How NOT to get hired in UX

I've reviewed thousands of designer resumes and portfolios. Here's what you should avoid if you want to be hired.
A macintosh system 1 style modal notifies the user "Design Manager: It looks like you have no idea what you're doing. Would you like some help?" with the actions "You wot?" & "Yes"

How not to build your portfolio

Don't you dare use a template

Similar to aching joints before a storm, design managers have a sixth sense when it comes to discerning real portfolios from templates and the latter is always a negative.

Your portfolio is your chance to showcase your creativity without anybody looking over your shoulder. Don’t waste that opportunity.

Don't write essays

Design managers don’t have time to read your novel about how changing the corner-radius on a button was a spiritual experience for you. Excessive copy is a sign of unorganized thinking and demonstrates that you don’t know how to design content.

Your portfolio should demonstrate great text hierarchy with digestible snippets that highlight the most important elements of your work.

Don't conflate your interests

Your weekend DJ hobby should not subsume your portfolio. Supplementary skills, like illustration, can be attractive traits but they should not overshadow your UI UX.

Focus your portfolio on work that most matches the role you’re looking for.

Don't exaggerate the process

Avoid creating a diary of the design process. Nobody can tell if you’re a good designer because you drew a grid system on a coffee stain.

Focus images on fundamental design updates. Use process images sparingly.

Don't use a design file

Figma and Sketch files do not provide tailored experiences expected from a portfolio and can raise doubt on your technical literacy.

Websites are tangible evidence that you know the constraints of development.

Don't use freemium websites

When I say don’t use freemium websites, what I really mean is don’t share a portfolio with WIX banners plastered across the page like a child doing paper mache with ad clippings. Provider watermarks reflect poorly on you as they’re prominent, distracting, and irrelevant - everything you don’t want in a design.

Invest the $8 to remove billboards made out of digital cardboard.

Don't focus on large self-portraits

Constructing your portfolio around a self-portrait is akin to cooking a five course meal and serving the frying pan as the first course. Sure, the pan was instrumental in cooking the meal but nobody came over to eat it.

Show me your work, not your face.

Don’t omit what you were responsible for

A design manager shouldn’t have to guess what you did in a project. We can’t assess you properly if we don’t know whether you made a graphic or built everything from scratch.

Always give detailed information on what you contributed to a project.

Don't skimp on the images

A design manager should not be starved for design. Visual gluttony and visual emaciation are both sins but at least you’re not going to bed hungry with the former.

Use at least one image per fundamental design update.

Don’t design your portfolio with a microscope

Small text and small images are cardinal sins in UI design. Your kawaii micro-text harms usability and your ant-sized image is basically useless.

Keep line-run in mind when building your portfolio and avoid going below 12px text. Avoid small images by increasing the size or allowing zoom.

Don't mess with scrolling

If you’re considering custom scrolling animations and stop-points, ask yourself if building a Frogger clone into your page scrolling will improve the experience.

Seriously, don’t mess with it. It’s not worth it.

Don't forget mobile

Design managers are busy people and may first see your portfolio on a phone or tablet. If your portfolio isn’t up to snuff on all devices your chances could be diminished.

Your portfolio site should look and function beautifully on desktop and mobile. Additionally, your showcase designs should always include mobile when applicable.

Don't forget to optimize your website

If your portfolio loads like a fax machine you’re going to have a hard time impressing design managers. Those artificial loading animations aren’t helping you either.

Run your website through a page-speed analyzer before sending out your portfolio.

How not to share your resume

Don't use weird file types

A hiring manager shouldn’t have to load a MIDI file into their Casio keyboard to find where you worked in the past 5 years.

A designer’s resume should be in PDF format.

Don't send a bland resume

Any raw word document submit as a design resume should be considered a personal failure. If you can't make it past the style-check, your history doesn't matter.

The first thing a design manager looks at in your resume is the style. A proper design resume is simple, digestible, and showcases your skillset.

Don’t use multiple pages for your resume

Resumes that are 2 or more pages indicate issues with information hierarchy, decision making, and prioritization.

Whether you’ve worked in design for 10 days or 10 years, use a 1 page resume that is digestible and highlights the most important criteria of your employability.

How not to fill out your application

Don't use AI to answer questions

ChatGPT isn’t applying for the job and the inane lists that droid-mind copy-pastes are easy to spot. If you can’t be bothered to write a response on a job application, why would a design manager be bothered to consider you for the position?

Write your own response.

Don’t use shortened or suspicious links

Shortened links (like have hidden destinations and come with cybersecurity risks that are automatic red flags to design managers.

Use traditional domains for your portfolio website. If hiring managers don’t feel safe clicking your link, they won’t.

Don’t send protected content without the password

If you can’t reveal it, don’t show it. The interview fairy isn’t going to leave a zoom call under your pillow at night to learn more.

When using passwords, put them in your application and in your resume.

More pro tips

Don't forget the favicon

A favicon is the tiny image that represents your website in browser tabs and bookmarks.

A custom favicon is a good indicator for a designer’s attention to detail, even if the icon itself isn’t great.

Don't use unsecured or free domains

An unsecured domain (i.e. http) is much easier for nefarious individuals to inject malicious code into. Free domains reflect poorly on your personal brand.

Purchase your own domain name and secure your website with HTTPS.

Don't forget what design managers look for

Your portfolio and work are of foremost importance to design managers. Your resume affirms your skillset and indicates experience and reliability.

Focus your workload on making a polished portfolio and then move to your resume. Avoid jumping jobs frequently.

Written by Mitch Millsaps

Mitch Millsaps is the Product Design Director at Sticker Mule and former Core Designer at Calendly.  He created BRIEFED to help designers jump-start their career.