After speaking with many designers through Out of Office Hours and, as a new design leader, interviewing many candidates for a position on my team, I detected a theme with portfolio presentations.
First, the candidate provides a link to a portfolio website, and the hiring manager is intrigued by both its content and aesthetics. The portfolio includes long-form posts that the manager can leisurely read. The candidate then excels during the initial phone screens with a fun conversation about their experiences and a summary of a recent project or two. Then comes the most exciting part: the group presentation.
A common mistake I witness is the recycling of materials: the candidate presents their website instead of an artifact that is appropriate for a presentation. A website is an asynchronous presentation. I can click around, read at my own pace, and take the necessary time to understand each detail. Take a look at the complexity of a website and imagine someone speaking to you while you attempt to decipher its content. Navigation, title, paragraphs of text, images, etc.
Some websites are much busier than this…
A presentation is different. People listening to your voice cannot simultaneously digest a detail-rich website. Listeners require something simple to view so they can subconsciously transition between the words you are speaking, and the content on screen. One moment your words are the primary focus and the content is on the periphery. The next moment they are interpreting the content and your voice moves to the periphery. If a website is on the screen it is highly unlikely that listeners can both follow your words and paragraphs of text. A PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slides presentation is crucial for focus. The applicant is forced to reduce and simplify. Take a look at a simple slide.
Note: All of my slides look like this.
With only a title, a few words, and an image I can quickly ascertain the information the applicant is conveying. Within a couple seconds my primary focus transitions from your voice to the slide and back to your voice. Listeners will miss less of the nuances of your speaking style, personality, and information.
I highly recommend preparing both a portfolio and a presentation when applying for a product design role. Please reach out on Twitter if you have questions. I’d be delighted to review your portfolio and presentation.