What was so impressive about your new hire's portfolio?...

…Specifically new hires of interns and entry level junior designers, and what unique qualities do they demonstrate that grant them access to the professional world? Going beyond having the basic tools, having work the university likes to see, and having work other students like to see; what do the people who have to make the time and money investment in personnel like to see in this buyer’s market of new young talent?

To put it another way: say you place a well exposed ad for a junior designer position, and after 3 weeks or so you receive 300 submissions. Say that only 10%-15% actually demonstrate a high enough proficiency in the basic hard skills(Sketching, Software, etc.) to be “employable”, and of these only 5 or 6 will be interviewed. What’s the difference between the 45 who have the skills, and the half dozen who potentially are a future investment in the company?

EDIT-

In terms of personality:
passion
thinking for themselves
maturity
common sense
openess to learn
drive

In terms of portfolio:
storytelling
showing process (thinking)
visual communication/graphics
“wow” factor (could be a project, how they sell themselves, the layout, etc.)

R

This was my last intern, I think she is a good reference for what I’m looking for in new hires:
http://www.coroflot.com/public/individual_details.asp?job_seeker_id=186823&t=&keywords=ashley+payne&&page_no=&c=1

This is a really good topic.

[quote=“M”]
What’s the difference between the 45 who have the skills, and the half dozen who potentially are a future investment in the company?
[/quote]

A lot of this comes down to the degree of skill required and sought after by the company for that specific position. It’s not a yes-no questionnaire that an applicant needs to pass.

We happen to look for candidates with the usual diverse design education portfolio, but also an unusually strong ability to work in 3D. modelling and rendering. Often we’ll see a portfolio with great research, ideation sketches, etc, but the final 3D geometry and form development in CAD just falls flat. Of course, we’re just one team with specific deliverable expectations. I think a lot of it boils down to how productive you can be from Day 1.

Then there’s also the “Can I sit next to this guy for 40 hours a week?” question.

I think just having the necessary skillset is table stakes. You can look for a skillset that leans more towards your companies core areas (IE a footwear designer who was a master of 3D but poor at sketching probably wouldn’t be a great fit.) Once you narrow that down it’s a matter of finding the person that you think will be the right fit and will be willing to learn and push themselves over the hump that comes with going from student->professional.

Their personality, communication skills, and outside the portfolio skills are what takes someone from having a great portfolio and skills to getting a job. I’ve seen lots of people with great skills, but just couldn’t present themselves well and didn’t seem like someone that would actually have the confidence and persistance to really get the job done.

From a presentation standpoint, here are a few things that impressed me highly during portfolio reviews.

Presenting a ~300 slide powerpoint in under 60 minutes, and actually having it make sense. Very impressive when most will struggle to get through 20 slides.

Presenting 100 ways of accomlishing the same thing via sketches - very creative, shows extraordinary ideation/thinking skills.

Any projects that were done outside of school are also a huge plus.

Agreed. Skills gets you in the interview. Everyone that I’m interviewing will have top notch skills. The interview is about finding out if it is the right personality fit. Will the person take direction, are they coachable, open to feedback, but do they also have an opinion of their own, a passion to really do something with design and have an underlying set of design principals and ethics that will guide them. Would I trust the person presenting to upper management in my absence? Will I be able to lean on them in a crunch or are they going to flake, or crack, or freak?Will they understand which opportunities are the ones to stand up, and which ones are the time to implement the team’s vision… complex, difficult questions, and it is always a gamble.

I see it, link works…A.P. from CCS

Link works for me.

I’ve never heard of any processed cover letters.

I have HR weed out the total garbage and people who just don’t qualify (about 50%). Then I go through the rest myself. Just resume, no portfolio, out. Poor portfolio out. Mediocre filler work, out. Now I’m down to about 10%. I pick my top 5-10, call those and based on that phone conversation select 3-5 to interview. If those don’t work out (which has happened) I start all over. It is a long process.

The link works for me.

Thanks everyone so far on the input, it’s really shedding light on a new perspective to the hiring process that I think none of us on the bottom rung of the ladder knew anything about.

In terms of portfolio:
storytelling

Thank you for the specific points. Could you elaborate on what “storytelling” means specifically to the design trade? I’ve seen this term used a lot in job postings recently and I can’t get around it not being a quality germane to the occupation of used car salesman. Is it simply another way of saying “coherent” or “connects the dots”?

I think a lot of it boils down to how productive you can be from Day 1.

Then there’s also the “Can I sit next to this guy for 40 hours a week?” question.

