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How to ace the design portfolio review
Tips on presenting your work during a product design portfolio review.
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Hi, it’s TK here from interns.design!
In this issue, I’ll be going over the portfolio review, a staple for any product design interview.
Let’s get to it!
Please don’t take advice here prescriptively. This is what’s worked for me and may not work for everyone.
Breaking Down the Portfolio Review
For all Product or UX Design roles, there will definitely be a portfolio review. This is where you present your previous design work! Here’s a standard structure:
45 min to 1.5 hours
2-3 designers + optional engineering or product person
present 2-3 case studies
15-20 min for questions
Important: You need to know your case studies inside out. Interviewers will jump in and ask questions about the tradeoffs you made, the research you conducted, the launch process, etc. It will show if you’ve BS-ed parts of the design process or don’t know your work well.
How to present your work
It’s important that you prepare a portfolio deck! When you scroll through a Medium article, interviewers are distracted trying to read ahead and you can’t get their attention and address specific points. Here’s a recommended framework:
Overview: Add a quick table of contents with the titles of the case studies you’ll be presenting.
Intro: In this section, you should do a brief intro about yourself. What school you attend, major, your previous experience, projects, and anything fun!
Present Case Studies (10-15 min each): Dive into the each project and show your design process! I will reiterate the points I made in Issue 2 regarding case studies below.
For each case study:
Start with the overview of the project. Provide context into the market, the people problem (+ how you landed at that), how it’s being solved today, any data that shows that this is a problem, goals of project, business goal, success metrics, your role in the team, and timeline of the project. If you were improving an existing product, show what that experience was like (prototype/flow) and the problems.
Present your solution with a prototype video or high-fidelity mockups. I’ve noticed some designers hold off on showing the solution until end of the process. I don’t recommend this because interviewers will start guessing what your solution might look like during your presentation. This helps ground them. Note: Don’t spend too much time on this. Bulk of your presentation should be on your design process!
Dive into your design process. Highlight the actual process that took you to your final solution. What were some of the biggest decisions you made? How did you make them? What explorations did you do? How did you validate your solution & what did you learn? How was the launch process? How did you measure success? Note: You don’t need to check all the boxes of the design process.
Reflect on your project. What challenges did you encounter? If you had more time, what would you have done better? It’s important to demonstrate self-awareness!
Ask for feedback. I just include a slide called “Questions?” to end a case study.
Present work that shows relevant skills. Not every single case study needs to cover all the areas of product design (product thinking, interaction and visual design, prototyping, research). But across 2-3 case studies, you should highlight them. At the beginning of each case study, mention the skills. “This case study on X showcases my visual design and prototyping skills.”
Less words, more images on slides. Don’t put paragraphs of text on the slides. Show high-level points and speak about the details.
Keep it 15 minutes unless it’s a large project. Usually, interviewers will want to see a diverse set of projects. Make sure that there’s enough time to go through other work!
Be ready to answer questions. Many interviewers will jump in and ask questions like “What explorations did you do for this?” “How did you find out this was a problem?” “What questions did you ask?”. You should be ready for these!
Practice presenting your portfolio. Practice will make you more comfortable with your slides. Use resources like ADPList to receive feedback. Find out which parts of the presentation is confusing. Especially for international or niche products, you will need to provide more context and explanations for interviewers.
That’s it! I have an exciting interview with a design leader and founder coming shortly. Stay on the lookout :)
Thanks for reading,
Follow me on Twitter @thetkkong for more!
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