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Interviewing at Nava: Preparing for your portfolio presentation

By Tamar Fox

The portfolio presentation is one of the last steps for design, content, and frontend dev candidates in Nava’s interview process. It’s part of a day of interviews we call an “onsite,” though it will most likely be conducted over a series of video calls.

If you’ve made it this far, we’re already excited about you, your skills and experience, and want to know more about how you work and think. The portfolio presentation is your chance to show us that. I’ve been on the other side of the table and know how intimidating this can be. But you’ll have a friendly audience that’s genuinely looking forward to hearing from you.

The first and best (and maybe most frustrating) advice I can give is to be yourself. It’s a cliche, but it’s also, frustratingly, correct. We want to get a sense of who you are and what excites you professionally.

Understanding how you work and think is essential for us to understand how you’d contribute to teams at Nava. This means that while it’s important to share finished products in your presentation, it’s also important to share how you got to them. You might want to consider things like:

  • What are your processes throughout a project?
  • How do you engage and build trust with stakeholders?
  • What kinds of tools do you use?
  • What did you learn along the way?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Building trust with stakeholders is a big part of our work. Tell us about how you’ve brought clients along with you as you design, build, and iterate. This is a lot of ground to cover in a relatively short period of time so it’s important to be prepared.

How to prepare

Here’s some tactical advice for planning your portfolio presentation. This structure is not a requirement. If it doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to use it. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck, it could help.

You’ll have an hour for this interview, including time for followup questions. Budget 40–45 minutes to present and 15–20 minutes for questions. We’ll give you a time check at 30 minutes.

You’ll present to a team of designers, usually two or more people. I highly recommend creating a deck of some kind to take us through your work. You’ll want to share your screen and take us through a presentation of two to three projects.

When you’re thinking about what projects to show us, pick something that you’re excited about and proud of and that’s a good example of how you work. But also err on the side of something that ultimately got launched. Volunteer work and prototypes are also good, but we’re especially interested in anything you have actually seen go into production.

Try this structure

Here’s what I suggest including in the presentation:

Say hi!

Introduce yourself and tell us about what kind of work excites you.

Set an agenda.

Let us know what you plan to talk about.

Tell us about a project and your process.

What was the challenge you were working on? How did you approach it? What were the constraints you had to work within? Did you work with a team? What were the roles of the other people on the team? Show us any artifacts and prototypes that might help us to get a better sense of your work.

Tell us about the finished product.

How did you get there? Why did you use the approach you used? Tell us about any research that went into it, and any iterations you went through.

Tell us about any lessons you learned on this project.

What did you take away from working on this project? Is there anything you would do differently if you could do it again?

Repeat steps 3–5 for each project you’re talking about

Finish up.

Once you’re done presenting we’ll have questions. We don’t do gotcha questions at Nava, but we are super curious and always interested in things like:

  • What risks did you see when you decided on this approach to your problem?
  • What kind of stakeholders were you working with? What was your relationship like?
  • How did you prioritize the work you needed to do?

So, expect questions like those and the others above. If you need more help, Torrey Podmajersky has some great ideas in her Basic portfolio presentation outline. You can also get a better sense of some of the work we do and the thinking behind it by browsing some of our case studies and toolkits.

Remember that you wouldn’t be in front of us if we didn’t think you were a strong candidate. We’re excited to meet you and learn about your work.

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