Portfolio vs Resume: What’s the Difference and Which Do You Need?

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March 29, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • A resume is a brief summary of your work experience, relevant skills, and education in written format.
  • A portfolio is a comprehensive overview of your work samples or projects using text and media. 
  • Teal's AI Resume Builder can help you build an effective resume faster.

When applying for jobs, you may need a variety of application materials, such as a resume or a portfolio. Yet, the portfolio and resume are two very different ways to communicate your work experience. 

Which one do you need? And which do you present to prospective employers at what moment? It’s never really a conversation of resume versus portfolio. It’s about understanding how your portfolio complements your resume and when to use each. This guide discusses the similarities, key differences, and unique qualities of each tool—so you can present yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder today.

Resume vs portfolio

Whether you’re just joining the workforce and wondering about the difference between a resume vs portfolio, or you’re well into your career journey and looking to upgrade your job application—here’s what you need to know:

What is a resume?

A resume, also written résumé, is a detailed document that summarizes your work history, often in reverse chronological order. It’s typically one or two pages long, created in Microsoft Word or similar. In addition to work history, it typically includes:

  • Work experience
  • Professional summary
  • Soft skills
  • Academic history, GPA
  • Contact details
  • Volunteer work

Sample resume, made in Teal

The resume has a long-standing history as the most common document you’ll need to apply for a job. Although what’s typical on a resume may change according to country, its format remains universal and hasn’t changed much throughout its history. 

What is a portfolio?

A work portfolio serves as a creative, comprehensive compilation of your professional accomplishments, designed to highlight your skills and experience for recruiters, clients, or a potential employer. It provides visual evidence of your specific skills. Also known as a career portfolio or professional portfolio, it typically highlights:

  • Work projects
  • Awards
  • Achievements
  • Case studies
example career portfolio
Example portfolio by Joachim Lepine for translation and journalism

What are the similarities and differences?

The similarities lie in their function—they’re both used in the job application stage to help you land an interview. 

While portfolios are more common in creative fields, you’ll likely need both a portfolio and resume to stand out. In a competitive market, a resume is a given, proving your value with a portfolio gives a leg up. Can you include a portfolio in a resume? The answer is yes (more details on this below). 

Here are some additional similarities between portfolios and resumes: 

  • They may both be presented in PDF format
  • Recruiters will receive both 
  • They’re created for the job you want 
  • They’re designed to show off your experience

There is a key difference or two (or three!) which will help paint a picture of when each item is used, how it's created, and why it's needed—so you can send each one at the appropriate time, with confidence.

differences between a resume and portfolio
The main differences between a resume and a portfolio, explained.

Here’s how a CV compares to a resume and portfolio:

A CV is short for Curriculum Vitae and more detailed than a resume. In addition to the traditional resume sections, a CV may also include publications, presentations, research projects, awards, honors, and references. 

Traditionally, CVs have been more commonly used for professionals in:is more commonly used for professionals in: 

  • Academia
  • Medicine
  • Law
  • Research
  • Director roles
  • V-level roles
  • C-suite roles

However, they've become more prevalent in recent years across a multitude of roles, and are quite popular today. To get a better sense of the nuances, take a look at our selection of CV Examples for specific job titles to see what successful CV looks like.

This article focuses on the differences between portfolio and resume specifically. 

The role of a resume

Resumes help hiring managers get an overview of all the relevant skills you possess and decide whether to invite you for an interview. It’s an integral part of the job search and job application process. You may send in a resume in a job application, or you may upload your resume to job search sites for recruiters to find you.

Resumes come in different formats with differing sections, but there are universal items that should be included. In general, the ideal resume length is one or two pages. This keeps it compact, organized, and succinct. Recruiters review hundreds or thousands of applications weekly, so a powerful, succinct summary helps you get noticed. 

What to include: Academic and professional qualifications

Summary Statement: A one- to three-sentence paragraph at the top of a resume which highlights your professional qualifications and career goals. It serves as an introduction to yourself as a professional. 

