Do people still use portfolio books?

During an interview, is one still expected to hand over a physical portfolio book? Or is just showing your work on a laptop ok?

Hiring managers, has there ever been a time where the presentation medium hurt or helped a candidate in your eyes?

In my experience a paper folio has many advantages during a job interview.

  1. you can leave it on the interviewer’s desk after the meeting so they are more likely to keep you in mind
  2. it always works
  3. if you bring a portfolio with every sheet sleeved, you can take the papers out and create links between your work, which helps reflecting on your work and that of the company, bringing the meeting further than just being a part of a hiring process
  4. you can bring sketches pertaining to specific product areas the company specializes in, and it will blend well into your presentation, keeping it all in one medium
  5. you can bring confidential work, if the company is willing to sign an agreement
  6. you show that you are willing to make the additional effort

It is commonly accepted here in the Netherlands that interviewees are expected to bring a paper portfolio next to a resume.

always come prepared. What if your laptop dies? What if their is only one person and it becomes a more intimate coffee like setting and you are fumbling over a laptop in between you? Be ready for everything. Don’t expect an internet connection, don’t expect the right adapter to be there for your laptop. Bring anything you might need.

I once had a candidate come to an interview completely empty handed, not even a notebook to take notes. I asked him how he would like us to review his work to which he said “oh yea, can you pull up my website on your laptop?” … interview over. I mean it went on for 45 minutes but there was nothing this dude was going to say that was going to recover him from that. If you roll in like that your work better make my brain melt out of my ears it is so good, and it wasn’t anywhere near that level. People mess up the small stuff all the time. Am I going to have that guy present to the head of engineering or the CEO? “Hey my CEO can you pull open that PDF I sent you on your phone so we can talk through it…”

One last thought, physical things matter. A printed book stays on someone’s desk, gets passed around, maybe pops back up 6 months later. An email is gone.

Okay great feedback. With that in mind, would you also advise bringing in models/prototypes/final production pieces? (this is all assuming it’s okay with your current or past employers and no sensitive IP is being divulged, of course)

I think you know the answer :slight_smile:

The last few interviews I went on I didn’t show anything digital. Just samples of products in production, parts, and process books.

100%. It’s been a while since I interviewed for a job (though I pitch all the time), but always used to have triple or quad backups. Today with the Cloud, it’s a bit different, but I used to have print version, PDF in my email, PDF on a CD, PDF on a USB…

I’ve had lots of meetings where I planned to present via a laptop or iPad, but the meeting went for a walk over coffee and we looked at a printed version outside where glare would make digital not possible. Also the reverse expecting an intimate meeting with one person and they call in 10 people from the team and want to throw it up on a screen.

Be flexible, have options and be able to adapt not only the format by presentation style depending on the interviewer audience and format. Even time of day can change the vibe.

As for stuff. Always bring stuff. Even when I have internal meetings not about product, if there is not product on the table, I’ll stop a meeting until there is…


What service do you guys use to print out books? I’ve looked at blurb and a few other services, but my portfolio book is 7" x 11", and the closest thing most of these services have is 8" x 11", which isn’t cutting it…

As others have mentioned, keep paper copies.

Depending on the meeting setting, the laptop may be really awkward and turn things into a slide show instead of being a discussion tool. Everyone can control what content is being shown on a book, it can comfortably sit between people. Best of all, everyone one can point at it and gets around the “what’s that blue thing in the top right corner” problem or you can quickly flip pages and point at a section when giving an example as part of an answer.

The best thing about the paper copies is that you can leave them on the meeting table or purposely tell the decision maker to hang on to it. It’s the best business card you could hope for. During the decision process, the candidates may get discussed between the team and having a physical incarnation of your work there can really help you out. Your work may make its way to team members that weren’t present at the interview but may still have influence on the decision process. Portfolios also don’t get thrown out a whole lot. So if you don’t get the job you came in for, having your work on the shelf can still help you out in the future.

Keep the laptop around, especially if your work is related to video, interactivity or motion design. You can also setup a folder with all the content you think may be relevant so if the conversation goes off a tangent and you have something to show you can quickly retrieve it. Also bring every adapter and back up that may be remotely related. A tablet may provide a decent experience but keep a few hard copies handy. Absolutely bring physical stuff if it feels appropriate.

As for printing, my portfolio is 8x5x11 IN so I get it printed on Blurb as a magazine. In hindsight I’d probably go with a landscape format. However, I’m not sure how to help you with your issue, it seems your using a totally custom size. You could try a light binding and cutting it with a paper shear. Your best bet may be to work with a local print shop. I guess to bring this back to ID, start to consider your manufacturing process as you converge on a solution :laughing: .

For awhile I was just printing my samples at home and I’d get a really nice clipboard and send them ahead of time or have that as a leave behind. The reason I did this was I wanted the projects featured to be specific to each interview so I could change the order or the content based on who I was talking to, but I didn’t just want to have loose paper, I wanted a feeling of substance… I got so much feedback that people loved the clipboard. I couldn’t believe that something that I selected to solve a problem for me was such a hit with the receiver.

Never heard of that one. Very cool. Didn’t the clipboard make it hard to flip the pages though?
I’ve done loose pages in a clear portfolio folder (the ones with the string tie-down) for the same reason–you can re-order things. Keeps it fully protected in transit, too. I’ve never gotten feedback on it though. I think 100% of my interviews have been using a digital medium.

I’ve done various things…

  1. printed at home and used Muji type portfolio books with clear pages to make a custom order/set for each interview/presentation.

  2. Done a perfect bound 60 page printed book with a local printer. Had to print 20+ to make the price make sense and still ended up about $30 a book, but the quality was super (digital Indigo print on uncoated heavyweight paper with cover stock cover, full bleed and trim) and was a very professional leave behind that got a lot of comments.

  3. Done an 8 panel offset gatefold print teaser as a leave behind. Printed 1000 copies to get the price down and still have a box of them 10 years later.

If going print, I’m a big believer in the quality of the object. Print quality better be really good (I only use HP Indigo for digital print if possible, almost offset ink quality, XEROX Docucolor is garbage compared), paper carefully chosen, binding and packaging on point…