Mistakes you’re making with your portfolio and resume

Advice, Career, Design Blog, Portfolio

Designers can be some of the most judgmental drama queens. In some cases you could be a sheep strolling right into a lions’ den. Design critiques prepare us for this for the most part, but not all educations are equal. If you’re lucky enough to have had a strict and knowledgeable professor, chances are (if you listened) you probably already have a job or have had multiple jobs. Not every designer knows everything, obviously. But how do you convey you do know everything that you are suppose to know? Start with these instances that I see time and time again…


It’s hard work and can be kind of annoying revising resumes and portfolios for every company that you apply for, but it is well worth the effort.

  • It shows you are paying attention to their needs.
  • You aren’t wasting their time by over reaching your qualifications.
  • It gives the impression that you are a great fit for them.

Each company kind of has their own language and process…

  • Look very closely at the job description and their website to find a couple unique words that you see a lot. Then include those words in your resume.
  • Some bigger companies have automatic word processors that scan your resume and reject it in seconds if not enough key words from the job description are present.
  • Same goes for how they showcase their client work. If there is a certain flow or process they present their work, you should do something similar, but don’t spend hours replicating it, that’s overkill.

Doing your own research on how to present yourself is key to getting your foot in the door in a competitive job opening. Make sure to save your resume versions per company, some might overlap and can save you some extra work.


Typography nerds are the worst type of designers to please (pun intended). If you are using average fonts such as Helvetica, Optima, or Arial you are seen as a docile house cat with no adventure. But if you use trending fonts that everyone uses, you aren’t original enough. Some typography gurus will go as far to scrutinize if you are using a web font for print. So what font do you use?

  • Find something you like that isn’t too trendy or average.
  • Don’t use display fonts.
  • Free is always easier and there are plenty of resources, but chances are, paid fonts are less common and will probably impress the crabbiest typographer.
  • For god sake, never use comic sans! If you already know this, believe me when I say that some are not so informed.

I may seem like a hypocrite using Lato in quite a bit of my stuff, but gosh darn-it, I love it and it is a respectable font. So if you really really love a common font and have the ability to defend it, then go for it.


Almost all designers have a retina screen monitor. Therefore, they can see your badly compressed images online or in a PDF portfolio. Once they do notice the crappy image, they will think…

  • You are incompetent and can’t down save images properly.
  • And won’t care about producing high quality images for their clients.

I’ve also seen people use found icons as images. Really not a smart idea. Here’s why…

  • You can’t bother to look for pre-made vector icons and customize them.
  • Shows you are too lazy to make your own.
  • They will think you took it from a google search. And if it’s a JPG, it might show loss of quality from being copied over so many times.
  • Vectors are the best because they are crisp and scalable in your documents.

It takes some trial and error to get the best results with difficult images, but if you can’t make it work, toss it, don’t leave it in thinking they won’t care.


Don’t focus on putting all the same work for a very specific position. Example: you don’t need to show all web work in your portfolio for a web design position if you have other talents.

  • They might be looking for someone with other experience for the near future, but don’t want to hire one person for that need or call it out in the job description.
  • Even if you say you have additional experience in other mediums somewhere else in your resume, it might have been overlooked.
  • But focus on your strengths and be honest if you aren’t particularly strong in certain areas that you do show.

So show a variety of your strongest projects, because you don’t know what the company’s roadmap is in the future.


Time and time again you will hear this. You may feel confident or not have time to have someone else look at your work, but it can be a deal breaker for some companies.

  • Some companies serve clients with store items or brands with unique spellings and pricing. They need designers to pay attention to all those details and/or prices in order to deliver a flawless service.
  • They may have had a very public blunder in the past and want to redeem their reputation.

The most important thing to remember is to not just proof read your resume. Your mockups and designs may have spelling or grammatical issues also.


All design shops do website work for their clients. They need designers with web experience. Even if you claim to have web experience, but don’t have your own website…

  • They will think you don’t have enough web experience.
  • You don’t know how to setup a website or how a website works.
  • Don’t want to learn or too scared to try.

We live in a world were the world is only a touch screen away in our pocket. You need a website yesterday!