Portfolio vs. Resume: What They Include and When to Use Them
When you're applying for jobs, employers may ask for a variety of application materials, including a resume or a portfolio. Resumes and portfolios can help you showcase your skills, technical knowledge and experience. Understanding the purpose and advantages of these materials can allow you to show a hiring manager why you're the right candidate for a role.
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 candidates use when applying for a new role to list their work experience, academic qualifications and achievements that may qualify them for the position. It's typically no longer than one or two pages and only contains information that directly pertains to the position they're pursuing.
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.
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:
This section serves as an introduction to who you are as a candidate. You can use it to show a bit of your personality and highlight your relevant skills, qualifications and achievements throughout your career so a hiring manager wants to read the rest of the document. Hiring managers may review several resumes when looking for a candidate and a strong professional summary can help you gain their attention.
You only want to add work experience that directly applies to the specific job, including volunteer jobs and internships if they're relevant. Most hiring managers prefer you list your experience in reverse chronological order.
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. Soft skills may include communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. Hard skills may include graphic design, direct sales, and computer programming.
This section includes your most recent degree, field of study, and name of school. Depending on the role you pursue, employers may want to learn more about your academic credentials to ensure you're qualified.
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 possess. 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 candidates use portfolios, they especially provide creative and artistic candidates with a means to showcase their work. Individuals who commonly use portfolios include artists, photographers, designers, writers, architects and developers.
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 or copy without permission.
A career summary is an effective way to introduce yourself as a candidate 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.
A philosophy statement, or mission statement, is where you state your core beliefs, values and motivations. This also enables you to describe what you appreciate about your profession.
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 and goals 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.
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.
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 outcomes, or lessons learned relating to specific work examples.
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:
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.
A resume is a short and succinct document in which you describe your relevant qualifications, work experience and writing skills. 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.
Related: How To Use a General Resume Format
Whereas employers typically require a resume for every job application, a portfolio is not always relevant. Although a wide scope of individuals 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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