Mistakes You’re Making With Your Portfolio and Resume

Advice, Career, Design Blog, Portfolio

Designers judging designers, can be uncomfortable. In some cases you could be a sheep strolling right into a lions’ den. Design critiques prepare us for this for the most part, but not all experiences are equal. If you’re lucky enough to have had a strict and knowledgeable professor, chances are (if you listened) you probably already have a job. These instances that I see time and time again will help you stand out.

Tailor your applications for each job

It’s hard work and can be annoying revising resumes and portfolios for every company that you apply for, but it is well worth the effort. 

  • It shows you are paying attention to their needs.
  • You aren’t wasting their time by over reaching your qualifications.
  • It gives the impression that you are a great fit for them.

 Literally save each version of resumes you send out, you may reuse pieces or need to remember how you pitched yourself. The hiring process could take a couple months.

Each company has their own language, their personas, and products or services.

  • Look very closely at the job description and their website to find a couple unique words that you see a lot. Then include those words in your resume.
  • Some bigger companies have automatic word processors that scan your resume and reject it in seconds if not enough key words from the job description are present.
  • Talk like you understand their customer needs. You can only know this by studying their website or talking with someone from the company.

Doing your own research on how to present yourself is key to getting your foot in the door in a competitive job opening.

Make sure to save your resume versions per company, some might overlap and can save you some extra work.

Font Choices

Typography nerds are the worst type of designers to please (pun intended). If you are using average fonts such as Helvetica, Optima, or Arial you are seen as a docile house cat with no adventure. But if you use trending fonts that everyone uses, you aren’t original enough. So what font do you use?

  • Find something you like that isn’t too trendy or average
  • Don’t use display fonts
  • Free is always easier and there are plenty of resources, but chances are, paid fonts are less common and will probably impress.
  • For god sake, never use comic sans or papyrus! If you already know this, believe me when I say that some are not so informed.

Strong typography is in the details as well, so no matter what font you have, craft it.

Image Quality

Almost all designers have a retina screen monitor. Therefore, they can see your badly compressed images online or in a PDF portfolio. Once they do notice the crappy image, they will think…

  • You are incompetent and can’t down save images properly.
  • And won’t care about producing high quality images for their clients.

I’ve also seen people use “found” icons as images instead of vectors. What’s worse is that I’ve seen different styles of icons being used in the same resume. Really not a smart idea. Here’s why…

  • You can’t bother to look for pre-made vector icons and customize them
  • Shows you aren’t willing to make your own
  • They will think you took it from a google search
  • Vectors are the best because they are crisp and scalable in your documents.

It takes some trial and error to get the best results with difficult images, but if you can’t make it work, toss it, don’t leave it in thinking they won’t notice or care.

Show some variety

Don’t focus on putting all the same work for a very specific position. Example: you don’t need to show all web work in your portfolio for a web design position if you have other talents.

  • They might be looking for someone with other experience for the near future, but don’t want to hire one person for that need or call it out in the job description.
  • Even if you say you have additional experience in other mediums somewhere else in your resume, it might have been overlooked.
  • But focus on your strengths and be honest if you aren’t strong in certain areas that you do show, but question if you should show those weaker strengths.

So show a variety of your strongest projects, because you don’t know what the company’s looking. A job description doesn’t always reveal minor details that they are secretly hoping for.

Proof reading

Time and time again you will hear this. You may feel confident or not have time to have someone else look at your work, but it can be a deal breaker for some companies.

  • Some companies serve clients with store items or brands with unique spellings and pricing. They need designers to pay attention to all those details and/or prices in order to deliver a flawless service.
  • If you can’t represent yourself with your best foot forward, how can you do that for them?
  • They may have had a bad situation in the past and want to redeem their reputation. Being over cautious is a necessity to some.

The most important thing to remember is to not just proof read your resume. Your mockups and designs may have spelling or grammatical issues also.

Have a website

All design shops do website work for their clients. They need designers with web experience. Even if you claim to have web experience, but don’t have your own website…

  • They will think you don’t have enough web experience.
  • You don’t know how to setup a website or how a website works.
  • Don’t want to learn or too scared to try.

We live in a world were the world is only a touch screen away in our pocket. You need a website yesterday!

Take-away
Whether you just graduated or simply haven’t been getting quality call backs, these common mistakes could turn your life around with your perfect job. Designing isn’t just a career, it’s a lifestyle, a passion, and an obsession. You need to prove it to other like-minded individuals.

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