I get a handful of emails asking for portfolio reviews from people who have somehow found mine. Frankly I think my portfolio has a few issues that I just wanted to air out because I don’t want readers thinking my approach is a textbook good example for students. While I think my site is okay and gets the job done, there is always room for improvement. However, I don’t really have the motivation to completely redo my site as I’m not doing cold applications to jobs now so just posting the problems I see that I will fix someday to bring the site into the 20s.
The not so great
- Too many mediocre featured projects. When I look at portfolios before interviewing a candidate, I really only need to see their top 5 or so best projects related to the job they’re trying to apply for.
- When I first started out I didn’t have many projects so I had to feature the things I had at the time. However, since I haven’t actively been on the job market without being a referral in several years I haven’t had to really make the hard emotional decision of what to delete. I improve so much every year, having older projects that don’t look polished brings down the average impression. The old projects have high emotional value to me… but won’t to viewers.
- No up to date reel on my landing page.
- I had a reel I edited myself in 2010. It is good for viewers just to get a quick look at your history, especially non-technical recruiters. They take a lot of effort to keep up to date though.
- Not enough gifs
- As any indie marketing guide will tell you, gifs are way better than static screenshots at getting gameplay across. Don’t include so many that the site is slow though.
Things that I like about my site
- Short descriptions focused on what I contributed to a project.
- When I’m about to interview someone I want them to do well, so I will look for things they talk about in their CV or portfolio to ask them into more detail on. Often it’s a great conversation starter for me as the interviewer to be like “I see you optimized something by X percent here, how did you do that?”
- Keeping it short is very important. When evaluating portfolios I don’t want to read a candidates life story, I usually want to get an overview in under a minute so I can look at the next of many candidates.
- Screenshots and videos of each project
- While I mentioned about this should include gifs as well the important thing is you have some visual way for people to evaluate you quickly for the less than a minute a hiring manager will likely be thinking about you.
- No in your face code samples
- This might be a controversial opinion but I don’t think code samples should be the first thing someone sees about me. When I’m evaluating candidates I basically ignore any code sample not from a code test because they tend to be easy for bad candidates to cheat and just copy someone else’s work. They also allow bad interviewers to nitpick something stupid in a coding style that doesn’t really matter.
Another tip as you look for portfolio examples to check the wayback machine. It’s good to remember that no one programmer started out with a ton of projects and you can see sites evolve over time.
If you, dear reader, have questions feel free to email me. I don’t have all the answers but I think it’s important to help new people get in the industry and pay it forward.