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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

3 Rules for Creating a Beautiful Online Portfolio

If you’re a creative professional—a designer, photographer, writer, or advertising exec—you’ll likely need to show an online portfolio as part of the application process for any job.

But no matter what field you’re in, having a permanent link where people can access your work has other benefits, too. It’s standard practice these days for recruiters to Google candidates’ names to see what they can dig up—and when they do? Having a website that shows off the articles you’ve written, campaigns you’ve been part of, or other past work you’re particularly proud of is a very, very good thing.

In addition, an online portfolio allows you to easily collect all of your clips or work samples in one spot. When you need to pull together materials to showcase in an interview, you'll be happy that everything is available and up-to-date. I've found my collection of clips that I keep on Tumblr to be a great way for others to see my latest articles all in one place and for me to assess the trends and topics that I cover best.

Of course, before you start throwing things up on a website, you'll want to make sure that this micro-homepage is visually attractive and dynamic. There are plenty of platforms you can use (Cargo, DripBook, Krop, and Carbonmade are some of the best) but no matter which you choose, here are some tips to make sure that you convey the right message.

1. Get to the Point

Online Portfolio

Recruiters will usually make their hiring decision within the first minute of meeting you, and that same rule should apply for your online portfolio. From the second someone arrives on your page, you have to make sure he or she gets the best, most effective impression of you.

Besides having a clean, professional design, one of the easiest ways to do this is to have a single, compelling image to greet people at the top of your page. Even if you're not adept at shooting a camera yourself, you can use a stock photo that will represent you well. Just make sure that your selection matches the industry in which you’re competing—for instance, if you’re a PR professional, you’ll want an image that shows activity and connectivity; if you’re a writer, something that uses words, letters, or writing tools.

No matter the industry, check out Curalate’s infographic for guidelines on which types of images work best: Images that are reddish-orange, for example, do better than images that are blue, and photos without people in them are shown to be more compelling.

2. Keep it Simple

Online Portfolio

During the interview process, you will have plenty of time to talk about your best projects and greatest achievements. On your online portfolio, though, you just want to whet people’s appetites. Think of it like an auction—you get to see the item in a catalog and fall in love with it beforehand. Then, during the live portion of the event, the auctioneer will give you more info about the object up for sale.

Sell yourself in this same way by telling the story with less on your portfolio. For example, include the front page of the brochure that you designed and created—not all 16 pages—or links to your top 10 articles, not top 100. Wait for a prospective employer to request the rest. It’s a good sign. And once someone is interested in your work, you will have plenty of time to give him or her more information.

3. Give Your Interviewers What They Want to See

Give your interviewers

Found the perfect job to apply to? Great. Don’t be afraid to adapt and adjust your portfolio from time to time, especially if you’re interviewing for a specific position.

Pay particular attention to the skills advertised in the job description, then use that information to help guide you on what to put front and center on your portfolio. For instance, if you’re interviewing with a healthcare company, make sure the work you’ve done for other healthcare clients is easily accessible—more so than say, your fashion, sports, and media work. It’ll be comforting for the interviewers to see your relevant experience in action, and it could even help them carve out their vision for what they want for theirs.

Like your resume, your cover letter, or anything else in your job hunt, your online portfolio should showcase what you have to offer in a concise, compelling, and interesting way. Keep these rules in mind, and you’re already one step ahead.

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Feature photo of online portfolio courtesy of Paul Currah. Photos of woman with camerahand on laptop, and interviewer courtesy of Shutterstock.