In a dream world, your work is what gets you work. But as any creative knows, that’s only effective if your work is getting in front of the right attentive eyeballs. While it feels creatively rewarding to take on personal projects, update your website, and hope someone sees it. And those things are super important—it doesn’t matter how many LinkedIn searches you pop up in if you can’t show the work that qualifies you for the job. But your work has been seen to get you more work.
We’ll say this: shift 10 percent of your efforts into making sure your work is easy to find, easy to browse, and easy to show to other people. We talked to experienced creative recruiters at some of the best creative agencies about how to format your LinkedIn and digital portfolio for best results.
Creatives are Bad at LinkedIn. So a Good LinkedIn Stands Out
Most creative people think of LinkedIn as nothing more elevated than a daytime Tinder, a crass marketplace for people to promote themselves and get hired. They’re not entirely wrong, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn to play the game and put themselves in a position to be seen by recruiters or anyone looking for talent.
“LinkedIn profiles are becoming more and more valuable in the digital age compared to a traditional resume. Though I still spend much more time on a creative’s digital portfolio than I do on LinkedIn, it’s still incredibly important. LinkedIn profiles much quicker to update than a resume or a portfolio, and are much easier for recruiters to search. Recruiters will eventually end up on your portfolio, but a lot of times they start at your LinkedIn profile.
Use keywords that allow us to find you on the search function within LinkedIn—your titles, verticals you’ve worked in, and companies are some of those. Put a link to your portfolio in your bio. P.S.: if your creative agency uses some weird wacky title for copywriter or art director (I get it, it’s part of the charm), make sure you add those words in body text so that your profile is still searchable. I’m also not sure most people know this, but you can show on your LinkedIn profile that you’re ‘Open to New Opportunities’ and show where you’ll relocate to.”
—Kate Moore, Recruiting Manager at Barkley
“In the creative world, ideal candidates include their portfolio or samples of their work on their LinkedIn, which helps me to cross-reference their LinkedIn resume and their visual work.”
—Laila Santiago, Creative Recruiter
How Many Pieces to Show
You might not have a lot to share. You might have a lot of projects, but you only played a tiny role in each of them. But there’s a right way to make your experience shine—and a right way to bolster it with personal projects to get a job that’s a little different from what you do.
“There’s no one answer to this, and depends so much on your background and level of experience. I know writers or ADs who have spent 2 years on one client, and have 2 consumer campaigns to show for it. Fine, but beef that out with some of your side hustles, and make sure those 2 comprehensive campaigns show a lot about your workstyle and conceptual thought process.
There may be a sweet spot of six to 10 pieces, but do not put in pieces just to hit a certain number—make sure you’re conscious of what you’re adding. The worst thing I can hear in an interview is ‘Well, I don’t love this piece as much but I wanted to add more in.’ Gordon Ramsey believes you shouldn’t put food on a presentation plate if it doesn’t serve a purpose and can’t be eaten. I feel the same way about books.”
“For me, it’s quality versus quantity. So I’d rather have four solid pieces of work versus eight average pieces. For more junior-level folks who might not have a ton of work produced yet, they can focus on personal projects in addition to whatever work they’ve made.”
—Lindsey L., Senior Recruiter
“I would say no less than five or six—anything less makes it hard to grasp the aesthetic and style of the artist.”
—Natalie Motto, Creative Recruiter
“I would say this definitely depends on the candidate’s level of experience. If I am looking at a junior-level portfolio, I expect to see one to three professional projects along with six to 10 personal projects. If I am looking at a senior level candidate, I expect to see more than 10 professional projects showcased.”
How They Prefer to View Candidates’ Work
Art directors, copyeditors, social media managers, photographers, and graphic designers all show their work in different ways. But there are general rules that’ll amplify your chances of success, whether you’re showing off a site full of visuals, client logos, or personal projects.
“An online portfolio is crucial to creative work. As a recruiter, we’re often sifting through large amounts of profiles at a time. Your digital presence needs to be simple to navigate, easy to understand, and allow us a true view of you as a creative. That being said, I always encourage on-site interviewers to bring their physical portfolios. There’s some rad pride that happens when you have a tangible representation of your creativity.”
“[I] prefer to review candidates’ work with an online portfolio/personal website. That way they can showcase their work in whatever way they’d like. It’s the easiest to navigate and to send to recruiters.”
“Although I appreciate viewing a candidate’s portfolio/work via a printed book, I do prefer viewing their website because I am able to see the quality of their work, especially for a short form copywriter and/or Art Director. Plus, we live in a digital and social media driven world. When I view candidates work online, I am looking at the finalized project.”
Don’t Raise These Red flags
“This sounds obvious, but spelling errors. Yes, even if you’re an art director. Spell check exists.
I also don’t like seeing a complete lack of their history. Why have a page if you don’t include any information on it? A profile with little-to-no info makes me think you set this up years ago and haven’t logged in since.”
“Some of the biggest red flags would be grammatical and spelling errors. Definitely avoid those. I would say hiring managers also avoid those who are a little too jumpy—like those that don’t work anywhere more than a year. And in terms of the format, your profile should be easy to read. Because it also translates a lot into how they organize their actual work.”
—Mabel Liang, Senior Recruiter
“Often times, creatives may have worked on a campaign that was super successful and got a lot of media/PR buzz, but it can be deceiving. The creative may have only worked on the social piece of the campaign or played a small part, or maybe it truly was their idea. So I always love when there’s a description of the project and a write-up about the part they played in the campaign.”
“Their portfolio link is broken or inaccessible and their work is vague or hidden.”
“Red flags on LinkedIn are usually an incomplete profile—no details/description on any of their roles or an inactive link to their portfolio.. Especially when you are applying to jobs, a great candidate has all of their information up to date and includes their portfolio/work.”