The world of design has undergone significant turbulence recently. From hiring slowdowns and a wave of redundancies to the critical shift in how businesses perceive the value of design, professionals across the UX design field have felt the impact.
After a series of enlightening conversations between Ryan Ollerenshaw, our UX recruitment specialist at Consortia, Juliana Ferreira, a highly skilled design director with recent roles at BT and gov.uk and Gavin Wignall, former Global Head of UX Design from Boston Consulting Group and Thomson Reuters, we've curated essential tips to help you with your UX job search. It’s a challenging time in UX design recruitment and as Gavin succinctly describes “incredibly tough out there”. So our thanks go out to both Juliana and Gavin for sharing invaluable insights and strategies on helping to create a standout first impression in the UX recruitment journey.
The All-Important First Impression: CV or Portfolio?
CV is First: As recruiters, the CV is usually the first find when looking for a specific person and talent set for a given role. With over a decade of recruiting for specialist UX positions, Ryan is well-seasoned when it comes to UX recruitment and knows how talented UX professionals are found. He shares some tips for curating a strong UX CV: “Using keywords to reflect the jobs you are after is key to being found. For example – SaaS or Software as a Service, Design Systems etc. Hiring managers and recruiters are often hiring against key criteria and making this information readily available and easy to read is hugely valuable. Keep it clear and concise, ideally condensed to two pages and easily readable (no crazy fonts or colours). Try to tell a story and keep it engaging, you have approximately 10 seconds to capture the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager, and give an executive summary about yourself and your strengths to start. Gain feedback on your CV from specialist recruiters and hiring managers or peers to ensure it is aligned well with the target audience.”
In our searches for UX designers, UX and product design consultants will carefully search for and select CVs that capture the criteria and job specification requirements detailed by a client. The CV is often the first thing we may share with the hiring manager, so any hiring movement usually starts with a well-fitting CV. Gavin also points out that for this reason, many hiring managers will start with a scan of the CV to help get a feel for the person's work history, the types of companies they've worked for or been associated with, and the industries they've worked in.
Portfolio Takes Centre Stage: However, the portfolio is the real star after this first step within UX design recruitment. Gavin stresses that having a portfolio is a non-negotiable requirement, as it effectively showcases a designer's capabilities. While at times there might be concerns about sharing due to NDAs or sensitivities, even a small, crafted portfolio is better than none. He suggests that candidates can create fictional work to demonstrate their problem-solving approach and design process.
Choosing the Right Platform for Your UX Portfolio
Shedding light on the contemporary landscape of UX design portfolios, Gavin expresses that he doesn't have a strong preference for a specific platform. Today, creating a portfolio website using pre-made systems is so accessible that it's no longer a standout factor. He emphasises, "It's not impressive anymore that someone's built their own website if I'm honest, but for me, it's more about the content than the delivery."
Juliana also points out it's about providing insight into your problem-solving approach, design thinking, and creativity. She states that it should “be snappy and concise. Your ability to tell a good story in a couple of slides is key. The structure should be: short context, problem to be solved, how you did it, your impact. Also indicate your role on the specific project.”
So in a field where the emphasis is on design capabilities and user experience, it's not about the bells and whistles of the platform but the quality and depth of the content that truly matters. Your portfolio should tell a compelling story of your design process, engaging the potential hiring manager by showing not only the end product but also the journey taken to reach that point.
After all, the real power of a UX portfolio lies in its content, not its platform.
The Perfect UX Portfolio: Aesthetic Presentation
However, while the platform may not matter, the aesthetics play a crucial role in capturing the attention of hiring professionals, especially within the market of UX and product design. Drawing from the conversations shared by Juliana, Gavin, and Ryan, we've distilled three clear points to guide you in ensuring your portfolio not only captures attention but also leaves a lasting impression.
1) Relevance and Moderation: Ensure that the images in your portfolio are relevant to what you're showcasing, but avoid overdoing it. If you have before-and-after visuals, use them strategically to illustrate the transformation.
