In a recent discussion we held online, we invited a panel of experts to discuss the important topic of how to  shape up your portfolio to ace your next UX interview.

In this discussion, our Notably co-founders, Allison Marshall and Brittany Fuller, sat down with Sarah Doody and Tanner Christensen, who gave their knowledgeable insights into how you should be fine-tuning your UX interview process. Click here to view the full recording, or keep reading for the event highlights.

Before we dive right into their commentary , let's meet our guests and take a quick look at what a UX portfolio is, and why it is important.

Meet our experts.

We were so excited to have Sarah and Tanner join us as guests during this event. 

Sarah Doody is the Founder & CEO of Career Strategy Lab, is passionate about helping UX people create effective portfolios, resumes, & get hired w/o applying to 100's of roles. You can read more in depth about UX job interviews from Sarah here, and be sure to listen to her podcast interviews here on Spotify. 

screenshot from event recording showing Sarah & Career Strategy Lab

Tanner Christensen is the Founder of Shape and is passionate about helping designers and businesses find the best in each other. Be sure to follow Shape on twitter to read more. 

screenshot from event recording showing Tanner & Shape

What is a UX portfolio?

We often get a lot of questions about how to create a UX portfolio. First, we need to really understand what this is. 

A UX portfolio is a collection of your work that showcases your skills, experience, and achievements in the field of user experience. It can be used to demonstrate your expertise to potential employers, clients or investors.

The contents of a UX portfolio will vary depending on your level of experience and the type of role you are applying for. However, there are some key elements that should be included in all UX portfolios:

1. A selection of your best work that showcases your skills and experience.

2. An explanation of the process you used to complete each project.

3. The results achieved from each project.

4. Any awards or recognition you have received for your work.

5. Any positive feedback you have received from clients or users.

So, why are portfolios so important anyway?

Why do you need a UX portfolio?

A UX portfolio is a crucial tool in the job application process. It allows you to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers and helps you stand out from the crowd.

 A well-crafted UX portfolio will demonstrate your ability to solve real-world problems and deliver results. It will also show that you are up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies.

When applying for a job, your portfolio is often the first thing that potential employers will look at. This makes it essential that you put time and effort into creating a portfolio that showcases your best work and highlights your skills and experience.

Next, let's take a look at some tips from our speakers on how to make your winning portfolio shine.

To kick things off, our speakers they covered practical tips for creating a UX portfolio.

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Part 1: Practical tips for creating a UX portfolio

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the contents of a portfolio will vary depending on your level of experience, the type of UX work you're applying for, and even the company you're applying to.

The focus of this topic was on how you should be introducing yourself. How much should you focus on yourself, your background, and what should be included?

Sarah Doody, our first speaker, and a UX designer started with the comment, "Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager or people reading your introduction." So, don't be boring!

She gave the following few tips:

  • Try to avoid cliches and big statements wherever possible.
  • Think about what unique qualities and experience you have, so that when someone didn't click on anything in your portfolio or resume, what would they learn by reading your about me statement? For example, if you have ten years of experience, work that into your about statement.
  • Think about types of products that you have experience in and highlight them. What industries are you experienced in that are relevant to the job you want, what products have you worked on that will really stand out? You can then tailor this approach depending on the type of businesses that you are applying for.

One of Sarah's key comments was about how you can make yourself stand out. So, ask yourself the question, “what can I do in my about statement that really sets me apart from others in the market?”

"The beauty of highlighting your industry and types of products is that for every job you apply to, or every person you introduce yourself to, you can mix up your about me statement a little bit" -Sarah Doody, CEO Career Strategy Lab

Tanner Christensen then gave his advice on how designers should be communicating.

  • Be clear: For example, saying that you love working on systematic design problems. You need to unpack why that's a passion of yours. What does that actually mean to you? Make sure you elaborate.
  • Showcasing your personality: While it's important to showcase what sort of personality you have, there are certain ways that you should be doing so. Don't just say, "I love yoga". What does yoga tell about you that would make the company hire you? Rather, dedicate some of your website to something that is associated with the job that you are interested in.
  • When it comes to your portfolio, how you share your work and talk about is how you talk about yourself. If a hiring manager is looking at a case study, they don't care about the company you worked for and all their problems. What they care about is you - what was your experience working with that business and what was your perspective on the project? You need to highlight how you coped with tackling hard challenges. That's what they really want to hear.
"Imagine you are having a conversation with a close friend. You're sitting down with them for half an hour. What are you going to tell that person about your work experience? That's what a recruiter or hiring manager wants to hear. What was frustrating about it, what was exciting about it, what would you tell a friend? That's what you should include in your case study". -Tanner Christensen, Founder of Shape

Our panel then discussed how to choose the right work for the job you want to land. This was focused on what projects to get under your belt if there is a specific job you are looking for.

Here are a few key takeaways from this part of the session:

  • Customize your portfolio for each job you are applying to: If you are applying for a job that is focused on e-commerce, for example, make sure the projects in your portfolio reflect that. You have to show them that you have what they are looking for.
  • Make sure you read the job description a few times before you apply.
  • You have to put effort into the job you are applying for, even if the job description seems templated.
  • If you find something that is unclear in the job post, reach out to them to ask them a question. This could be a great connection to help them remember you.

Part 2: Strategies for storytelling in a UX interview

The next part of the session was all about how to effectively communicate in a UX interview. This is so important as it allows you to showcase your work in the best possible light and demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the job.

Once you have your portfolio ready and you've applied, you want to get to the next step - the interview.

Here our speakers first covered three important topics:

·  What does a typical UX interview look like?

·  Why does this format work?

·  Who will you be interviewing with?

There is quite a lot to unpack on these three topics that we can't include here, but head to this video at the 15-minute mark to hear all of their key insights.

The journey of a portfolio

One of the best things you can do when building a portfolio is to keep it fairly high level. When you are presenting your work, craft your story based on who the interviewer is, their role in the company, etc.

First write your story out, in a case study format. When you do build out your keynote or your presentation, this really should be large talking points or headlines based on the case study that you have created. As an interviewee, you should be able to recall bits and pieces of the story from the case study, speaking to certain specifics depending on who is interviewing you. Don't cram all the text into the portfolio!

Your portfolio should also not sound like answers to a UX exam. Rather keep it high level and use the highlights as talking points during the interview process.

The remainder of the discussion then shifted to taking a look at a live portfolio review. The team spoke to a few key considerations, all of which you can watch from the 26-minute mark in the video.

How to break into UX design

If you are wondering how to break into UX design, then we highly recommend you watch the entire video with Sarah, Tanner, and our Notably team. Their valuable insights will set you on your UX design career journey, where you'll be equipped with the many tools needed to ace your UX interview.

We hope you enjoyed this summary as much as we loved creating it. Be sure to watch the full event recording for far more insights and tips on how you can improve your UX interview.

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