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Azon Digital’s Head of Digital & Creative Holly McFadden gives her tips on how to get the most from your portfolio.

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I hear from designers A LOT that they are too busy working on client projects and generally just too busy at work to put any time into their own folio.

As a designer your folio should be your pride and joy, it’s the first representation of you and your work to the potential employer, sometimes it’s the only opportunity you’ll get. First impressions really do count. Recent studies state that a recruiter looks at a CV for an average of six seconds and I don’t believe it’s any different for a portfolio before they move on to the next one. You have six seconds to impress.

Ireland has not yet caught up with other UX markets such as NY, San Francisco, London, Melbourne or Sydney in terms of UX maturity, however there is certainly change underway. It is evident from the quantity of UX  roles being advertised in the Irish market that the gap is closing. Currently there are almost 400 open UX opportunities across Ireland.

With relocation packages  being on offer from many employers  and a number of UX talent returning home to Ireland from  overseas the competition is high for these openings, and that’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure your portfolio is getting noticed by hiring managers and recruiters.

Below are some of my personal insights into what hiring managers are looking for in UX portfolios.

Effort

A PDF folio just doesn’t cut it anymore,  if you want to make a good first impression ensure you have a personal portfolio website displaying your most recent projects. Social network sites such as Behance should not be your portfolio link. You’re a designer, design your own website.Having a personal portfolio website is an awesome way to demonstrate your design capability.

Hiring managers want to see your design process, UX methods, user-insight and design decisions used for each project, it’s your job to display this in your folio. A UX case study for each project should be included i.e; the challenge that was encountered in-order for the project to come to light, the methods used and finally the result displayed.

Be prepared to thoroughly  discuss your design process  and UX methods when you secure that interview.

Adaptability

You’ll potentially have to tweak your folio depending on the industry that you’re  interested in or to suit the preference of the hiring manager.  This is one of the many advantages of partnering with a specialist recruitment agency,  we can tell you exactly what the client is looking for in your folio and what’s important for them to see.  Depending on the role and hiring manager  some clients will want you to talk through the briefing process of each project, the research involved,  they’ll potentially want to view the wireframes and prototypes.

Always list the tools used for each part of the project and if available provide links to the end product should it be a website or app.

Relevance

Only put work on your portfolio that you have taken the lead on or been heavily involved in. Hiring managers don’t want to hear “we did this”  “we did that”, they want to know what you did, what you are responsible for, they want to see your work, what skills you demonstrated and what outcomes you achieved.  I understand that some projects have big teams but speak only about your individual contribution and involvement.

Passion projects or personal projects are only acceptable to display in your portfolio if you’re a junior designer starting out who has not yet had much or any commercial experience. The only time there can be any variation on this is if a senior designer has a project they want to display but due to an NDA they can’t. I would always advise to tweak the project / portfolio work and ensure the brand cannot be identified.

You’re a UX designer, please please please ensure your portfolio website is easy to navigate and self explanatory.

You’d think that would go without saying right !

Key Takeaways:

  • First impressions count – online portfolios are the way
  • Discuss the challenge, methods and results
  • List the tools you’ve used
  • Be prepared to tweak your folio depending on the industry
  • Only display YOUR work
  • Up to date relevant projects, nobody wants to see your favourite project from 10 years ago

Give yourself the best chance by ensuring your portfolio ticks all the above boxes and you’ll have those interviews scheduled in no time.

Remember design is subjective and there’s an opportunity out there for everyone!

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Holly McFadden | Azon Digital

Should you wish to discuss any of the current open UX opportunities that I’m currently working on please feel free to reach-out directly to Holly McFadden from Azon Digital for  a confidential discussion. Or if you’d just like some feedback on your folio that’s cool too!

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