We surveyed almost 700 U.S. professionals about their career in U.S. courts, and one topic we focused on was portfolios. How many U.S. professionals have prepared them? What do they put in them? How important are portfolios to their process?
Just over 200 of our survey respondents were hiring managers, and we asked them to tell us whether they expect a portfolio and what they look for in a portfolio. We also interviewed seven hiring managers as part of our research.
Regardless of your specialty in U.S. hiring managers want to see a portfolio that shows your thought process and how you approached each project. Give them a glimpse of what it would be like to work with you and how you solve problems. Think about how you can demonstrate soft skills like your ability to problem solve or your empathy for your users.
In addition to the hard skills like research plans or visual design, hiring managers want to see user experience principles apply to your UX portfolios. Your portfolio should be easy to navigate, well written with correct grammar, not be overly verbose and have good information. Hierarchy, think about your portfolio is telling a story. Give enough information for hiring managers to understand your process, but don’t get too detailed. Leave a little bit of mystery for the interview. Now, when it comes to specialization in the field, we heard different thoughts and portfolio recommendations for designers versus researchers.
For example, hiring managers who are recruiting designers expect a portfolio. And this is often discussed in detail in the interview. When evaluating junior level candidates, hiring managers are looking for potential rather than expecting you to have many designs are completed, many projects. Therefore, your thought process is especially important to understand for senior designers. Hiring managers expect to see a variety of your different projects and for you to demonstrate your mature skills and interaction and possibly visual design depending on the role. Make sure you show the finished product, but also the iterations it took to get to that final design. These iterations can be in the form of sketches, wire frames or even pictures of your team collaborating maybe from a whiteboard session or output from an ideation activity. Talk about why it changed. Did you learn something from user research to help guide you in a different direction and finally be honest about what you did and what you didn’t do. When you post screenshots of a final design, specify which aspects were done by you and which were more collaborative in nature. Don’t take credit for work. That’s not your own. As this will quickly be uncovered in the interview.
Researcher portfolios, on the other hand, a slightly different. First of all, not all managers hiring researchers expect a portfolio, some only request, a resume and a cover letter. In this case, much more emphasis is placed on the in-person interview and any test based scenarios or exercises given to candidates during the stage. If you do need a portfolio or you would like to create one anyhow, which isn’t a bad idea, managers have told us that they expect you to show your work. So instead of prototypes of visual design work, you should be showing examples of research reports and research based artifacts that you’ve produced, for example, persona’s use and need statements or user journey maps and of course, tests or research plans. Second, you needn’t worry about making your portfolio flashy. Incorporating visuals or graphic design is fine, but don’t overdo it. Visual should be used to accentuate important information rather than for their own sake. And finally, hiring managers are always impressed when you can show outcomes of the research and tie this not only to outcomes for users but also for the business.
If you can do this, you’ll really be shining when creating your portfolio, regardless of your specialty. Spend time thinking and reflecting on your process. Decide how you will organize the information in your portfolio and make use of a consistent structure throughout. Make use of headings to aid and scalability.
Once your portfolio is created, spell check it. Then consider having a friend or a colleague who doesn’t know your work. Read it and sure they understand what you did and why.
Navigating the realm of UKCS portfolios can be tricky and a time consuming endeavor, but putting proper thought into your portfolio will help you on the path to your next job.