Work Experience: A list of your previous employment, complete with job titles, company names, dates of employment, and a bulleted list of responsibilities and achievements under each role. This takes up the majority of the content.

Pro Tip: If you lack enough work experience to fill out a one-page resume, you can consider adding a volunteer section to your resume. 

Relevant skills: A section to highlight your relevant soft skills or technical skills relevant to a specific job. 

Education: A section dedicated to your educational background such as which high school or university you attended, including graduation dates, degrees, and any relevant honors or awards.

Contact Info: Essential information about how to reach you such as your full name, phone number, email address, home address or city, and possibly a LinkedIn profile.

What you need to know about resumes

The resume is designed for functionality. It should be keyword-optimized for ATS (applicant tracking system) to ensure you appear in search results during your job search.

With an overview of your entire history, it should remain easy to update and change depending on the role. As it’s traditionally in letter format, it’s easy to print copies. In fact, it’s best practice to bring copies of your resume to the first interview. 

Standing out in the job market is tough! Make your job search easier with Teal’s AI-powered Resume Builder, created to help you craft impactful AI-generated resume summaries, achievements, and more.

The role of a portfolio

Portfolios help employers get a visual overview of your talent and decide if you have what it takes to create something similar for them in the role. It’s a deliverable that complements the resume and the cover letter in the traditional sense; although, freelance creatives may use the portfolio as the only deliverable sent to potential clients. 

Professionals most likely to need a portfolio include:

  • Artists
  • Writers
  • Journalists
  • Architects
  • Marketers
  • Photographers
  • Models & Actresses 
  • Engineers
  • Designers

Portfolios come in different formats and can be as unique as your work style. You can create one on a free portfolio-building website, a design platform to create as a PDF, or built on a job platform like LinkedIn. When you’re vying for the attention of prospective employers, a resume is not always enough. Grab their attention by showcasing your best work in a portfolio. 

What to include: samples of a person’s professional skills

Your best work: The premise of a portfolio is to showcase your most impressive work, often visually.

  • A makeup artist shows their makeup looks.
  • A writer shows published works and readership numbers.
  • A graphic designer shows website designs.
  • An architect shows design plans and timelines.

This section is what the portfolio is built around and can be presented in a variety of layouts. 

Professional achievements: This section provides some metrics or awards tied to the projects you present in the portfolio. Think of it as the “proof” your projects were successful and worthwhile. 

Testimonials or references: This portion should highlight a few kind words written by past employers or clients. While a resume may simply state “References available upon request” with the idea that the employers will do a background and reference check, a portfolio has the space to include them directly on the document. 

Freelancers will find this particularly useful as clients don’t typically run background or reference checks, and may prefer to read through the testimonials instead. 

Contact info: Include essential information about how to reach you, such as your full name, phone number, email address, website, and social media profile handles. You can also include links to book a call with you or to fill out a contact form. 

You can also include a bit about yourself, such as a philosophy statement.

Need a portfolio? Browse examples and best practices for creating a work portfolio.

Can a portfolio replace a resume?

A portfolio doesn't serve as a replacement for a resume. Rather, it’s best to imagine that the two go hand-in-hand—the resume being the main entrée with the portfolio acting as the side to complete the meal.

However, there are instances in which a portfolio can replace a resume. 

You’re a freelancer: It’s more common that a freelancer will need to show their skills rather than discuss them. That’s why a portfolio can replace a resume for freelancers looking to land new clients. 

The specific job description asked for only a portfolio: Whether it’s for a traditional nine to five, a contract, or a freelance position, it’s possible (although, rare) that potential employers solicit a portfolio from job applicants, not a resume. In such a case, follow instructions. 

You want a reason to follow up

In the instance that the specific job application only allowed the inclusion of a resume, having a portfolio could serve as a great reason to get in touch with the hiring manager on LinkedIn.

