Guide to Building a Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of documents that illustrate your achievements, skills, personal traits and so on. It is generally used in an interview setting to demonstrate your abilities and prior experiences to an interviewer. It also provides you the opportunity to not only tell a potential employer why you are a strong candidate for a position, but also show why.

Traditionally, artists, designers, writers and others in creative professions have used portfolios to showcase their work. More recently, many school boards ask applicants for teaching positions to bring a portfolio to the interview.

A portfolio can be paper-based (presented physically as a binder or folder) or electronic (an "e-portfolio," presented on a laptop or tablet).


Portfolios generally contain two types of documents: samples of your work and documents provided by someone else that speak to your achievements. These documents may include:

  • certificates you've received for completing a project or course,
  • reference letters,
  • copies of your performance reviews for positions you've held,
  • growth, development, or learning action plans,
  • published articles,
  • academic transcripts,
  • self-assessment tools that explain your working or learning styles,
  • conference summary reports,
  • participant evaluations and quotes from events you organized, and
  • team pictures and event brochures that demonstrate teamwork.

In some fields, there are very specific expectations or requirements for portfolio content (e.g. description of one's professional philosophy).

We recommend creating a generic master portfolio that contains all of your documents, and then pulling together a specific, targeted portfolio based on the position you're being interviewed for.


Consider your master portfolio as a work-in-progress that is forever being updated. There is no limit to the amount of artifacts you may collect for your master portfolio and will grow as fast as you're able to collect artifacts.

  • Choose a storage option that works for you. This might include a box, large folder or a flash drive.
  • Develop your own organizational system that works for you (e.g. chronologically, by skill, by area of specialization).
  • Choose the amount of detail you want to retain of each sample (e.g. whole journal articles, complete unit plans).
  • Keep portions of on-going projects not yet completed or concluded to show your skill development
  • Make things easy to find at a later date by attaching an artifact information sheet to it when you archive it.

To make the transition from a master to targeted portfolio, you should:

  • identify your objective,
  • determine your target audience,
  • seek out the skills you want to showcase,
  • organize your documents logically and present concisely, and
  • articulate the relevance of each document.

We recommend:

  • choosing a presentation style that will display your skills and experiences effectively. This might include a binder, briefcase, or electronically on a laptop or tablet.
  • choosing the best examples of your work and limiting your documents to a manageable number.
  • selecting portions of larger documents to capitalize on space and attention (e.g. one article from a large newspaper, one picture from an event).
  • keeping a document sheet close by during the interview to easily refer to each item.