We surveyed almost 700 UX professionals about their career in UX, and one topic we focused on was portfolios. How many UX professionals have prepared them? What do they put in them? How important are portfolios to their process?
Over 200 of the survey respondents were hiring managers. We asked them to tell us whether they expect a portfolio and what they look for in portfolios. We also interviewed seven hiring managers as part of our research.
Regardless of your specialty in UX, hiring managers want to see a portfolio. This portfolio 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. Try to show soft skills like your ability to problem-solve, or your empathy for your users. Also, the hard skills like research plans or visual design.
Hiring managers want to see user experience principles applied to your UX portfolios. The portfolio should be easy to navigate, well written with grammar, and have good information order. Think about your portfolio as telling a story. Give enough information for hiring managers to understand your process. Don’t get too detailed, leave a little bit of mystery for the interview.
For junior-level candidates, hiring managers are looking for potential. They don’t expect you to have many designs or complete many projects. So, your thought process is especially important to understand.
For senior designers, hiring managers expect to see a variety of your different projects. They expect to show your mature skills in interaction, and 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, wireframes, or even pictures of your team collaborating. Maybe from a whiteboard session or output from an ideation activity.
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.
Research portfolios, on the other hand, are 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 personal interview. If you need a portfolio, or you would like to create one, managers have told us that they expect you to show your work. So instead of prototypes of visual design work, you should show examples of research reports and research-based artifacts that you’ve produced. For example, personas, user need statements or user journey maps, and of course, test or research plans.
Second, you don’t need to worry about making your portfolio flashy. Incorporating visuals or graphic design is fine, but don’t overdo it. Visuals should be used to focus on important information rather than their own sake.
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 in scanability. 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 ensure they understand what you did and why.
Navigating the realm of UX portfolios can be tricky, but putting proper thought into your portfolio will help you on the path to your next UX job.