Tips for designers when applying for your next role

James gives his advice to help you build a better experience design CV and portfolio.

As someone who has been responsible for hiring designers for many years, I have seen hundreds of designers CVs, portfolios and websites. I am amazed that I am still confronted by many of the same old issues with the majority of applicants.

Get the basics right

There is simply no excuse for not ensuring the artefacts you provide to support your application are not in the best state possible. So if you only do the following basics, you will make the lives of those responsible for hiring designers much easier and it will help ensure that you may even be considered for a role.

  1. Never ever submit a CV as a Word doc. As a designer it is expected that some care and attention is given to any document you craft. At the minimum export as a pdf.

  2. Only include your best work in your portfolio, do not show everything you have ever designed.

  3. Your CV should only be one page, you do not need to document your entire life story.

  4. Ensure you make any links within your CV/portfolio clickable in the pdf you provide.

  5. Get your CV/portfolio/website proofread and sense checked.

Know your audience

The person who will be reviewing your CV/Portfolio is more than likely going to be time poor. Think about this context when putting your work together and remember that they see many applications and often review candidates as a batch. Think about what truly sets you apart from other candidates, for example your passion is not enough.

Show your workings

A beautiful design is great, but is it fit for purpose? does it meet the brief? how does it align to the brand vision? is it even possible technically? etc. Unfortunately the Dribbble (which I must add is a great place to review beautifully crafted elements) generation has given far too much prominence to the finished UI, without the ability to judge the appropriateness of the design. With this in mind, it is essential that any designer is able to show their thought process in the shape of rough sketches, scamps, notes, diagrams, scribbles, photos, anything…

It is important to see how you got to the final result, and is often more valuable to see and understand this thinking, rather than just the finished UI in the obligatory Mac screen. You must also be able to articulate the design decisions made throughout the process. Simply stating the design looks like it does because “Erm, I like it” does not cut it.


Designers do not need real work experience or a fully-fledged brief in order to design. The world is ready to be designed. It’s always frustrating when designers complain that they have not had the opportunity to design for a particular industry, context or device.

Designers do not need real work experience

My response to that problem is to just go ahead and do it! If you feel you can improve the UX/UI of anything and can explain your thought processes and rationale, then that speaks for itself. Designers can also worry about not having large brands in their portfolio. As above, the ability to design a usable and visually appealing interface can be possible irrespective of the brand’s size. A big brand does not mean that it’s good work.

Design ability, not software

Nobody is a 5-star Photoshop master and it is no longer acceptable to judge your abilities as a designer by your proficiency in a particular design package.

Software is a tool and your abilities as a designer should break the boundaries of any tools you use. It is more appropriate to state in a CV/portfolio the design skills such as illustration, prototyping and motion design, rather than Illustrator — 4 stars, Sketch — 8/10 and After Effects — Ninja status.

Also please please please stop including cliché infographics documenting how many cups of coffee you have consumed etc.


Designers should present a certain level of confidence (without arrogance) in their abilities as a creative. If they as an individual do not believe in their own talent and knowledge, then how are they going to convince a client that their design is going to work? Having a clear rationale, understanding of design methodologies with a solid knowledge of design theory, should provide the designer with a foundation of guiding principles in which to refer to.

Hopefully if you consider the above it will stand you in good stead for your next design role application. Good luck.

Looking for your next UX designer job role? View our current vacancies: Careers at Foolproof

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