How to Build a Portfolio for a Job in Tech

By BrainStation April 18, 2019

You’re looking for a new role in technology; you have the skill set and you’ve done the prep work, so how do you set yourself apart from the competition?

The answer: Your portfolio. Job postings for technical roles will most often require a portfolio of your work. Creating this digital portfolio is both a necessary and strategic way to showcase your skills, style of work, and what you bring to the table.

Building a professional portfolio that’s going to stand out to a hiring manager can be daunting, which is why we’ve rounded up the top tips from experts in the field.

Keep these three things in mind if you want to build a standout portfolio for a technology role:

1. Include a Diverse Selection of Work

It can be difficult to determine which work to include in your portfolio. One thing is for sure – you don’t want to use every project you’ve ever worked on. Your professional portfolio should be a highlight reel that not only demonstrates your best work, but shows your versatility.

In the past, we interviewed Adam Thorsteinson, BrainStation’s Lead Data Science Educator, who shared the dos and don’ts of building a data science portfolio. “Your portfolio should be a curated, well-rounded showcase of your best work that’s capable of catching an employer’s eye,” he said.

Jay Eckert, Founder and Creative Director of Parachute Design seconded this point when providing tips for building a development portfolio. “The broader you can keep it, the more people you can appeal to. It’s kind of a fine balance you want to manage between showing diversity, but not too much.”

In short, you want to be selective and highlight your best work, but your selection should be diverse enough that it demonstrates a solid understanding of the various elements of the position.

2. Make the Portfolio Uniquely Yours

In addition to what content you include in your portfolio, how the portfolio is built, and presented, counts for more than you may think. For example, if you’re applying for a design role, your portfolio website should have a solid user experience and a beautiful interface. That means taking the time to build a custom portfolio rather than using a template.

Eduardo Tovar, Senior Experience Designer at Konrad Group, explained that using a template is not a good look for a design portfolio.

“If I’m able to tell your portfolio is not a template – that it’s custom – and I start to see some of your design style and it shows in your portfolio, that’s a huge plus,” said Tovar. “Because you don’t only take the time and care and attention to work on projects that are work-related, but you also focus on your personal brand and presentation.”

The same idea applies if you’re applying for a development role – you’ll want to make sure that your portfolio is displayed on a flawless site. That means no messy code.

“If you want your portfolio to shine, consider breaking the boundaries of commonplace grid design by creating custom pages so it’s a well-knit story from start to finish,” said Eckert.

3. Show Your Process

Most employers aren’t just looking at the quality of work you produce, but at how you approach problems. Don’t be afraid to frame each piece of work as a case study, providing a narrative of your thought process and the problem you were trying to solve with the project.

“Write down some of your insights — a combination of problem statements with what you’ve learned. Tell how you’ve created a strategy,” said Tovar in our post about building a design portfolio. “What we look for is what type of a critical thinker you are. How do you approach problems? How do you strategize?”

Sharing some background about how your projects were created will help recruiters and hiring managers make sense of your work, and say more than just a standalone piece. This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills – an important part of excelling in a position.

“A huge piece of data science in the workplace is being able to communicate,” said Thorsteinson. “You could write a whole blog post around a piece of work you’ve done.”

The idea behind sharing a portfolio is to show what you’re capable of and set yourself apart. So, when building your portfolio, take the time to create something that not only reflects your work and skills, but also who you are, and what you can bring to the table.