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What employers want to see in your portfolio

It's hard to know what to put in your design portfolio; our 10 tips for a killer design portfolio can certainly help you out. What can really give you the edge, though, is an idea of what employers are really looking for. We spoke to The Secret Little Agency's Hanyi Lee for some insider tips.

Why are portfolio-focused events like those hosted by ADC so important to the creative industry?

Creatives can get a little insular at times. Portfolio nights offer young creatives a good opportunity to get out of their bubble and have a sense check. There aren't that many industry-wide events that benefit their attendees on a multi-tiered level - for both the employers and potential hires. And honestly, I love the rapid-fire, speed dating-style system. It forces both parties to get to the point. Quickly.

What do employers want to see in a young creative's portfolio?

Creative clarity. Imagine you are looking at your portfolio for the first time. In two seconds, do you get what the work is about? The explanation of the work is as important as the work itself. You want a creative that makes sense to you.

Do you want to a see a mix of work, or do you prefer to see a distinct 'style' or 'voice'?

Integrated work based on a strong idea is absolutely key. Finesse is secondary at this stage. I worry when a portfolio is made up solely of print work, with no digital or video extensions.

How should young creatives prepare to attend a portfolio event? What should they bring?

They should practice a one-liner that sums up each piece of work. And definitely bring a simple name card for memorability.

If you have a single piece of advice for young creatives attending a portfolio event, what would it be?

Be yourself. A phoney can be sniffed out from a mile away. You want an employer who likes you for you. It tends to work out better for both parties.

Words: Tom Dennis Illustration: David Doran

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 227.