Portfolio Basics for Web Design Students: Presenting Your Portfolio

You’ve landed yourself an interview. Congrats – that’s half the battle. Obviously the employer saw something in your portfolio that he/she liked and wanted to talk to you in person. Before you head off to your interview, there are a few things you should practice before your big day.

You’re going to want to make sure you do a good job at promoting your portfolio and the pieces in it. Employers will ask you to describe each piece you worked on, so be prepared for that. Your portfolio should be well-assembled and ready to go the day of your interview. This not only makes your portfolio look well-organized, it can give you a platform to build your presentation around.

Talking about yourself and your work is not something that comes easy to many designers. Look at each interview as a chance to improve your presentation skills and become more confident in your work. This not only works in interviews, but it can translate into making you feel more comfortable in presenting designs to actual clients and colleagues down the road.

Do Your Research

It’s important that you do your research beforehand. Companies always like to see that you’ve taken the time to do a background check on the type of work they produce and the kind of company they are. Check out their website, the clients they work with and the kind of design work they produce. You can usually get a good idea of the type of “culture” the design company encompasses.

Make It Engaging

Even if you don’t have a heroic story to tell, genuinely be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm, energy and overall demeanour can ultimately persuade employers whether they hire you or not. They are not only buying into your work, they are buying into you as a person. The ability to express yourself and communicate with your employer is also being put on display. You need to be able to sell yourself to your possible employer about how your talents will directly benefit their company.

Dealing with Interviews

Interviews can be nerve-racking and are usually dreaded by most students. The reason many students (including myself) feel so nervous when going into interviews is because the spotlight is on you and your work. Since you’re doing most of the talking in an interview, it can be exhausting to talk about yourself for that long. Try to create a distinction between yourself and your work. Focusing the conversation on your work can make you feel more comfortable because it takes the focus off you, even if just for a little while.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to make sure the focus stays on your work:

How relevant is this portfolio piece to my prospective employer’s needs? (This changes from company to company)
How did this piece solve a problem? Are there any tangible results from the work you did?
Do I have any interesting stories to tell about this project that are memorable?

Follow Up

Once you’ve completed your interview, it’s always common courtesy to follow up with your interviewee. Leaving something physical behind such as a business card or a resume, will help your possible employer remember you. It’s also smart to send a follow up thank-you note, showing appreciation for them taking time out of their day to meet with you. Remind them gently about the benefits they would receive if they hired you.

If you didn’t get the job, don’t worry. There are plenty more opportunities out there, but use the interview as a learning experience. If you feel confident enough, ask your interviewee for feedback on your portfolio presentation. This critique is useful for students who are fresh out of school because even though you think you did a great job, there are usually always aspects of your portfolio you can improve on. If you continue to practice your presentation skills in interviews, you will gradually begin to improve over time until, eventually, these types of situations will become second-nature.

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