2) Balanced Visual Style: Choose a visual style that enhances the presentation but doesn't overpower the work itself. Striking a balance between aesthetics and the content's effectiveness is vital.
3) Design Basics Matter: The importance of fundamental design principles, such as proper alignment, font choices, consistency, and colour matching are vital principles of design so attention to detail on this shouldn’t be neglected.
In summary, a well-designed UX portfolio should blend visual appeal and content substance. While the content should showcase your skills and achievements, the portfolio's visual presentation should be a testament to your design sensibilities. Remember, in the UX field, design presentation is a primary aspect that reflects your professionalism and expertise.
The Metrics Dilemma: Showcasing Impact in UX Portfolios
In UX design portfolios, incorporating metrics and data can be a double-edged sword, and there are several complexities surrounding the presentation of numbers. "You don't know what's real and what's not," Gavin muses, pointing out the potential for data manipulation within portfolios. While showcasing metrics is beneficial, it doesn't always hold the utmost significance in portfolio assessments.
On the flip side, Juliana offers a concise yet powerful perspective, "Show data in numbers wherever possible." Her stance underscores the importance of numerical evidence in substantiating the impact of design work. She emphasises that when presented transparently, data provides tangible proof of a project's success.
So, how do we navigate this metrics dilemma? The relevance of numerical data in a UX portfolio is influenced by various factors, including the nature of the project and the audience's expectations. Gavin's reservations about data authenticity reflect the caution needed when presenting metrics. While numbers can be compelling, they should be shared with a degree of transparency, context and accountability to maintain their integrity. For instance, in the e-commerce sector, metrics like conversion rates can make a compelling case for your design prowess.
You should present your metrics clearly, leaving no room for misinterpretation or suspicion. Showcasing how your work impacted key performance indicators (KPIs) can strengthen your portfolio's credibility but it's not just about the numbers; it's about the story they tell and the insight they provide.
When used judiciously and presented with integrity, metrics can be a helpful tool in illustrating the value you bring as a UX designer. Tailoring your approach to your specific audience and being mindful of the nuances of the data you share can make all the difference in presenting a compelling and trustworthy UX portfolio.
The Balance of Portfolio Diversity: Quality Over Quantity
The eternal debate in UX design portfolios often revolves around the number of projects presented. Some designers advocate showcasing many examples to highlight your diversity in projects, while others prefer a more streamlined approach, highlighting only a few. Ryan points out this can be problematic for UX designers applying to roles as often it is down to the personal preference of the hiring manager.
However, Gavin and Juliana both note that for them the key is not in the quantity of projects but in their quality. Gavin suggests that the most vital aspect is to place your most impressive work upfront, and Juliana's tip is to showcase your best and most relevant work, not all of it. While it can be frustrating for hiring managers to see just one or two projects that fail to meet the mark, they can suffice if those few projects are truly outstanding. So, tailoring your portfolio to the position you're applying for will enhance your chances of making a solid impression. Most hiring managers are time-limited, so how you present your work can make a significant difference.
Furthermore, Gavin raises an interesting question: Does an industry-specific role demand an extensive knowledge of that field, or is there value in bringing fresh perspectives from outside the industry? This can be a pivotal consideration when structuring your portfolio, so discussing this with your recruiter can provide insights into the company's preferences.
In the changing world of UX design, the role of a designer's portfolio stands as a testament to their skill, professionalism, and potential. Thanks to the insights from industry experts Ryan, Gavin, and Juliana we hope we have provided you with some of the key takeaways to help with your next portfolio presentation: The importance of first impressions and being found, the content versus platform debate, the power of aesthetics, the judicious use of metrics, and the balance between quality and quantity.
As you continue on your professional journey, we hope these insights will guide you, ensuring that your portfolio not only showcases your expertise but also resonates with your audience's expectations. And remember if you need a helping hand with finding your next UX designer job do reach out to Ryan or one of our UX recruitment team specialists.
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