A Guide to Portfolio Review Interviews

This guide highlights how founders can effectively leverage Portfolio Reviews as an interviewing tool to gather high-quality signals on a candidate's past work experiences, how they solved challenges, and the impact they drove.

Portfolio Review as an Interview Tool

One of the best ways to gauge someone's quality of work is to dive into some of their recent past work. For designers especially, you can get a lot of high-quality signals from seeing someone's design outputs rather than asking questions and talking about design.

Portfolio Reviews or Presentations (also called Case Study reviews) are one of the most common and recommended approaches for hiring designers. They are used by companies of all sizes.

In this guide, we'll break down how startups can effectively leverage Portfolio Reviews in their hiring process to draw out some of the insights that we highlighted in our Founder's Guide to the Design Hiring Processes.

How to run a Portfolio Review Interview

We'd recommend scheduling a 45-60 minute interview to run a Portfolio Review interview with a candidate.

Before the call

For the next step in the interview process, please prepare a 15-minute presentation to share a recent case study from your portfolio that you're proud of. We’d love to see the project from where you started working on it, how you navigated the design challenges, and the impact you had with your work.

Call Structure

  1. 5 mins: Introductions & set the stage for the interview
  2. 15 mins: Candidate presents a specific project from their portfolio
  3. 30 mins: Interviewer asks questions to dig deeper into the project, especially topics most relevant to your company or most important to de-risk for this specific candidate
  4. 10 mins: Space for them to ask questions about the role or team

During the call

Give the candidate space to present their work in their own way. Once they open up for questions, here are some prompts you can use to direct the conversation:

  • What would you do differently if you were to do this project again?
  • What was the biggest challenge you had to navigate?
  • When was the project 'complete' from your perspective?
  • How did/would you measure success for this project?
  • What were messy aspects of working on this project that didn't make it to the presentation?
  • How would you take this project further if given another X days/months to work on it?
  • What was your biggest learning or takeaway from working on this?

What you're looking for in a Portfolio Review

  • Ability to tell a cohesive story on what they worked on and why
  • How they view & communicate the impact of their work
  • Understand their involvement, process, impact and problem-solving ability
  • How they communicate & collaborate with teammates

Next Steps after a Portfolio Review

In combination with a culture-fit phone screen and a technical chat, a Portfolio Review should give you all the signals you need to make a confident hiring decision on a candidate. If you still need more signal, it's worth reading into some of the other approaches we recommend, such as a Design Critique or a paid Design Challenge.

At DesignBake, we work closely with founders to not only help them find design candidates, but to also evaluate and offer a designer's perspective on the candidates quality and calibre of work. We review hundreds of portfolios every week, and if you need more input on a candidate that you're unsure about, feel free to drop us a note and we'd be happy to help.