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How to Respond to a Job Applicant's Portfolio

A growing number of Alberta job seekers are using portfolios to market their skills and supplement their resumés. As an employer or hiring manager, you may not have seen an applicant portfolio before and may be uncertain about its value. You can use a job applicant's portfolio to assess a job applicant’s work and communication and presentation skills. Use this tip sheet to understand:

  • what to expect in an applicant's portfolio
  • how to respond when an applicant uses a portfolio
  • how to assess an applicant's portfolio.

What to expect in an applicant’s portfolio

A job applicant will want to highlight their skills, knowledge, achievements and personal qualities in their portfolio in order to demonstrate their value as a potential employee.

An applicant may present a portfolio in hard copy or digital format, and may contain some or all of the following:

  • a resumé
  • career goals
  • education and training documents, such as licenses and certificates
  • work performance documents, such as employer evaluations, awards, and customer satisfaction surveys
  • evidence of people skills, such as committee or team work
  • evidence of communication skills, such as written reports, web pages and blogs
  • evidence of volunteer and community services.

How to respond when an applicant uses a portfolio

An applicant who wants to use a portfolio during an interview should provide you with advance notice. As a courtesy, you should inform the applicant if a portfolio is not an appropriate tool to use during the interview.

An applicant should also let you know if a computer or Internet access will be required for a digital portfolio. During the interview, the applicant should:

  • use only specific items relevant to the discussion and your questions, unless invited by you to show the entire portfolio
  • be able to turn to a relevant portfolio item and speak easily about it
  • leave part or all of the portfolio for your review.

When a job applicant has a portfolio, you should:

  • acknowledge the portfolio at the start of the interview and say whether you prefer to view specific portfolio items as relevant or the entire portfolio at one time
  • say whether you want the applicant to remain seated or sit beside you when showing portfolio items
  • ask for the applicant to leave their portfolio for your review if it piques your interest.

How to assess an applicant's portfolio

Use these questions to help guide your assessment.

  • Was the portfolio professional in organization and appearance?
    • Did the portfolio contain information relevant to the position? Does the portfolio contain the best examples of the applicant’s work?
    • Did the portfolio have a professional and coherent look and feel? Was it concise—no more than 25 pages in length?
    • Were hard copy portfolio items clean and unworn? Were digital portfolio items easily accessed and viewed?
  • Did the applicant use the portfolio confidently and appropriately?
    • Was the applicant able to quickly locate relevant portfolio items?
    • Was the applicant able to speak easily and confidently when showing a portfolio item?
    • Did the applicant rely too much on the portfolio in answering questions?

Benefits of seeing a job applicant portfolio

An applicant uses a portfolio during an interview to illustrate accomplishments that make the person attractive to hire.

When you know how to evaluate an applicant's portfolio, you’re in a better position to assess the applicant’s value to your organization. Ultimately, a strong portfolio may be one of the deciding factors that lead you to hire the applicant.

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