5 golden rules to build a creative portfolio

Applying for a job in gaming, VFX, Animation, Advertising, or any creative industry can be really stressful and overwhelming, especially if you have to show a creative portfolio. As a creative professional, it is important to show to a potential employer a portfolio that sums up your work in its best light. Your portfolio and how it is structured is basically how you show your skills, experience, and how you generate ideas. Many people tend to ‘’overdo it’’ in terms of what they have or want to show and tend to simply put everything they have ever done in it, applying to every single job with the same portfolio.

As a creative recruiter who basically spends her days looking at portfolios, I thought I would give you my advice on how to make sure you stand out.

1. Prepare and adapt

Is important to understand that all companies have different cultures, values, sizes of teams, types of products and that, getting into one of them can help shape your whole career. A crucial element you want to keep in mind is that you have to know what your goal is and adapt your portfolio so it fits what the hiring manager is looking for. Remember to always be honest with yourself within this process, and really define your goal. For example, you might want to ask yourself if you prefer to be a generalist or a specialist as this will have an impact on where you will apply. Have a look at what a specific company is doing and reflect their language back into your portfolio. The ‘’one size fits all’’ is definitely NOT the way to go here as the hiring manager will immediately recognize if you prepared and adapted your work. This process can be as simple as editing what piece of work you want to put first in your portfolio to showcase a specific set of skills, or a specific creative style.

2. Quality not quantity

A common mistake artists often make - that is easy to avoid - is including too much material in the portfolio. I can assure you that it is better to have a few pieces that you feel represent the best work you can display versus everything you have ever worked on. Show only the ones you are 100% satisfied with and a current example of your abilities. This portfolio is the key to getting the hiring manager’s attention so make sure it represents your best work. Once approved by recruiters, the same work will also be seen by Technical Directors that will be looking for the skills and/or the potential to learn them depending on the job you are applying for.  Depending on your skill set, if you decide to make a video, the same rules apply. Focus on your best work and make sure that your edit is short but efficient. If the video ends and we all are excited and want to see more, you did a good job!

3. Tell me a story

Once you have chosen the material to display in your portfolio, it is important to show how you got there. If you want to be remembered, we need to see the progression of your work and to be captivated by your story and the story of your work. Let us know if you had any challenges, what tool you used, the context, and what brought you to how it looks now. Breakdowns, progress, and timelines are always really good to see.  

4. Make it simple and accessible  (K.I.S.S.)

The online portfolio is a good format since it can easily include pictures, video, turntables, audio, and text. When a hiring manager clicks the link to your work, you want to get his or her attention right away. This is achieved by a well-structured portfolio that is organized and displays what you want to show first. No need for complex websites. I personally hate to click on 6 links before getting to the actual work, and to be honest, I may even abandon during the process if I see too many unrelated pages. Take a format that is accessible or as i like to say K.I.S.S. Keep It Stupid and Simple.

5. Pay attention to details

Pay attention to your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Get a friend to proof read your portfolio and make sure there is no mistake. Your portfolio will be sent with a presentation letter and a resume and you need to make sure they all follow the same direction. We can spot a copy and paste application from miles away (it is even worst if you forget to replace the previous company’s details…I see that a lot!). We need to see that you’re really passionate about what you do and that you put a lot of efforts in your portfolio and overall presentation, because it’s going to reflect the effort and the work you are going to display if you get hired.

I know, it is a lot to think about, and please know that I am always available to give you input. Feel free to email me at steph@rhum.hr, or connect with me on LinkedIn. It will always be a pleasure to chat with you and give you the best advice I can.

Stephanie Angrignon, Creative Recruiter

Pierre-Luc Labbee