Whether you’re applying for your first job, preparing for a big interview, or you are a seasoned professional ready for a new opportunity, your portfolio can make or break your chances of being hired. Our Creative Director, David Wingard, took some time to outline how applicants can create a stellar impression from the start with a sharp, diverse portfolio.

Focus Your Portfolio

When it comes to showing your portfolio, sometimes less is more. Often I see portfolios full of work but the quality is mixed. Don’t show everything you’ve ever done — show your best.

Also, make sure your portfolio shows range. When choosing what to include, select a range of diverse projects; don’t just fill a book with album covers and magazine spreads. If all your work is for a surf brand, I won’t know if you can handle different clients.

Make sure that you go digital and analog with your portfolio. Put your portfolio online, so prospective employers can review it before or after an interview. And remember, print is not dead. When you meet someone in person, present your work in a professional and well organized physical portfolio. After all, a lot of the work you do for clients will end up being printed.

Brand Yourself

Create a personal brand, logo, letterhead, and business card to present in your portfolio, as well as your resumé and cover letter. Show potential employers that you can create the basic tools to market yourself and they’ll have more faith in your ability to market their clients.

Refine Your Resume

Spend time designing your resumé. (You are a designer, right?) Make sure your resumé reflects your ability and skill. Then ask someone to proofread your resumé. Keeping your resumé clean, concise, and correct will go a long way, and typos can kill your chances of getting an interview.

When creating documents to share, always use .PDF, not .DOC. Anyone can open a PDF; don’t make Creative Directors and Art Directors open MS Office to review your resumé.

If you’re applying for a non-design role, ask a designer to review your resumé and provide his or her tips for making it stand out (hint: using Comic Sans font is not a good way to achieve this goal). Application materials for copywriters, web developers, and public relations professionals may not be held to the same aesthetic standards as their graphic design peers, but it’s always a good idea to make sure your documents are polished and professional.

Getting A Job Is A Full-Time Job

When you are looking for a job, do your homework. Take time to research what shops are out there, who their clients are, and what they stand for. Apply to the places that you feel would be a good fit, not just every agency in town.

When you follow up with people, stay persistent but not pushy. Sending one email with a cover letter and resumé attached is not going to get the Creative Director to call you. Instead, drop them a line. Send a printed cover letter and resumé, follow up with an email, and call him or her shortly after. This shows professionalism, follow through, and desire.

Dress the Part

In today’s office environment, you don’t need to wear a suit to your interview — but don’t wear shorts, either. Most agencies have a casual dress code but if you roll up in a T-shirt and jeans, you won’t impress anyone.

Rehearse Your Pitch

You will need to present your portfolio, talk about your projects, and discuss your process during the interview. Before the interview, practice presenting your portfolio to anyone and everyone: your girlfriend, boyfriend, roommate, mom, or even your dog. It’s important to be confident when presenting. The more you practice, the less nervous you will be.

Leave Something Behind

Even if it’s just your business card and resumé, leave something tangible with your prospective employer. Think about creating a small brochure or pocket portfolio (bonus points if your materials are professionally printed).

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

SEND A THANK YOU CARD! Always send a handwritten thank you card to the people who interview you. Send a card even if you think the interview went horribly, and there’s no way they would hire you. It shows respect and courtesy for your prospective employer, and that you are willing to go the extra mile to make a strong impression. And isn’t that what this whole industry is all about?