Putting Together the Perfect Portfolio

Check out our quick guide on creating an attractive portfolio for your job application.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

When it comes down to the essentials for a job application, we often just talk about the basic three – your standard job application form, résumé and cover letter. But are these enough to help you stand out from?

It is a tough job market, and competition can be stiff. If you are applying for a coveted position with a top employer, you’ll have to go the extra mile to prove that you have what it takes for the position on offer. One of the ways you can achieve this is by submitting a portfolio that showcases your strengths and skills that are relevant to the job.

Here are some points to keep in mind when putting together a portfolio for your job application.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a compilation of materials (e.g. drawings, written content, videos, projects) that showcases your skills, experience and qualification.

When do I submit my portfolio?

It’s a good idea to send in your portfolio together with your résumé and cover letter so that your prospective employer can gauge your level of skills and experience at an early stage of the job application process. As a fresh graduate, you portfolio will give you a leg up in convincing recruiters of your abilities and potential, especially if you lack relevant work experience.

Additionally, the content of your portfolio can come in handy during job interviews as you can talk about your materials as concrete examples of your capabilities. It is therefore advisable to submit it prior to the interview stage of your job application.

What do I include in my portfolio?

Your portfolio should be a compilation of your best work instead of a crammed collection of all the projects you were ever involved in. You should collate your strongest and most relevant materials that highlight your skills and strengths for an impressive portfolio.

As a rule of thumb, you should consider the position and employer you’re applying for and the relevant skills you want to showcase when deciding which projects or sections of a project to include in your portfolio. Remember to tailor your portfolio according to the role you’re applying, just like you should with your résumé and cover letter.

How should I present my portfolio?

How you present your portfolio counts just as much as the content of the portfolio itself. Not only is it a chance for you to showcase your creativity, it is also an opportunity for your prospective employer to evaluate your organisational skills.

While there isn’t a single correct way to present your work samples, your portfolio should cater to your specialism so that it can effectively showcase your abilities.

For instance, civil or architectural engineers can demonstrate their skills through a physical portfolio of their hand-drawn and/or computer-generated drawings. Computer engineers, on the other hand, may be able to showcase theirs through a computer programme or video game creation, so a digital portfolio would be a more fitting option. An electrical engineer’s portfolio may include projects of building a robot or a motor, which are best showcased via videos of the programming process and how the machine works.

In short, you should present your portfolio in any way you see fit. If your projects are better showcased through a mixture of presentation methods (e.g. via videos on an online platform), you should go for it!

How do I explain my work?

Unfortunately, putting together your portfolio is the easier part of the process. Being able to explain your work featured in it is a much tougher feat.

Quite often, recruiters will ask you about your portfolio during the job interview stage, and typical questions include “why did you choose this specific project for your portfolio?” and “what were the challenges you faced when completing this project?”. You should be confident in discussing your work and highlighting your skills and knowledge that are relevant to the role on offer. To do this, you will have to familiarise yourself with the contents of your portfolio before attending the interview. 

If your interviewers do not ask about anything specific to your portfolio, you can use your portfolio to answer more general questions. For instance, instead of giving verbal answers to questions such as “what do you have to offer to our company?” or “why do you think you should get this job?”, use the work samples in your portfolio as examples of the relevant skills that you can apply to the job on offer. It is thus important for you to bring along a physical copy of your portfolio to the interview.