How to Organize Your Portfolio for Your Job Interview

porfolio folder with plant and pen

Depending on the job interview you are attending, you may be expected to bring with you your portfolio of work samples. This is usually the case for creative positions or jobs that involve sales, as candidates are often required to provide evidence of their work achievements, sales figures, creative work samples and so on, to prove to the interviewer that they are as ‘talented’ as they say. A well-developed professional portfolio can also show if the candidates work can convey the company’s voice and represent their image correctly.

Knowing how to compile a work portfolio is essential if you are interviewing for a creative job. You need to know how to pull together the most relevant, impressive and detailed documents in order to highlight your skills in the best possible light.

Here is a step by step list to help you organise your portfolio during an interview.

1. Presenting your work physically

Although some employers will explicitly say to present a digital portfolio, if your work needs to be presented physically, make sure it’s done so in a professional way. This is frequently overlooked as many candidates assume that the work they are presenting is more important that what holds them. This is a dangerous oversight, especially when applying for a creative position, as it may bring into question your aesthetics and even organizational skills if you give the interviewer a battered, beaten and torn portfolio. Here are a few other things to consider when choosing your portfolio binder or folder.

Portfolio folder

  • Buy a professional, solid ring binder
  • Opt for a black colored folder
  • Label your folder/binder appropriately and use dividers to section off your various work samples clearly
  • Be sure to use high quality paper with sheet protectors
  • Consider ease of use. Often disregarded, a portfolio should be easy to open (and kept open), small enough so it isn’t ungainly but at the same time large enough so all the details in your images are shown.

Electronic portfolio

As mentioned above sometimes interviewers will ask for electronic portfolio, especially if the job largely deals with online content, such as article writing, web design and graphic design. Here are some things you should keep in mind.

  • Make it impressive but user-friendly. This is a platform with unlimited possibilities, but don’t be overly ambitious at the cost of usability.
  • Curate your previous work so it isn’t overwhelming while keeping a balance to show the scope of your work and experience.
  • Use your creativity. Most employers will interview multiple

2. Decide on portfolio contents

Now that you have purchased, built or constructed an attractive holder/presentation format for your work, you will have to decide what to include. What materials will you present during the interview? 

  • Compile all of the most relevant and up to date work samples you can. It’s preferable to include more recent work and curate older work.
  • Your aim is to showcase your multitude of talents and skills so ensure that each piece included in the portfolio has a purpose
  • Although there is no set limit on the number of samples you can include, it is prudent to include a maximum of 15 pages
  • Ensure each sample is labeled accordingly, with headers, footers and adopting the same structure throughout to achieve an easy to read format.
  • Prepare at least 2 copies of your portfolio as interviewers may wish to keep hold of it to show their colleagues (and you may need it for another interview!). If you have invested a large amount of money in your physical portfolio, you might consider having one that is still attractive but lower cost so even if it is lost, it won’t be that damaging financially.

3. Make sure you have the correct documentation included

Knowing what to include in your portfolio can be particularly difficult. You may not be going for a creative job, but having a portfolio of your previous work will help to support your argument that you are the right person for the job, and it may also help recruiters to remember you.

Irrespective of whether you are going for accountancy, creative or retail jobs, a portfolio may be just what you need to get noticed. Here are some useful examples of what you can include in a job interview portfolio:

  • CV and personal statement
  • Educational certificates
  • Certificates of professional qualifications and memberships
  • Licenses
  • Work samples
  • Sales reports
  • Transcripts or artwork
  • Emails or letters of compliment from clients and customers you helped
  • References from previous employers

Check the spelling and grammar throughout your portfolio. Also, ask family and friends to review your portfolio and provide you with feedback, even if it is negative! It is better that you get negative feedback from people you know and have time to correct any mistakes than waiting for the interviewer to correct you.

4. Review and curate

When presenting a portfolio, it’s easy to weigh it down with too much work. It’s completely understandable to want to present as much work as possible especially if you are proud of it. Try stepping into the interviewers shoes though. An extremely large portfolio can be overwhelming, causing the person looking at it to not give the appropriate amount of attention to the included work. Here are something’s which will help you curate and make your portfolio easier to review.

  • Creating clear sections, will allow the person looking at your portfolio to digest smaller pieces of the entire collection.
  • Always present your most recent work first, although you could also put what you consider your strongest work first this can be dangerously subjective. What you think is quality work, although true might not be your most commercially viable work. This is where bringing a fresh unbiased eye can be extremely useful. As friends, family and collaborators to give you feedback.
  • Try to present examples that show your own voice and style. This is more indicative of creative job-seekers, but it’s better to present what makes you unique. Although this might cost you a job, in the end it will be beneficial as you won’t have to bend to fit into a position that isn’t right for you.

Many online portfolio ideas will perform just as good (if not better in some cases) than a physical portfolio. While an online portfolio may not be appropriate for the job interview itself, you can include a link to it in your CV when applying for jobs.

See Also: The CV Writing Guide for Every Stage of Your Career

Have you ever created a portfolio to help you get a job? Was it effective? Let us know in the comments section below…


This article was first published in July 2013.