Evaluating Portfolios

Dave Malouf
2 min readNov 7, 2019

What matters most is the story

Kuber portfolio template
Kuber portfolio template

Yesterday during one of my DesignOps workshops — this time at the Design Leadership Summit in Toronto—one of the attendees asked a pretty good question:

When interviewing candidates and having them present their portfolios I’ve noticed a growing trend of candidates presenting directly from their web sites. This has led to a scrolling like presentation instead of using something like slides that are more appropriate. What do you think about this?

Portfolios are a bit controversial. Some people don’t think that a portfolio is a good artifact for evaluating the capabilities of a designer. Some people think that you can’t evaluate a designer without one. Then there is the question of when in the hiring process would be best for requiring a portfolio.

Honestly, across a team of designers seldom the time is taken where a candidate assessment team is calibrated about how they evaluate a portfolio. So, even if a portfolio can be evaluated well, it seldom is.

But the original question was assuming that for a candidate to present themselves with their web site was poor form. At first I was thinking I was going to agree with the assumption of the queston. I mean you are presenting yourself in order to get a job, so you should undersand the absolute best way to do that, especially if you are designer. However, two ideas came up for me.

  1. We ask a lot of candidates already. To ask them to create yet another artifact for the interview process again feels like bad form.
  2. As a hiring manager are you ever planning on the making and presentation of a portfolio itself be part of the activities they do in their role?

Portfolios are a tool to tell the story of someone’s practice history. The primary assessment goal is not the presentation of the portfolio itself, but rather the content in it. When you create—and you should create—an a rubric for assessing a candidate, the pieces about the portfolio should be very clear to the teammates doing the assessment what they should and shouldn’t be evaluating.

Now we are all human, and bling has an impact on all of us—so does the lack of bling. So from a candidate perspective it only behooves you to have the highest quality presentation of your work as you can do and do it every time. However, from the evaluator POV you can be forgiving of this part of their presentation in your rubric.

One reason I also mentioned is that it is hard enough for many people to have a professional grade portfolio at all. To then ask (even implicitly) to have 2 portfolios (1 for discovery and 1 for evaluation) seems like a big stretch.

What do you think about portfolios?

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Dave Malouf

Dave Malouf is a specialist in Design Operations with over 25yrs experience designing and leading in digital services. I coach ppl and act as a thought partner.