A Software Engineer’s One-Page Portfolio

If you’re a senior software engineer looking for a job, you should create a one-page portfolio web site.

The purpose of a one-page site is to make networking and introductions more effective by giving your contacts a short bio that’s easy to pass along. You want to highlight your most impressive achievements, explain what role you are seeking, and add a few personal details. Just as your LinkedIn profile serves as a resume, a one-page site replaces the cover letter.

I recently entered the job market, and (following my friends’ advice) created my own portfolio site. It gets a lot of positive feedback, and recruiters appreciate having something to share. Every email to my network includes:

Here’s a one-pager that gives more background about me: http://chuckgroom.com/

An Example

Here’s a fictitious one-page site for “Edwin E. Examplar”; click here to see it as a full web page. Note that this hosted for free on GitHub Pages; you can fork this as starting point for your own portfolio using this repository.

What goes into a developer portfolio site?

The one-pager is different from a LinkedIn profile in that it condenses everything you’ve done into your “greatest hits”; and it also adds humanizing touches that aren’t on your profile. You should include:

  • Your intended job title.
  • Where you live.
  • Years of experience.
  • A short (short!) bio that clearly describes what kind of work you’re looking for (or say you’re not looking for work at this time).
  • 4–6 bullet points of your most impressive professional accomplishments. Include specific metrics on the impact (money saved, speed improvements, etc) where possible.
  • Some of your personal interests; ideally, this is a mix of both ongoing professional development and hobbies / passions.
  • 2–4 personal accomplishments outside of work.
  • Contact info / form.

I recommend against a laundry list of skills and languages; as a reader of too many resumes, I find these tedious and unreliable. Instead, obliquely refer to your strongest skills in the context of your proven accomplishments to give them gravitas.

If you have 3+ years of experience, I wouldn’t bother mentioning your education unless you have a master’s or PhD degree.

Should junior developers build a portfolio site?

If you’re just starting out as a software developer, I might suggest against building a portfolio site — there’s not much point in building a trophy display unless you have trophies to put inside it. Recruiters and people in your network are most interesting in seeing proof of professional experience and impact. While academic and hobby projects might be cool enough that such a site would be helpful, if it feels like a stretch I’d probably skip it.

What’s the best way to host a portfolio site?

I highly recommend hosting your site (for free!) on GitHub Pages, with a vanity domain (e.g. short-name.org or your-name.com). You can use my example’s GitHub repository as a starting point.

Yup, it’s a slog

The process of updating your profile, creating a portfolio, and reaching out to your network can be draining and time-consuming.

For the portfolio, a good place to start is by brainstorming a list of your major achievements and interests. Ask a few trusted friends with industry experience to rank what they think sounds most impressive and hire-able, and what can be pared down. Also run the list by your family to find what they think best conveys your wonderful uniqueness.

Perhaps the most difficult part in all this is figuring out what, exactly, you want to do next in your career, and who you want to work with. Use this process as an opportunity to deeply consider your motivations beyond just finding work. Having a crystal-clear sense of what you want (and don’t want) is empowering and dramatically focuses your conversations.