How Your Online Portfolio Will Get You Hired

This episode is part of a series called Portfolio Principles. In this series, I help people to build a more effective portfolio. Get weekly portfolio building tips.
All opinions my own.


Traditionally your portfolio is just a collection of work. You send it out to companies to hopefully spark their interest. This might lead to an interview and eventually to a job offer.

Times are changing. The amount of competition is increasing dramatically. If you just send out a collection of work, companies won’t notice you.

If you just send out a collection of work, companies won’t notice you.

Companies are under pressure. They need to hire the right people in an extremely short period time. They are getting a huge amount of applicants, but only a few resemble what they are looking for. That’s why feel like they are looking for a needle in a haystack.

Under pressure, companies don’t like taking risks. If they should decide between a person they know is good and a person who may be excellent, they will go for the person they know is good. Companies look for certainty.

If companies should decide between a person they know is good and a person who may be excellent, they will go for the person they know is good.

Companies want to save time and they will do anything to achieve this. This is your opportunity. You can help them to take a shortcut which eventually leads to you. You just need to be more proactive in giving them what they are looking for.

You can help your future employer to take a shortcut which eventually leads to you.

Therefore, you need to rethink your strategy to get hired. You need to rethink the value of your portfolio in the hiring process.

To get you started I am proposing two different strategies today. One strategy is more effective on the long term, whereas the other will get you more immediate results.


The Long Term Strategy

The first, long-term strategy is based on relationship marketing. I first introduced the underlying concept in The Real Reason you should have an Online Portfolio. In this strategy, you use your online portfolio as a platform to build a network of followers.

You try to gain and keep followers by frequently providing new value to them. This could be in various forms, a blog post, a new project or just inspiration.

Whereas visitors represent numbers, followers represent people. Followers are the people that believe in you. Why? Because they have seen you struggle, they have seen you succeed. They have seen you grow over time. You are more than a number to them. You are a person. Because followers believe in you, they are willing to use their network to give you a job opportunity.

Because followers believe in you, they are willing to use their network to give you a job opportunity.

As I wrote before, companies don’t like uncertainty. A referral from one of your followers gives them more certainty that you are the right person to hire. Even if they have never heard of you before.

Applying this strategy, you don’t merely focus on potential employers. Instead, you target your portfolio at anyone who might be interested in your work, hoping that their network might benefit you later.

You target your portfolio at anyone who might be interested in your work, hoping that their network might benefit you later.

Unfortunately, building a network of followers takes time. That is why you should start investing in it today. It will pay off in the long term.


Is not there an easier method you may ask? When it comes to hiring is not there a shortcut? Is not there a way that first-time visitors want to hire you right away? It think there is. It is what I am calling The Short Term Strategy.


The Short Term Strategy

The Short Term Strategy is more directly targeted towards future employers. If the Long Term Strategy represents taking the back door, The Short Term Strategy is like taking the front door.

If the Long Term Strategy represents taking the back door, The Short Term Strategy is like taking the front door.

Taking the front door is harder because everyone tries to take the front door. That’s why there are more factors beyond your control that determine the effectiveness of this strategy. In other words, you will need a bit more luck to make this strategy effective.

To understand this strategy, let’s simplify the hiring process. During the hiring process, employers seek answers to a set of questions they have in their minds. These are questions such as:

“Could this person design a pixel perfect app within a week?”
“Does he have the skills to communicate his concept to the manager?”
“How well would she work together with the team?”

The hiring process is designed to get answers and become confident about them. A portfolio review, an interview and even a small activity, all of these aim to confidently answer questions.

This is your shortcut. If you know these questions and proactively answer them on your portfolio, you increase you chances of getting hired. Rather than just filling your portfolio up with your work, your work becomes a tool to answer the questions of your future employer. Even before he asks you these to you.

A portfolio that answers questions will get you hired, a portfolio that raises questions won’t.

The more confident your future employer is about his answers, the higher your chance of getting hired. That’s why you shouldn’t aim for just getting an interview. The ultimate portfolio will get you hired without having to do an interview.

So knowing what questions companies have during their hiring process is key to getting hired. The truth is that these specific questions are unique for every company. Some companies value certain questions and answers more than others.

However based on experience I have noticed that there are two particular questions that most employers have during their hiring process. Proactively answering these on your portfolio brings you closer to the company of your dreams.

1. “Can this person do what we want them to do?”

The primary question that future employers ask themselves when visiting your portfolio is quite simple actually.

Can this person do what we want them to do?”

How would you answer this question effectively? How would you make your future employer very confident that you can do what he expects?

The key to answering this question is that you know what they want and that you demonstrate your ability to fulfill this. Note that demonstrating your skills is not the same as telling about your skills. Let me explain this with an example.

Imagine this scenario. Someone rings your bell trying to sell you a washing liquid that removes wine stains in five seconds. If he would tell you that the liquid removes wine stains, you would not be impressed. However, if he would demonstrate you how the stains disappear you would. You would be more confident in the product’s quality and more likely to purchase it.

Besides demonstrating your skills, you should be clear about what you can and cannot do. If you are clear about what you cannot do, it will give your future employer more confidence that you are honest about what you can do.

2. “Would this person fit our company?”

If you manage to demonstrate your skills well, your future employer will wonder if you would be a good fit. Seeking an answer for this question is traditionally left for the interview. However, if your portfolio can convince your future employer that you would be a good fit, you are one step ahead of your competition.

Getting insights into the company’s culture can enable you to partly answer this question. You might, for example, decide to highlight your collaborative attitude, if the company you are applying for is very collaborative. Some companies value an entrepreneurial attitude, showing you side projects can be smart.

What ultimately determines a good fit is very company specific. For some companies, a good fit would be a person very different from their current employees. Whereas other companies are looking to hire a specific kind of person.

The best thing you can do is to be very open and honest about who you are. Note that you are more than your work. A good portfolio is like a speed date. Companies should be able to get to know you in a very short period of time. Let your future employer decide if you fit his company.

A good portfolio is like a speed date. Companies should be able to get to know you in a very short period of time.

Concluding Words

If you are looking to get hired, your online portfolio is essential. You can play the long game or you can play the short game. In reality, a combination will probably be most effective.

Start using your portfolio to build a network of followers today. It will pay off in the long term. Besides that, be more pro-active in giving your future employers the answers to the questions they might have. Reach out a hand and make sure they grab it.


This episode is part of a series called Portfolio Principles. In this series, I help people to build a more effective portfolio. Get weekly portfolio building tips.


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