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Why Well Produced Career Portfolios Are Replacing CVs

What is a Career Portfolio?

The original portfolio used by artists looking for work was simply a collection of works demonstrative of the artists style and ability. Because their works varied in size and shape, portfolios came in all sizes and shapes. Fashion designers would lug a box of their clothing and accessory designs from interview to interview hoping for the big break. Potential employers or commission agents could view the art or garments and decide if applicants were likely to be able to paint or design what they had in mind. In more recent days, people such as architects, whose work has a personal dimension, carried rolls of drawings and photographs to interviews.

Now others have realised the potential of portfolios and jumped onto the bandwagon, but with electronic and physical portfolios.

A portfolio is, according to a dictionary, "A portable case for holding material, such as loose papers, photographs, or drawings. The materials collected in such a case, especially when representative of a person's work: a photographer's portfolio; an artist's portfolio of drawings."

A reworked definition could perhaps refer to a portfolio as, "a collection of evidence, nicely presented, that job applicants show prospective employers to help present their case." It might also be an online or electronic portfolio. But whatever we call it, it differs from a Curriculum Vitae or Resume.

Differences between a Portfolio and a Resume

While a resume presents a summary of a job seekers qualifications, experience and special attainments etc, it doesn't necessarily contain verifiable evidence. This verifiability of evidence has become a challenge for HR professionals as the number of false claims to teriary qualifications and experience increase. A portfolio contains original documentation and certification from appropriate authorities and is therefore less likely to be fraudulent.

This is a great benefit both to the recruiting people and job applicants.

How is a Career Portfolio presented?

If you load a search engine and type "career portfolio" into the search field and press enter, you'll find dozens of online portfolios. These are excellent tools for such people as photographers, graphic designers and others whose work is highly visual and capable of being displayed cost effectively and efficiently.

I tell my clients to place their original documentation in a binder containing plastic envelopes with heading pages dividing each topic eg,

  • Cover Page (with name and career goals)
  • Table of Contents (if it's large)
  • Personal Details
  • Qualifications
  • Experience
  • Awards
  • Referees

    All the original documents are placed behind the relevant heading in reverse chronological order. When presenting it to a potential employee, take only those items that are relevant from the plastic envelopes, have them photocopied and reassemble the portfolio with original cover and topic pages and duplicate evidence pages. Either staple it three times down the left side or spend a little more and comb bind it. (Some recruiters need to photocopy applications and ask for documents not to be bound. If that's the case, simply attach a clip to the top of it).

    Send the copy with your job application and advise the recruiting authority that you will bring originals with you to the interview for examination. Wherever practicable, get your original documents verified by a suitable authority eg, Notary Public.

    Do I include my Resume?

    It's purely a matter of personal choice. I'd prefer to attach the resume to my letter of application, but to keep it separate from the portfolio. If you'd prefer to include it, perhaps consider using it instead of a table of contents That way, it can point to the other items presented in the portfolio.


    When you apply for a job you need as much in your favour as possible. A portfolio can add weight to the credibility of your application, especially if it contains things like copies of reports you have written, projects you managed, letters of congratulations for doing a good job etc. But be careful. Don't make it a contest to see how much padding you can cram into your portfolio. Maintain a healthy balance between proving your superior worth for a job and boasting about the dozens of wonderful, but largely irrelevent things you have done.

    Good luck with your proftolio.

    Copyright Robin Henry 2005

    Robin Henry is an educator, human resources specialist and Internet marketer. He helps small to middle-sized businesses and individuals improve performance by accessing smart technology and processes and personal development. He runs his business Desert Wave Enterprises from Alice Springs, Central Australia and can be found at

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