Standing out from the crowd is essential when searching for a new job in tech, which is why having a software engineer portfolio is critical. It gives you a way to highlight your skills by showcasing select projects, making you a stronger candidate.
Building a fantastic software developer portfolio is much simpler than many job seekers expect. Here’s what you need to know about creating a job-winning software engineer portfolio.
3 reasons to build a portfolio for software developers
In the simplest sense, a software engineer portfolio is a showcase that highlights your capabilities through previous work. Essentially, the portfolio is a supplement for your resume and cover letter, giving you a way to show your expertise.
Often, a comprehensive portfolio includes additional information. A short bio or professional summary and contact details are usually part of the presentation or website. Also, you might include links to your resume, LinkedIn profile, or candidate profile at specific job sites.
While a portfolio may seem unnecessary since software engineering isn’t a visually-oriented role, having one can boost your position. Here are three reasons to build one.
1. Show instead of telling
With your resume, you’re largely telling the hiring manager you have the correct skills. While you can include examples of past achievements in your application to make your capabilities more tangible, the hiring manager still has to take your word for it, which isn’t ideal.
When you create a portfolio for a software developer job, you genuinely get to show your capabilities. You’re highlighting examples of your actual work, removing any doubt about your expertise.
2. Cultivate a professional brand
Your portfolio isn’t just a barebones website or presentation with links or pictures of relevant projects; it’s a chance to establish or augment your professional brand. You can feature aspects of your personality, giving the content more depth. Additionally, you can curate the content to tell your career story, which is powerful.
3. Market yourself
A well-crafted software developer portfolio serves as a way to market yourself as a professional. While its main purpose is often as a resume supplement when you’re applying for jobs, it can also serve as marketing material. If publicly published, your software developer portfolio can attract recruiters or hiring managers looking to fill positions that relate to your field, leading to more opportunities.
Software developer portfolio must-haves
When you’re creating a software engineer portfolio, certain elements are essential.
First, you must create a section or an About Me page that includes a brief bio, preferably with an upbeat and friendly but professional tone. Follow that up with your contact details, such as an email address, link to your LinkedIn page, or a contact form.
Including a bulleted list of your relevant skills is also wise. Along with showcasing what you bring to the table, you can integrate critical keywords that will draw in hiring managers and recruiters.
Consider including links to other sites that highlight your expertise as well. For example, linking to your GitHub profile is wise if you have a professional presence on the site, as it further demonstrates your knowledge and capabilities. You can also link to your resume or articles detailing awards you’ve won.
Adding blog posts to your software engineer website can also work in your favor. This can include embedded ones from relevant social media sites or freshly created content.
After that, the most crucial component of your portfolio is your projects section. This should be the bulk of your portfolio. Compared to portfolio projects for business analysts, for example, describing your software engineering projects should be fairly straightforward: just make sure to describe the project challenge and your contribution to the solution in detail.
When it comes to the layout of your online portfolio, opt for screenshots that work as links to internal pages. It makes the portfolio aesthetically pleasing and vibrant while allowing you to link to more technical information, such as source code and relevant documentation. For presentations, you can include a relevant image followed by descriptions of your contributions.
What kind of software engineer portfolio projects to include
Creating a portfolio for software engineers is trickier than more artistic portfolios since the critical information isn’t visual, and displaying work on proprietary projects done for companies often isn’t permitted.
As a result, you’ll need to showcase work that’s public. When choosing software engineer portfolio projects, you can easily include personal projects, for example, if you're building a web development portfolio. These are ideal for highlighting coding capabilities, as including the source code is often an option.
Similarly, projects related to your educational pursuits may not be proprietary. The same is true of open-source projects in many cases.
For more sensitive professional projects, include images of the public-facing elements coupled with a description of your contributions, how you approached the project, and the relevant skills you used. Exercise caution along the way, ensuring proprietary information or security details aren’t covered in ways that would violate company rules or expose potential vulnerabilities.
Software engineering portfolio: website or presentation?
