I have many clients in creative careers that demand online or print portfolios: writers, graphic artists, photographers and web designers, among others. When hiring managers or recruiters look at job applicants for communications or design positions, they expect to see samples of previous work at some point.
Any creative person about to engage in a job search should make sure to accumulate physical or electronic samples of projects that will be mentioned in the resume. Those samples might include before and after screen shots of a website, the final version of a brochure or the various uses of a logo design. The physical evidence of an accomplishment (“Designed company logo used nation-wide”) is very powerful.
The key here is to make sure that the resume supports the physical evidence and the physical evidence supports the resume. One photographer applied for a position at a technical company with a portfolio of portraits. The company had no interest in his portraiture; they wanted someone who could photograph step-by-step the process of assembling various products. A technical writer brought a luggage carrier to her job interview to hold examples of all the manuals she had ever written, from first job to last. The hiring manager felt overwhelmed—who has time to look through a luggage carrier full of examples?—and cut the interview short.
Both your resume and your portfolio should be targeted to the job you are applying for, and the information you offer should be recent, relevant and balanced.
Graphic artists, photographers, web designers, writers and those in similar creative fields should avoid adding flourishes to their resumes to show off their skills. That is the job of the portfolio. A resume with too many creative elements may never make it past an automated resume tracking system; those systems expect straight-forward resumes. Moreover, an elaborate design can easily overwhelm the resume’s content.