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Some tips which helped me prepare a portfolio presentation that landed me offers at Meta (Facebook) and Amazon.
Portfolio presentations are an important part of any UX interview. I recently interviewed for a Product Design internship at Facebook and Amazon, and both of these companies had Portfolio Presentation as their final interview round. In this article, I would be presenting some points which I learned from my mentors and implemented in my portfolio presentations when I was preparing for these interviews.
Before I get started, let me quickly introduce what portfolio presentations are.
In these interviews, you present some of the best projects you’ve done in the past to demonstrate your design process, the design decisions you took, and your learnings and experiences from them.
Typical portfolio presentations are around 30–60 minutes. In the allotted time, you can present 1–2 projects. Because of COVID most of these interviews happen over zoom.
How should you present your portfolio?
You can present your portfolio through your portfolio website or by making a slide deck. I highly recommend making a slide deck because —
- You can customize your deck for every interview based on the requirements for the job and the company.
- Through your slide deck, you can dive deep into one aspect of your project.
- The interviewer can note down the slide number to ask you questions later
Which projects should you present?
I spent a lot of time deciding which projects I should present. If you have multiple projects to choose from, then you should-
- Research the firm you are interviewing for and try finding out what products or challenges the design team is trying to solve. For example, Facebook’s most important product is their mobile app, so I decided to include a project which involved designing on a mobile platform.
- Choose projects that have an impact. Metrics from user testing validate your design.
- Present projects where you’ve contributed significantly. If you know everything about the product and its design decisions, it will be easier to answer the interviewer’s questions.
- You can choose a work project, a personal project, or a school project. Do not worry if the problem is not complex enough. The interviewer mostly won’t judge the complexity of the problem you are solving but they will judge your thought process and design decisions as a designer.
The basic structure of your portfolio presentation can be something like this:
- Introduction (5min) — The interviewer will start by introducing themselves and will talk about their role in the company. After that, you will be given a chance to introduce yourself. You can talk about your background, how did you get into design, what are some other things you like doing, your story, and an overview of the presentation you are giving. Keep the introduction short and crisp.
- Projects (~15 min each) — In the next section, I will highlight some points that you can present in these 15 minutes.
- Q&A (~5–10 min)— The interviewer will ask you questions about the projects you presented. They will dive deep into certain design decisions that you took during your projects. Prepare for questions like — “Why did you do it this way?”. The interviewer will also give you a chance to ask some questions you have about the firm, the design team, or the role you are interviewing for. In my interviews at Facebook and Amazon, I was asked questions while I was presenting my projects. In some of the interviews which my friends gave, the interviewers asked them questions at the end of the presentation. Be prepared for both of these situations.
What should you highlight while you are presenting your projects?
15 minutes might seem very less when you have a lot of things to talk about in your projects. In the presentation, you can highlight the following things for your project —
- About the project — Here, you can talk about your project, provide some context and background to the problem you were solving.
- Your role and contribution — Portfolio presentations are more about you, so try to highlight what role you played in the project and what were your specific responsibilities. If you were the only designer, give an overview of all your contributions to the project.
- Teamwork and collaboration — Highlight who you worked with and cross-functional collaboration. Also, try showing teamwork throughout your presentation. How did you hand over your designs to the developers? How did you collaborate with the PMs? How did you present the design to your client?
- The problem — Highlight the problem and make the problem statement very clear. Talk about why did you decide to choose the problem you were working on.
- How did you solve your problem — Here you can highlight your process, and the approach you took to solve the identified problem. Try to focus more on the rationale behind each decision you took.
- Some decisions and tradeoffs — You can also talk about some ideas which you did not consider and why did you have to make those tradeoffs.
- What did you learn — Highlight your learnings from the project. How was your experience? What did you learn from this project? How did it improve your skills? What would you do differently if given a chance? This will show the interviewer how have you grown as a designer.
A summary of some tips —
- Explain your role in detail — The interviewer is mostly trying to evaluate you as a designer so it is very important to highlight what your contributions were in the project which is being presented. If you make that clear, they will get a better understanding of you as a designer and it will help them decide if you are a better fit for the role.
- Explain who you collaborated with and show your teamwork — In professional projects, you will work with cross-functional teams and different people. I think it is important to highlight how did you do this in your past work. If you worked alone, you can also talk about a possible collaboration. For example, “if this was to be developed, I would collaborate with the developer…”
- Start by establishing a context — I think giving a context can form a very good story. When you explain the background and the context, your problem has a foundation, it is easy to understand why did you decide to go ahead with it and also your solution.
- Prepare for last-minute changes — Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you want them to. If your presentation can run overtime, if you have less time and one whole project to present, be prepared with things you want to do in these cases.
- Clearly state the problem many times in the presentation — We can make it easy for the interviewer to understand the presentation by stating our problem many times and repeating it. The interviewer is not only listening to you but they are also making notes on the side. It’s like the heuristic, recognition over recall where you keep reminding about the problem you are trying to solve so that it all makes sense.
- Focus on the depth not the breadth of your project — There’s so much we do as designers in the project we are involved in. And, when it comes to presenting our projects, we want to show the interviewer everything we did. Doing this will only extend your presentation and you won’t have time left to explain the important design decisions and your solution. You can briefly explain everything you did and then explain one user flow in detail. Create a story and try to eliminate unnecessary details which do not make sense or are not very relevant to your story.
- Show iterations, highlight your decisions and rationale — Instead of just presenting your final solutions, try to explain your journey to that screen/artifact. Show an initial sketch of that artifact and explain what was wrong with it, what was right, what did the users feel when you showed it to them. You can also showcase how you decided to include/eliminate certain design elements in that screen/artifact.
- Present metrics, impact, customer testimonials — You can also include some metrics from user testing. It will bolster the designs that you presented. If the product you are presenting is live, then you can also show results from web analytics and customer testimonials from google, play store, or app store. If it is a school project and you’ve done user testing with some users, you can also include some things which they said about your solutions.
- Practice, Practice, and Practice — After making my presentation, I practiced it with many people. I showed it to a few design mentors and requested them to ask me questions. I also showed it to my friends who were not aware of my project and evaluated if they understood the story I was trying to tell.
I also recently gave a presentation on “How to make a portfolio presentation” at Indiana University Center of Excellence for Women in Technology where I have also explained a detailed structure of the portfolio presentations. You can view the Youtube recording here —
Thank you for reading my article. Reach out if you have any questions or just want to say hi. You can find me here —
Portfolio Presentation for UX Design Internship Interviews was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.