When creating a portfolio, whether for showcasing Python projects or frontend work, you often have to choose between a software engineer personal website and a presentation. Both the presentation and the software engineer website have benefits and drawbacks, though one brings more to the table than the other. If you need to create a portfolio for a software developer, here’s what you need to know.
The pros and cons of a software developer portfolio presentation
Creating a software engineer portfolio presentation is far simpler (and potentially less expensive) than going with a website. Additionally, if you don’t have web development expertise, getting the proper layout is often easier using presentation software.
However, presentations are comparatively limited. You usually must include images, descriptions, code samples, and similar information on single slides. As a result, it isn’t as crisp visually. Additionally, presentations don’t have the option for pop-out information, such as a text description displaying when a viewer hovers over an image.
Presentations are also limited when it comes to how they’re displayed. Generally, presentations aren’t adaptive, so they display in a specific way regardless of device type. As a result, while presentations are better than having no portfolio, they aren’t ideal.
PDF is my preferred portfolio format as it's easier to access by others. But I would like to upgrade it to a website in the future as it could pull much more attention to my portfolio. A website that was built on your own can add more value to your portfolio enlisting the tech stacks used to build the same.
Why a software engineer website works best
You get far more capabilities by going with a software engineer website instead of a presentation. You can use features like links to internal and external pages, text pop-outs, video, audio, and more. This allows you to combine aesthetics with information delivery, ensuring your home page and main portfolio page are attractive while making details like source code available in corresponding subpages.
Additionally, by choosing a responsive design, you can ensure the portfolio displays correctly on a wide range of devices, regardless of their size or viewing orientation.
A software engineering portfolio website is also flexible. You can update the content at any time to showcase the best of what you have to offer. Additionally, by using contact forms instead of publishing your email address, you can prevent your contact information from drifting outside of the website.
Learn by examples: 5 software engineer portfolios we love
Viewing software engineer portfolio examples can help you learn how to craft a standout website. Here are five software engineer portfolio examples we love.
Adham Dannaway — Product Designer and Front End Developer
Adham Dannaway created a straightforward but enticing portfolio website. Keeping the color palette minimal allows the header image — which is striking and informative while remaining simple — to stand out. Plus, your eye quickly drifts to the portfolio section, ensuring the visitor gets to career-relevant information fast.
What stands out in the portfolio section is the ongoing simplicity. The layout is a classic grid, and each project is succinctly described, helping the visitor identify relevant projects quickly.
Edward Hinrichsen — Computer Scientist and Software Engineer
The online portfolio website created by Edward Hinrichsen stands out because it’s highly unconventional but in a way that feels appropriate based on his area of expertise. The main image on the home screen serves as an introduction but also includes an interactive element. As you scroll down, the image moves, revealing that it’s a computer screen. It’s a quirky feature, drawing the viewer in and steering them toward the portfolio details.
Robb Owen — Independent Creative Developer
Robb Owen created a website with a relaxed, welcoming feel that highlights critical skill areas right away. The animated elements give the site life, and the design adapts well to various screen sizes.
One element that stands out is the Hire Me button on the top. It’s essentially a quickfire option to contact Robb Owen, allowing hiring managers or recruiters to email him immediately. Plus, the approach makes publishing his email on the website unnecessary.
Rafael Caferati went with a minimalist homepage, giving his introduction center stage aside from an intriguing red button at the bottom. When you click the button, it launches a game that lets you “destroy” the page. It’s a unique way to draw attention to his web development capabilities and likely brings a smile to any visitor's face.
When you move to the portfolio, it’s clean, crisp, and searchable. A hiring manager or recruiter can click on keywords at the top and limit the results based on their needs, improving the site's efficiency significantly.
Riccardo Zanutta — Interactive Front End Developer
The website created by Riccardo Zanutta has a sophisticated edge while keeping the design clean. The Latest Works section on the homepage uses slightly grayed-out images to keep the colors muted, making the brighter Case Study button stand out. As a result, visitors know precisely how to get more information about specific projects.
One nice feature is that the About Me section leads with a content form, ensuring visitors know how to reach out right away. Another interesting spot is the Experiments section, allowing him to showcase skills beyond what he shows in the case studies and highlight personal work in a unique way.