Is there anything specific that shows up consistently in portfolios you are seriously considering that says: “we can plug this person in right away” or even “this person will probably be pain in the ass”, or is it an over all impression you form only after the first round of interviews?

From a presentation standpoint, here are a few things that impressed me highly during portfolio reviews.

Thank you for the specific examples. It sounds to me like every successful portfolio needs to have a trump card element of demonstrating outside the box thinking/ability that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with going through the phases of an industrial design project.

So in summary so far: Would it be fair to say the most any rookie can do is present themselves, their skills, and their abilities the best that they can while highlighting their best personality qualities, and then wait for luck take over and land them at the attention of the person who needs what they offer?

Thank you all for the words of wisdom. I(and probably many others) look forward to anymore advice given.

Unfortunately, a lot of HR people aren’t really savvy enough to know “laughable”, to “ok” to “decent at some stuff”, etc, so it all comes through eventually. Eventually can be a few weeks at times…The design team can also push portfolios though HR if someone is a good fit. Ideally, you want a designer person seeing your work first, loving your work, then loving you, then they go through the formalities with HR. As Yo said, it’s a lot of work and can be very frustrating to find new people.

[quote=“M”]
Is there anything specific that shows up consistently in portfolios you are seriously considering that says: “we can plug this person in right away”
[/quote]

Really depends on the position being filled. Most simply…really compelling reasons and really compelling form solutions.

[quote=“M”]
Thank you for the specific points. Could you elaborate on what “storytelling” means specifically to the design trade?
[/quote]

Storytelling is the “compelling reason why”. Could be more of an analytical market study (RKS has MBAs at all their presentations), cultural, personal, style, what’s trending where, etc. Different products require different justifications, (don’t really like that word)

Interesting, can anyone shed their perspective on a portfolio of this volume and how best you would present it? I think the advice that keeping your portfolio to 10 pieces max is bunk, or, only your best work. People often talk about a “good rage”, what if it is broad and vast? Good or bad? How would you communicate this?

If a portfolio has too many pages / projects and is not focused for the job intended, it’s usually discarded. Designers (in my experience) don’t have an extended amount of time in a day to look over portfolios. If it’s clean, well thought out, inventive and ‘to the point’ they will probably get a physical interview. During the interview, it’s reasonable to show a more diverse range of skills.

Agreed. I’d say 20-30 pages max for the one you send in (minimal text), but in person you can have a lot more slides as long as you move through them quickly and fluidly, and don’t be afraid to let the interviewer flip through if you are at a junior level.

Yeah - like I said that was presented, I didn’t have visibility to the portfolio he sent in to get the interview but I am sure that it was not nearly that long.

A lot of content was just quickly flipped through, but it was impressive to me that after the allotted time they actually finished, rather than being 1/10th of the way through.

Ah so things brings up another question, how many are you seeing candidates come to interviews presenting their portfolios electronically via projection/large screen vs. flip book? Are candidates verifying that you have presentation equipment so that they can present their work this way as well?

Ah so things brings up another question, how many are you seeing candidates come to interviews presenting their portfolios electronically via projection/large screen vs. flip book? Are candidates verifying that you have presentation equipment so that they can present their work this way as well?

I think in any case, a candidate should always prepare for the worst. In terms of an interview a digital presentation might be the optimum but what happens when the power blacks out, the projector broke down that very morning or the conference rooms are not available any more?
Then suddenly you have to present on a bench in the hallway or over lunch in a nearby diner.
Not being flexible is a huge turn off.

Yeah, I brought everything and the kitchen sink to my portfolio, 8x11 individual project books, 11x17 Portfolio, sketchbook, research booklets, portfolio in HTML, PPT and PDF, and a flash drive backup of all my side projects incase there was extra time and people were interested.

Surely I would expect this and it’s good practice, in re-phrasing my question, assuming candidates bring all of these things as “back-up” are they preferring to present electronically and make sure the interviewer has the equipment?

If you have you own laptop, bring it. Have it on, PDF open and on sleep mode before you enter the door. No one want to wait for your computer to turn on.

I believe you should tailor your presentation and format to the interview. If it is a one-one-one, flipping through a print book is preferable. If it is to a team of people, a projected presentation might be better. Also, the level and expectation of the interview might differ depending on the position. For an entry level position it might be more about the work and showing you can clearly communicate it + answer questions. For a higher level or management position, a more formal presentation might be a good idea to show you can command a meeting and lead.

Best suggestion is to find out as much as possible about the interview before you go. Who will you be meeting, how long will you have to present, what format they prefer, what they expect, etc.

R