thirds.
First third: Get personally professional. Ask about things you quickly observe in the environment. For example, “Did you climb Machu Picchu? I see that photo… I noticed you love art deco and modernist posters… I see that you collect shrunken heads and Victorian dildos…” Or you can ask about the interviewer’s path to the business, etc.
Second third: Show your portfolio. Never say anything negative about it. And be sure you don’t explain each piece, because the work should speak for itself. Also, if there is a relevant way to bring some of the information gleaned from the first third of the meeting into play, do so, because it shows the ability to connect ideas. When you ask for feedback, make sure to take it professionally, not personally.
Final third: Build your network. If the company you are applying to isn’t hiring, ask for referrals, ask for directions, ask for advice, but make sure not to overcompensate with heaping portions of prattle.