Student Guide: Preparing a Professional Portfolio

The use of a professional portfolio during the interview process ensures that you can present information that will help sell yours skills to the employer. If you are nervous during the interview you may forget to present material that will help you be considered for the job. A professional portfolio helps keep you organized during the interview.

A professional portfolio contains your credentials, experience and recommendations. it is a good tool for the employer to learn about you and your work history while they are looking through your portfolio. A portfolio that is assembled in an organized way before an interview will allow the employer to find out about your work history and save him the trouble of calling or performing a background check. A professional portfolio allows you to share your past work history in a very efficient and elegant manner.

Portfolio Styles

Comprehensive portfolio — Contains a representative sampling of your work. Shows how wide your experience is.

Targeted portfolio — Contains samples that focus on a particular subject or application (such as software documentation, web site design, or medical writing). Shows the depth of your experience in that area.

“Send ahead” or “Leave behind” portfolios — Contain copies of your samples that can be sent ahead of your interview or left behind afterwards if your interviewer requests copies of your work. (Do not send your originals — you might not get them back!) It’s a good idea to take one of these to an interview even if samples weren’t specifically requested. Can be customized.


Traditional — Attractive, high-quality binder; sheet lifters; tabs; cover page for each sample.

CD-ROM — Labels, jewel case. Test the autorun file on several systems to make sure it works. Check all files and links!

Web site — Clean, easy to read, and logically organized. Check links!

“Send ahead” or “leave behind” — Folder, resume/contact information.

Traditional, online, or both?

Traditional portfolios contain hard copies of your samples.

Online portfolios contain electronic copies of your samples (HTML files, Windows help files, PDF files, etc.). They can be delivered via CD-ROM, Web site, laptop, email, etc.

You can use either one or both in an interview, depending on the formats of your samples, the job you are applying for, the industry you plan to work in, and your personal preference.

Creating and updating your portfolio

Constantly evaluate your work — is this a good sample for my portfolio? Save copies of your work as it’s completed — both hard copy and online (to avoid “cobwebs”).

Ask your manager or client’s permission to include samples in your professional portfolio.

Decide which kinds of portfolios to maintain.

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