Ideally, your portfolio is linked within your resume, but it doesn’t hurt to also send your portfolio as a follow up. 

How to incorporate your portfolio into your resume

The key to a well-rounded application is to add a portfolio link in your resume. That way, if a job application only hosts a slot to upload or input your resume, the hiring manager has access to your portfolio. 

Resume with portfolio link examples

portfolio and resume together
Backend developer example resume with a portfolio link, made in Teal

David Brown, Backend Developer, links to his GitHub account where hiring managers can explore his projects, view stored code to judge his coding skills, and see real life samples.

portfolio and resume example content manager
Content manager example resume with a portfolio link, made in Teal

Avery Adams, Content Manager, links to her Behance, a portfolio-hosting platform. There, hiring managers can view her projects, strategies, and writing samples.

Project manager example resume with a portfolio link, made in Teal

Liam Chen, Project Manager, links to his website. There, the hiring manager can view his projects and services in more detail. Personal websites can serve as portfolios.

Add a LinkedIn link to your resume

All the resume examples above also link to their LinkedIn profile. 

Here’s how to link your portfolio in your LinkedIn profile:

  1. On your profile, go to your contact info section. Click the pencil icon to edit.
example of an optimized LinkedIn portfolio page
An optimized LinkedIn portfolio page

  1. Under contact info, you’ll see Profile URL. Click this URL. You’ll be taken to public profile settings.

edit contact info on linkedin
Edit your LinkedIn profile URL in the public profile settings

  1. In the top right corner, you’ll see the section to edit your custom profile URL.

edit custom url linkedin
Set your custom LinkedIn profile URL to your name, if available

  1. Type or edit the last part of your new custom public profile URL in the text box. We recommend your first and last name, or a variation of the sort. 
  2. Click Save. 

Showcasing relevant work: Should you use media in your resume?

You may be wondering if it’s okay to use media in your resume or to show off a project or two. As mentioned in the resume section above, it’s important to keep your resume simple, succinct, and focused on what’s important to your ideal role. The first goal of the portfolio is to get an interview.Leverage the resume to quickly discuss key projects. That’s to say, if you do choose to mention specific projects, tie it to the achievements you brought to the company rather than focusing on single items. 

Show off your work achievements the right way

In summary, a resume is a career document needed to submit job applications. One or two pages long, it lists an overview of your work experience. A resume portfolio, on the other hand, is a complementary document that often spans multiple pages. Portfolios provide visual evidence of a person's work and relevant qualifications. Both are used to show off all relevant skills you have and land you a job interview.

To boost your career growth, consider creating a work portfolio to support your resume.

Need help creating an attention-grabbing resume? Make your job search easier with Teal’s AI-powered Resume Builder to create AI-generated resume summaries, achievements, and more. Try Teal for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my portfolio be my resume?

As a rule of thumb, no, your portfolio cannot be your resume when applying to a job. It’s traditionally appropriate to apply with a resume. Freelancers are the exception. If you’re trying to land a gig, contract, or client, a portfolio could also serve as a resume. When in doubt, use a traditional resume. Create a free resume to get started.

What is the difference between resume, CV, and portfolio?

A resume, CV, and portfolio are all tools you use to apply to and land a job. However, they have distinct differences. A well crafted resume highlights your professional background and professional capabilities, while a CV offers a more detailed approach, especially in academic and research roles. In contrast, portfolios provide visual evidence of your best work related to your skill set. Create a free resume to get started.

What is a resume portfolio?

A resume portfolio is a combination of the classic resume and a portfolio of work samples. Throughout multiple pages, it contains key resume sections such as professional summary, contact details, and work experience, and certifications. It will also include examples of your work—such as writing samples, coding projects, branding campaigns, projects, awards, and more. It's most used in creative professions. Create a free resume today.

Kaleena Stroud

Kaleena is a freelance copywriter enamored with helping people catapult their careers. Originally from California, she's currently based out of Barcelona, Spain. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her picnicking by the sea with her family.

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