As with any creative role, managers who are hiring for Product Design or User Experience (UX) positions will often sift through a vast number of CVs and portfolios before a candidate even makes it through the door! As a potential employee it’s your job to impress, sell yourself to the company and most importantly give some insight into your design process.
So if you’re thinking about your next career move or even transitioning into a Product Design or User Experience role, what can you do to increase your odds of success? How do you ensure that you stand out from other candidates? How will you go about telling your story?
Based upon our experiences of hiring talented designers here at Redgate, we’ve distilled our thoughts into three key considerations that we hope will help you to apply some principles of design to your own design portfolio:
1. Always show your working
As you’ll no doubt remember from GCSE Math, a student’s understanding is evaluated on more than their ability to just provide the right answer and also requires that they show their working along the way. Similarly, with any UX role (or varaint of), a candidate’s ability to solve a complex design problem amounts to more than how they present their final solution.
We want to see and would actively encourage everyone to both document and demonstrate how exactly they arrived at that conclusion. What did you do to understand the problem and for whom? What ideas did you explore and discount along the way? How did you validate these ideas and rationalise your decisions? What did you ultimately learn and how did you apply that to your final design?
The next time you’re tempted to share a few high fidelity mock-ups, please make sure you supplement them with excerpts or artefacts (research insights, sketches, user journeys, etc.) across all stages of your chosen design process, that demonstrate your thinking and provide the evidence and rationale that supports your design decisions.
2. Be clear about your role and contribution
Ideally we want to see a range of work across multiple projects. For each one it helps to have a rough understanding of what the product or service does and how you personally contributed to its success. All to often, we’ll receive portfolios that reference interfaces for websites or applications where we, the reader, has to guess or infer how an individual might have contributed to that project.
Please don’t make us guess, as the likelihood is we’ll get it wrong! Tell us, or better still show us how and where you personally made a difference on the project. Did you work alone or as part of a team of designers? Is this something you led or supported someone with? How did you interact with developers and other team members on the project? Did you perform a specific role?
Honesty is always key in all of this. We actually prefer to see candidates call out the work that others have done and instead, explain how you worked with them and what those interactions looked like. Remember that communication and collaboration are the most valuable soft skills for any good designer! Take the opportunity therefore to demonstrae how you work with others.
3. Think about your audience
When applying for a UX role, treat your application like your next design project. First, do your research to understand the users (the people you are applying to) and ensure the material you provide is relevant, relatable and wherever possible industry-specific.
Put yourself in the shoes of the people who will be reading your portfolio and CV. What do they need to see and are you clearly presenting the best of your work? Avoid the common pitfalls of presenting small images without being able to zoom/expand, or showing your work superimposed on a Mac, tablet, mobile, other device, as this simply obscures a lot of the interesting detail.
Trim away anything that is superfluous or distracting to help people orientate and find salient information quickly. Ensure someone reviewing your portfolio can find everything they need in one place, without requiring them to jump through multiples sites or profiles to get the full picture. Clarity and simplicity are always going to win over.
Finally, do some testing to validate your work. Get some friends or colleagues to look over your portfolio and see if they can quickly get a feel for your process, experience and proficiencies. Get them to ask you some specific questions about your work such as what your role was on this project and who else was involved, what process you followed to arrive at this design, how you validated your ideas and how the solution addressed the problem outlined from your research/brief.
When you are applying for your next design role and are in the process of updating your portfolio (and any associated materials), please ensure that you:
- Show your working — it’s as important (if not more so) than your final designs. Avoid the temptation of just showing final, polished visual artefacts. You’re not applying for a graphic/UI design role.
- Be clear about your role and your personal contributions on a project — don’t leave it to guesswork. Be open and honest and help hiring managers understand where you were involved and what you delivered.
- Think about your audience when preparing your materials — approach this like you would a simple design project. Understand your audience, design a solution and validate through testing. Ask yourself why this company would hire you for this particular role.
If you’re thinking about your next career move or are looking for an exciting new opportunity in the field of design, take a look at our current Product Design vacancies on the Redgate careers page.