Back in the day only certain industries required to see job applicants' portfolios. But now, thanks to technology, most employers want to see examples of your work online—because navigating the job market in the digital age wasn't challenging enough.
Marc Prosser, the co-founder and publisher of Fit Small Business, a company focused on helping small business owners succeed. Marc says he's hired hundreds of professionals in various fields including graphic design, web design, copy, and more. Prosser says when he's hiring, the online portfolio comes into play after reviewing the resume and cover letter. It is what he looks at when he is deciding whether or not to give an interview.
"It's when you want to know more after reading resume and cover letter," he says. "It's your opportunity to get off the fence and arrange the interview with you."
To help an employer "get off the fence" and land yourself an interview, Prosser shares these tips for creating an excellent online portfolio.
Organization Is Key
Prosser says organization is one of the most important aspects to your website. Employers want to see a clean website that's easy to navigate.
"The portfolio itself needs to be well-designed," he says. "Organization very important. Don't expect them to scroll down forever. Organize by type of client, and media. Also think long and hard about how to structure multiple pages."
The last thing you want is a viewer wasting time finding things instead of viewing your work. So remember, keep it simple and to the point.
Skip Social Media
Unless you apply for a job related to social media, Prosser says keep your personal accounts off your professional site.
"I tend to think focusing on your work and not giving them things to have negative reactions to is good thing," he says. "You want to say 'Here I am. This is who you're getting as an employee.' Everything that happens outside of work really isn't their business."
Instead of Facebook and Instagram, he suggests adding a link to your LinkedIn page. That way employers can see if you're connected to the other professionals in their field—and if they recognize some of your connections, major bonus points.
Pay For It
You can design your site on any platform (Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, etc.), but Prosser says pay attention to your URL. If you're using "username.hostsite.com" an employer can be distracted. Investing the $20 a year in a domain name makes you seem more professional and legitimate.
"Remember you yourself are a brand," he says. "Would Nike ever have nike.wix.com? It's important to think about how people perceive you. You want to build a brand, and it's easier to build that when you have your own domain name."
Prosser says a custom URL can also make it easier to connect with you via email and speed your site's load time. All things employers appreciate when looking to hire.
Use The Right References
References can make or break your professional image. That being said, Prosser believes you should include them, but under one condition: Ask first.
"With online references, you can link emails, have quotes, LinkedIn pages—it's a vote of confidence for expertise," he says. "But you have to ask first, because an employer will follow up with them."
Attend To Your Audience
From hiring manager to HR reps viewing your website, it's hard to gauge who your audience is. Instead of catering to each individual, Prosser recommends focusing on your field instead. If you're applying for a job in financial services, show your experience in financial services. If you want a career in entertainment, again show them that element. In short, you want your profile to prove you can work with that company's clientele.
Show Don't Tell
Don't make your portfolio a repeat of your resume. Use it to give detail about the projects listed.
"Just because you've said on resume you've done something, doesn't communicate same as visual does," he says. "Portfolio says things resume can't. It's not repetition, but a showcase."
This is your chance to not only prove you did the work, but also highlight which part specifically you were responsible for. Prosser says he loves to see before and after shots, but as long as you demonstrate your role, you'll get their attention.
Variety, Variety, Variety
In addition to showing which aspect you took charge of, you also need to display your variety of projects.
"Online portfolios give you a chance to show the diversity of projects for which you have been involved, and they allow you to showcase your ability to work in a variety of different styles and/or types of assignments," he says. "Show your range of skill and depth of skill."
Ultimately, the biggest take away from hiring professionals is that you should have an organized online portfolio, and you should strive to keep it as streamlined and engaging as possible. If you're going to brag about your work, you might as well go all out!