The Online Portfolio: Show and Tell Employers You've Got What It Takes

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Your portfolio should include samples of your work that will enable potential employers to evaluate your skills, and it should include other relevant information that will demonstrate to employers that you have qualities they prize. (There is an added benefit: By developing a portfolio, you are actively summarizing and reflecting upon your skills, thus preparing yourself for an interview. By creating a showcase of work samples and experience, you will be able to talk about yourself and your skills more comfortably and succinctly in a job interview.)

The online portfolio is standard in creative fields where technical and artistic skills mesh—such as web design—but you’ll find that online portfolios, although not required, are increasingly common regardless of field.

Your portfolio’s content and look

What should you include in your online portfolio? Keep it relevant and professional: Remember that the reader is evaluating you as a prospective employee. This means that you should keep the content focused on samples, characteristics, and experiences that demonstrate that you fit in a professional environment. Do include samples of the information that you have included on your resume, along with visual items and reflective commentary to communicate the meaning of your experiences to the employer, i.e., that you have key “soft skills” and qualities (communication, teamwork, work ethic, and so forth). For example, you might include a photograph of yourself at work during a summer internship at a newspaper, insert a PowerPoint presentation that you gave as part of a public speaking course you took, include excerpts of a business plan or marketing plan you developed in a course, place photos of yourself organizing a volunteer project or managing a campus club meeting. The reflective commentary should communicate meaning; for example, commentary about a photograph of you managing a club meeting might read “I developed leadership and communication skills as the Student Government Chair for Earth Day Celebration.”

Your portfolio is also a chance to showcase your creativity: Video streams, PowerPoint presentations, photographs, documents, and other elements will enhance your portfolio. But don’t overdo it—keep your web site simple, organized, and easy to navigate. Use menus and icons. Pick a unifying design theme and be sure the color scheme and design elements are not overwhelming to the observer. (Tip: A good rule of thumb is to limit font and color choices to no more than three.) As with any professional document or correspondence, make sure the content of your online portfolio is error-free and grammatically correct.

Showing your portfolio

If you are not specifically asked to display a portfolio, you may invite the interviewer to view it. Reference your portfolio’s web address in the cover letter or on your resume as part of the demographics section, or by a separate section notation. During the interview process, you can also mention that you have an online portfolio that showcases your abilities.

It depends on the organization and on the particular position, of course, but don’t be disappointed if your portfolio isn’t reviewed during the initial interview process. Often, the manager of the position for which you are applying is the first person to actually view the portfolio, not the recruiter or human resources representative who is your first contact with the organization. Assuming you make the cut, your portfolio will help you demonstrate your abilities to the hiring manager.

Manage access to your portfolio to maintain privacy

A word of caution about using an online portfolio: It is not wise to have your portfolio open to all, as your private information is on display. Encode your online portfolio so that it is password protected. Offer the password only to those individuals who are part of your interview process, such as the hiring manager or department manager. By controlling access to your portfolio, you reduce the risk of identity theft while ensuring that appropriate individuals have access

Audrey Rorrer
He is Associate Director of Employer Connection Programs at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


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