Portfolios, love them or hate them, they’re almost always an essential when applying for design and creative jobs.
In fact, if I could, I would make it a flat rule that you can’t apply for senior design jobs without them. I’d even suggest that employers must, by law, allow designers to build portfolios without question. Maybe this would help make it easier for creatives to document all the work they do, without employers immediately thinking they’re looking for a new job.
A prerequisite of the recruitment process
To put this in context I don’t think I’ve recruited a design role in the last three years where a portfolio hasn’t been a prerequisite of the recruitment process. As such, when registering candidates for our design recruitment services, we will be trying to have a copy of every candidates’ portfolio.
So, given the need and real reasoning for portfolios to be supplied, I can’t help but find it puzzling how many designers often do not have a suitable portfolio; even when taking into account the fact it’s not always possible to document all of your work if it’s not in the public domain. When I come across resistance when asking for a portfolio, and get reasons such as ‘It’s not up to date, as I haven’t had time’, or ‘it’s limited, as I was under NDAs’ as excuses for not having something suitable, even though they’ve been working as a designer for ten years, freelancing, and across multiple organisations; I can’t help but be cynical.
Believe in your work, or who else will?
I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve had to fight to see a good portfolio when one hasn’t been easily forthcoming, or I’ve seen enough potential to ask for more examples from a particular client or campaign, and unearthed some real diamonds in the rough. And it’s in this scenario that I just don’t get how people that believe in their design, can’t see the obvious benefit of letting their work speak for itself, as for me it’s a complete no-brainer! People are sometimes surprised when I tell them they’re likely missing out on opportunities by not putting their work out there more.
A portfolio could be what sets you apart from the competition
Admittedly, a portfolio is not the only basis for a decision, but it is a major factor when combined with a CV as to whether people are invited in for an interview. We can’t hide from the fact that in today’s day and age this type of material is more easily shared, and employers want to see people are savvy at collating their work for display in this sector.
With so much complaint in the recruitment sector recently about people potentially being prejudiced against based on age, gender, and nationality; I would’ve thought a sector that can allow people to show their ability first-hand with examples, which can stand out above anything written on a CV that they feel may go against them, would be something that was grasped with both hands.
The truth is, there are many unsuitable candidates for every role. I’m not just talking the Tom, Dick and Harrys with no design skills applying for every job on the internet; there will often be lots of designers/creatives with backgrounds that are simply not the best fit applying for the same jobs as you. So if you have done the design work that could be in a portfolio to show you are the best for the role, surely it’s a benefit to include it; or how else will you ensure you stand out from the crowd?
Maybe that’s it, I’m an extrovert and like to have my work judged and take criticism, and perhaps a lot of people are more introverted and don’t want to put stuff out there in case it isn’t liked. So it may just be a case of the personality as opposed to a lack of effort and awareness? Or maybe it is just a wider process issue because there’s a lot of confusion in the industry as to what the best approach is?
Document your work throughout your career
Please take it from me as a recruiter in your sector; if you’re a designer, it’s a benefit to have a strong portfolio showcasing your best work. Throughout your career you need to try and document your work, put it into an online portal, or make a nice PDF that you can adapt depending on the role you go for, and keep physical copies as well to take. Some people put together a CV as a PDF, that has work examples at the bottom on extra pages, which is a format I personally like a lot.
Yes, some work might be private, and you can’t use it, but this won’t rub as an excuse for people who have spent ten years in design jobs. You need to be proactively asking if you can use stuff where you think they’ll agree, and where you’ve not been told you can’t use it, putting it to one side as it could be the difference between you getting your dream role or not. If people ask why, then just say it’s for your freelancing, or because you might need it in the future. I don’t feel it’s unreasonable for people to want to build a portfolio, and if this is marketing materials that are out there in the public domain, I can’t see a reason for it not to be in your portfolio as well.
So, please be sure that when applying for design jobs, we will need a portfolio from you at some stage or in some form, and it could be what makes you stand out from the crowd, and gets your work taken into consideration, as well as what’s on your CV!
Brand Recruitment are now offering more recruitment services across design and creative positions in the Central and Eastern Region, so if you’re a candidate looking for a creative job, or a hiring manager looking to recruit a creative/design related role please get in touch.
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