Curate down to your best work
No matter who your user is, it’s safe to assume your portfolio is not the only one they’ve seen for the position, so it’s unlikely they’ll have the time or energy to dive into every project. Don’t bury your best work amongst projects you’re only moderately happy with. Make sure each project can pass this test: If this project was selected at random as the only project they read, they should be able to understand your strengths and abilities in a nutshell.
Provide some focus
During my studies, my professors advocated multidisciplinary portfolios to show the breadth of your creativity. While I love the sentiment, as someone actively hiring, I can tell you it often becomes unnecessary noise that dilutes the first impression.
Consider showing off those other skills in a different way. Rather then show that cool animation you did for a friend’s startup as a side project, perhaps provide a link to your collection of motion studies on Dribbble, or dedicate your Instagram to it. Alternatively, give it it’s own section on your portfolio, so your users know where to go if there’re looking for your other skills.
Allow your users to skim
If this is the first round, you can bet that your viewer is skimming. So make it skim-able! Surface the most important information to the top level, and don’t be afraid to make a user click to see more information. If your skim-able content was captivating enough, they’ll pay the effort of a click to learn more.
Be transparent about your process
Transparency in a design portfolio means showing your process, no matter how unglamorous it is.
Explain how you got to the shiny pixel-perfect screens you’re so proud of. Elaborate on the challenges and what solutions you tried before reaching the end. And don’t underestimate the importance of explaining your role in the project. Great projects rarely come from non-collaborative processes, so share the credit! And as an extra bonus, it also shows that you’re a team player.
Guide your users with words, examples, and images — you are a story-teller, after all!
Do your usability and accessibility checks
Make sure your user can move through your portfolio quickly. If your work is the star of your website, don’t hide it under a hamburger menu! While videos and fancy transitions are eye-catching, make sure they don’t inhibit the user’s ability to view your work. These things often slow down your portfolio or don’t work fluidly only on all browsers and screen sizes. If there’s any doubt, do without them. Also don’t forget about accessibility! Make sure your text is clear and easy to read, especially when you have longer case studies that are heavy on text.
Determine the right platform
Will you be building it from a template or designing it from scratch? Creating a Behance portfolio or showing shots on Dribbble? Sending a pdf or a website? There are different perspectives on this one, but remember — this is about your users! Ask yourself what their expectations are. Will templates or community platforms allow you enough customisation to stand out? Are there any limitations of the easier, quicker options that will cost you in the long run? The more care you take in presenting your work, the more it shows you value it.
Show your passion
Ultimately, people want to hire someone they like — someone that they can be excited to work with. Show your passion and don’t be afraid to let your personality show through. This is especially important in your tone of voice. The use of a more light hearted visual style can often balance things out when a more professional writing style is necessary.