Example of a strong PDF portfolio for job applications?

Hi everyone!

I’m working on building a PDF portfolio specifically to send with job applications. I feel pretty comfortable with setting up more in-depth views of each project for Behance or for a process book, but I’m really struggling with how to condense each project in a way that makes sense. I’m especially trying to find the balance between showing enough of a thought process while also giving enough space to show the final product - hopefully without having a million pages for each project, haha? I obviously don’t want to overload mine with process work if managers are mainly looking at cleaner finished pieces, or vice versa.

I think my biggest issue, at this point, is that I’m not sure what the industry standards are in this case. I’ve seen a ton of web portfolios but rarely see other people’s static PDF version.

If anyone is willing to share an example of a condensed portfolio that’s really caught yourself eye, or if you have one yourself and feel like it’s gotten good results, I would really love to see it!

There is no industry standard really. And everybody will tell you something slightly different.
There are people getting jobs with portfolios with 80+ pages. There are people getting jobs with 4 pages of pdf-“teasers” and a link to their website.
Personally I find both of them lacking. A long portfolio will very likely not be appreciated. People will start skimming after 15-20 pages once they see the pdf-page count. The teaser thing also rarely works out perfectly in my opinion because the pdf is what will be handed around when reviewing portfolios. The minority of people will have the patience to actually click through to your website/behance. Many people who mainly work with emails just want to see the real and whole thing in their email-software.
Personally I think around 30 pages is a good length with around 4-5 projects. I think that hits the sweet spot between being able to show range and depth without overloading the viewer with useless, crushing input. After all it is also a designer’s job to curate a relevant selection. But again, other people are successful with other things.
There is also this common platitude of “showing mostly process” - while not wrong at all mostly the same people will get upset at you for not showing enough “polish”. While it intellectually might feel wrong I would still advice to try to achieve “polish” over showing “authentic process”. Especially non-designers really don’t have a lot of appreciation for the latter. And there are very often at least a few non-designers judging your portfolio at some point. If you are able to pull off to let your authentic process look polished you have a winning portfolio.

And another tip: After being sucessfull with your ~30 page portfolio bring a longer one to the interview that has ALL the content. Most people in the interview will appreciate that you will show them something that they haven’t seen before and if you are there in person you can guide much better through a greater depth of work. Are they asking a lot of process questions? Show them all the process stuff they haven’t seen before. Are they mostly interested in pretty pictures? Show them all the pretty renderings of the final thing and skip through the other stuff.

Where would you like to get a job?

Mrog, thank you for this! Your explanation of the length issues is super helpful - a lot of the background administrative stuff is pretty opaque to students & getting a better idea of who looks at our portfolios and what their process is is super useful. Totally makes sense that more polished pieces would make more sense to non-designers. In your experience, is there any difference between companies that have a larger group of senior industrials designers vs. say, a smaller start up where maybe there’s only one or two designers? Are the smaller companies more likely to show portfolios to more of their business or engineering team?

I’m applying for summer internships, so honestly I’m trying to cast a pretty wide net just to try out different industries and see what sticks! I’m really interested in athletic/outdoor gear and apparel; planning to focus somewhat on that, but I don’t want to get my heart totally set anywhere specific at this point. Trying to split those applications between some of the bigger multi-sport companies and a bunch of smaller, more niche places. I’m hoping to get away with one PDF that’s focused on outdoor and softgoods work, and 1-2 separate PDFs for other industries?