Applying for content design roles and trying to craft the perfect portfolio? We're here for you (with a reminder that perfection isn't the answer).
- Keep it simple: just share 2-3 projects with us
- Focus on clarity over fancy design
- Show how you, personally, contributed to the work
- Focus on product experiences
- Share your process and what outcomes you achieved
- Remember there’s no such thing as “perfect,” so just get it done
If you’re like me—and I am—you hate working on your design portfolio.
You may not have started one, but if you have, then you know how hard this can be. Your portfolio might feel incomplete, scattered, incoherent, and not representative of your skills… or even yourself! More importantly, you might be unsure how a hiring manager is going to see or interpret your work when you apply for a role.
The goal of this blog post is to help with that. We’re hiring many content designers at HubSpot and we want you—yes, you!—to apply for these roles. So I want to make the application process easy, clear, and low-stress for you.
We ask folks who apply to send us samples of their content design work. And we know it’s intimidating to share your work, so it’s only fair to be transparent about what we look for. You shouldn’t have to read our minds to know what we value. There’s no need to jump through hoops! Instead, I’ll just share with you exactly what we love seeing in content design work.
Keep it simple
First of all, we don’t want you to over-do anything. I’m sure you have lots of great experience and accomplishments, but don’t worry about showing us everything you’ve ever worked on. Just show us the 2-3 projects you think have been the most impactful or that best demonstrate your range of skills.
We also don’t care if your portfolio doesn’t look like an expensive design agency produced it. We care about the substance and clarity of your content design work much more than the package it comes in. So it doesn’t need to be fancy, animated, or interactive—it just needs to be clear.
So you can share your work in whatever format is best for you. In the past, people have linked to work on their website or used Google Docs, slide decks, PDFs, Figma/Sketch/XD, Notion, and many other tools to show their work. There’s no one right way to do this, so feel free to use whatever platform makes you most comfortable.
Focus on product
Content design is a broad area of work that’s always evolving and growing. Even the title is relatively new! People doing content design work may call themselves UX writers, content strategists, product copywriters, or use other titles. And because it’s a newer discipline, the practice can look very different from company to company—or even project to project.
Your work might be very different from ours and that’s okay! We really value people who bring unique perspectives and add new knowledge or skills to our team.
Here are some specific examples of the types of work you could include, but we love seeing product work of all kinds. That said, these examples will also give you an idea of the work you might do at HubSpot!
Accessibility planning and improvements
Content auditing and governance
Conversion flows: sign-ups, trials, purchases, etc.
Inclusive language and experiences
Information architecture, taxonomy, and navigation
Localization & internationalization
Notifications, tooltips, banners, and alerts
Product or feature naming
Search and/or filters
Style guides & terminology
Voice & tone guidelines
No matter what sort of product work you show, you don’t need to write a long essay for each project. We’re really just looking for:
- The problem you solved: what was this project all about?
- How you knew it was a problem: was there research or data?
- The goal for the work: what did success look like?
- Your role: what did you do, who did you work with, what was your process? How did you drive the team or project forward?
- Your outcomes: Did you solve the problem? How do you know and what did you learn?
For each of these, we’d love to know what you, in particular, contributed to the project instead of just what “we” (your team) did. Just remember to keep it simple: some of the best work samples I’ve seen have just a few bullet points about each of the above themes, along with sketches, wireframes, mockups, or links to working product.
Many content designers have experience in marketing and documentation. They might wonder if they should include long-form articles, blog posts, email campaigns, social media marketing, or product documentation in the work samples they share with us. While we greatly respect and admire work like this, I’d encourage you to focus just on work you’ve done directly in product.
Show your process and outcomes
It’s great to see screenshots of good content design work. But we care a lot more about understanding what you think makes them good. People who are passionate about content design are also opinionated about how they work—and we love that! So please share your rationale for your decisions with us in your work samples.
Whenever we look at content design work, we ask questions like these:
- What role did you play in identifying and understanding the problem?
- How did you lead or work with others to solve the problem?
- What was your process like for iterating on this work?
- How did you use research insights and data to inform your decisions?
- How did you diverge, converge, and iterate along the way?
- How did you consider the entire end-to-end experience, not just the writing?
- What constraints did you face and what tradeoffs did you make?
These help us understand your design process: how and why you take specific actions in your work, and with what goals in mind. This context is important to us because we value people who can influence and persuade their peers as they collaborate with them.
Another key point for us is understanding what changed because of your work: how did you know you solved the problem and why did your work matter? These are the outcomes you drove with content design. These outcomes are usually focused on the product, its users or customers, or the market. They’re often expressed in metrics for things like conversion, engagement, retention, sentiment, revenue, or other indicators.
But we also care about the outcomes for you, personally, as an individual. What did you learn from doing this work? What surprised you along the way and how did you adapt to it? If you did this project over again, what would you do differently? Your work samples are a great place to show us what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown.
What about NDAs?We know that many people work under non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that bar them from sharing work or that limit the work they can share. Obviously, NDAs could make it difficult to share your work with us.If your work is covered by an NDA, here are a few alternative approaches:
- Share other relevant work that isn’t under NDA instead. We’re happy to look at work from your past roles. We also love seeing side projects and volunteer work!
- Review your contract to determine the extent of what it covers, which might not be everything. Also try to understand when or if it expires—many NDAs only last a few years or may expire completely at the time of launch. Consider getting advice from a legal professional.
- Share only the public or launched version of the work or whatever version(s) that your NDA might specify can be shared.
- Ask for permission to privately share the work (or limited aspects of it) with us for the purpose of applying for a job. I’ve done this before and was enthusiastically granted permission.
Remember: There’s no such thing as perfect
Creating a portfolio of your work is hard. I know that because I’ve struggled with it. Every single time. And maybe you’re struggling with it right now.
If you don’t already have a portfolio, a good way to get started is to get inspired by how others have approached showcasing their work. With that in mind, here’s a range of content design portfolios we found that we really liked (each individual here gave permission for their work to be included) :
- Adina Cretu
- Clem Auyeung
- Heather McBride
- Leo Raymundo
- Riri Nagao
- Ryan Jales
- Sarah Sabner
- Shilpi Dewan
As you look over these examples, try to remember that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” work sample or design portfolio. “Perfect” is an impossible goal to hit, so I’d urge you to focus on just making progress and getting it done. We always admire progress over perfection, and I hope the tips I’ve shared make it faster, easier, and less stressful for you to make progress.
But as you work on your portfolio, you might worry that you’re unqualified or don’t “check all the boxes” we look for. That could be because of impostor syndrome, a confidence gap, or for many other reasons, especially if you’ve been marginalized or excluded in the past.
We get it. And we feel these things ourselves, too. So I hope you’ll apply anyway because we’ll take the greatest care in working with you. And we’ll be excited to celebrate your work.