Portfolio or Resume? When To Use Each

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 1, 2021

When applying for jobs, it may be helpful to know whether to give hiring managers your resume or portfolio. Since these are two distinct types of documents — or with a portfolio, a collection of documents — it may help you decide if you know what purpose each serves. By knowing when to use a resume or a portfolio, and understanding what information each may contain, you ensure hiring managers receive relevant information. In this article, we provide definitions of a resume and a portfolio and highlight the differences between them.

What is a resume?

A resume is a formal document job applicants use to list their work experience, qualifications and achievements that may qualify them for the job. This document is typically no longer than one or two pages and should only contain information that directly pertains to the job you're applying for. Most job postings require a resume no matter the position you're applying for.

Many candidates also may supplement their resume with a customized cover letter in which they express their interest in a specific job and company. You can also highlight your skills and qualifications that echo those mentioned in the job description to show your suitability for the job. It's useful to quantify your achievements in both the cover letter and the resume by adding percentages and numbers. Such information can directly show the value you may add to a company.

Related: Writing a Cover Letter: Tips and Examples

What does a resume include?

Although resumes come in multiple formats, such as variations for particular professions, the following information is often present in all resumes:

  • Objective or summary statement: This section serves as an introduction to who you are. You can use it to show a bit of your personality and highlight your relevant skills, qualifications and achievements.

  • Work experience: You only want to add work experience that directly applies to the specific job, including volunteer jobs if they're relevant. Most hiring managers prefer you list your experience in reverse chronological order.

  • Qualifications: As with work experience, you can list relevant qualifications in reverse chronological order in this section.

  • Skills: Use this section to list both hard and soft skills that show your suitability for the job. Aim to incorporate relevant skills from the job description.

  • Hobbies: You can mention hobbies and extra-curricular activities to provide hiring managers with a more holistic idea of who you are.

Related: Resume samples and templates to inspire your next application.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of material and information that provides visual examples of the work you've done in a professional field. Providing a hiring manager or prospective client with samples of the best work you've done is an effective way to show the skills and abilities you have as a professional. Instead of reading about your abilities, hiring managers get to see real-life examples of the work you do, which is useful for gauging whether you'd be a good fit for the company and the position.

A portfolio typically may include different content, such as photographs, videos, illustrations, website links and text. Although a wide range of professionals uses portfolios, they especially provide creative and artistic professionals with a means to showcase their work. Professionals who commonly use portfolios include artists, photographers, designers, writers, architects and developers.

Portfolios once only were in print format, but most candidates create digital portfolios today. There are multiple benefits to using a digital portfolio, including the ability to share your portfolio with multiple people. It is also far easier to add new material and change the layout of a digital portfolio than is the case with a printed one.

What does a portfolio typically include?

Portfolios vary in format and presentation. To help you decide what type of information to include, here are a few common sections that often appear in portfolios:

  • Statement of originality: Add a statement of originality, which is a brief paragraph that states that the work you have included in your portfolio is original and confidential. You can also mention specific information and samples that others may not copy.

  • Career summary: A career summary is an effective way to introduce yourself as a professional by describing what it is you do. You can show your expertise in your profession by listing specific achievements and backing these up with percentages and numbers.

  • Philosophy statement: A philosophy statement, or mission statement, is where you state your core beliefs, values and motivations, and what you appreciate about the profession you're in.

  • Brief biography: A brief biography provides you with an opportunity to tell hiring managers or prospective managers a bit about yourself. You can summarize your career trajectory so far and what motivated you to make the career decisions you did. This section can also include your contact details so readers know how to get hold of you.

  • Resume: It's important to realize a portfolio doesn't serve as a replacement for a resume but supplements a resume. Although you may already have supplied a recruiter with your resume by the time you get to show them your portfolio, it's useful to add a link to your resume in your portfolio too.

  • Work samples: The work sample section is the most important part of your portfolio because providing real-life samples of your work is the primary purpose of a portfolio. Aim to include samples of your best work that show all your relevant skills. Depending on your profession, you can include anything from charts to articles to lesson plans. You can also mention any accolades or positive feedback relating to specific work samples.

Related: How to Build Your Work Portfolio

Resume vs. portfolio

Although you may have a broad understanding of what the differences are between a resume and a portfolio, it may be helpful to glance through a short comparison such as:

  • Purpose: The purpose of a cover letter and a resume is to get hiring managers to notice you and invite you for a first interview. Once you have an interview, you can provide hiring managers with a portfolio so they can gain a more in-depth understanding of the work you do and what you offer.

  • Format: A resume is a short and succinct document in which you describe your relevant qualifications, work experiences and skills in writing. In contrast, a portfolio contains a wide variety of content, which can include videos, web pages, photographs, illustrations, graphs and more. Since it contains samples of your work and in-depth information regarding your professional abilities, a portfolio can become quite extensive and usually takes time to put together.

  • Requirement: Whereas employers typically require a resume for every job application, a portfolio is not always relevant. Although a wide scope of professionals outside of the creative industries are increasingly using portfolios to showcase their abilities, certain careers may not be a good fit for this format, such as teachers or mechanics.

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