Career Advice
May 25, 2022

How to Nail a Portfolio Interview?

How to Nail a Portfolio Interview?

A portfolio interview is a presentation on your past design works. It is presented in order for you to get a job position in a company, collaborate on a new project, or pitch a new upcoming project. The process involves presenting your design concept, challenges, and results in the most impactful way for the company.

Every decision you make, every problem-solving technique that you approach must have a rationale behind it. There is no right or wrong judgment, how you present yourself while describing your portfolio during the interview will determine who you are as a designer.

The tips on this blog are from our mentor Federico Francioni, the Principal People Experience Designer at Meta (Facebook) from his “Beyond the Portfolio: What Will Get You Hired” group session.

“Showcasing your work is important, but your craft (portfolio) is not the only thing you should be relying on. You have a creative mind, a unique story to tell, be bold and show a portfolio that you’re really proud of.”- Federico.

Federico highlighted that avoiding the standard portfolio and resume formats when presenting yourself and your work is the first thing to consider, you need to be different. Interviewers want to know you through the work you have done.

When presenting your case studies, you need to master the two ‘S’s:

  • Structure

The combination of your soft skills and strategic thinking, to go beyond form and function and enable cross-functional dynamics.

  • Storytelling

The way you demonstrate your uniqueness and convey your value to the people interacting with you establishes a peer relationship. 

Structure For Case Studies

Present a succinct and robust case study. There are effective ways for you to present the main outcomes of your case studies. Leveraging data in an organized and objective manner will support you to present your portfolio seamlessly during your interview as well as gain a better understanding by your interviewers. This will make your presentation easy to follow through experience.

  1. The STAR method

    This is the most effective approach for answering interview questions. Clearly, define your Scenario, Tasks, Actions, and Results.

    Scenario: Problem X occurs during the design process.

    Tasks: I brainstormed on three different solutions: A, B, and C.

    Actions: I made the decision to solve the problem with solution C.

    Results: Solution C did not solve the problem. I repeated the same process using different solutions and in the end, A helped me to solve the problem. 

    Keep in mind this is just one of the frameworks you can use. Some people add Challenges and/or Metrics. The important thing is to make sure you know how to tell your case study effectively in no more than 5 mins, as an elevator pitch. Bonus point if you can frame it in a way it answers one of the typical questions an interview might ask you.

  1. The XFN Interaction
    Highlight the different cross-functional stakeholders in your projects: whether they were clients or collaborators, who did you work with and who did you design for? Explain your learning takeaways from the projects. Make the project reflection beforehand in order for you to share the story of your projects better. Remember, being a great team player is more important than being a know-it-all subject-matter-expert.

  2. Business, Data, and Tech
    You do not have to master these three dimensions according to Federico, but you should consider the implications for your design. Business stakeholders from marketing or finance might be sitting at the table with you, it’s important to understand what is their strategic goal and their perspective of the problem / opportunity.

    Data is not making you a less talented designer: knowing how to use data to inform your design choices is a plus, but if you can proactively interact with data analysts / engineers / scientists asking them for some specific insights, you’re a star. Technology is what enables digital design, so the concept of how ‘expensive’ your design is… matters. Overall, Federico believes designers are first of all makers. And to make things happen, we need participation from a lot of non-designers collaborators!

Storytelling For Case Studies

Tell an effective story to your audience. Effective doesn’t mean that works for you, the presenter. It means that the story works for the person who’s listening. . Federico has 3 tips on how you could work on your storytelling skill. 

  1. Design your story to be Immediate.

    Craft your story well so that it is easy for your interviewer to understand. Erase the expectation that your interviewer will be fully engaged and energetic on that day. They are human too, and running interviews on top of their daily task causes mental exhaustion. The easier it is to understand your story and take notes, the more chance you have of being successful. That also means you don’t have to talk a lot, but you better be straight to the point.

  2. Design your story to be Memorable.

    You must have a few favorite stories of your own. Think about the elements that you remember the most in those stories. What makes you excited about the story and love about the story to this day? On your interview day, keep in mind that there will be other candidates sharing their case studies on the same day. 

    Think of a few ways to make you stand out (but remain relevant) from other candidates. What makes your story unique that will make the audience remember you? It does not have to be extravagant but, it has to be your own unique story that sets you apart from other candidates.

    Do you have an unusual background? Did you learn something special? Did you end up with a big failure and a bigger lesson learned? These are just some examples of how to enhance your uniqueness.

  1. Design your story to be Interactive.

    Remember that long lecture with no room to ask questions? How bored you were and how loud you screamed from the inside? Don’t just share your process from A to Z. Try and seek opportunities to establish conversations with your interviewers.

    For examples:
  • Are there any projects you want me to start presenting first?
  • Other than the details I shared earlier, would you like to know more about the project?
  • Before I move on to the next project, do you have any questions?

You can view the teaser deck on this topic in this blog written by Federico on Beyond the Portfolio: what will get you hired.

Want to have your portfolio reviewed or practice your interview with our mentors? Book a session at

Federico Francioni (ADPList Mentor)
Principal People Experience Designer at Meta (Facebook)
ADPList Profile:

Editor and Writer:
Farah Radzi
Content Marketer and Writer at ADPList