DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Portfolio Advice and Insights from Creative Circle’s Taylor Dunlap

by Zoe Parris

Curating a portfolio to showcase the best part of an artist’s work and the creative process to get there is a difficult skill to master. For some, this is a looming task alongside the emotional and mental commitment to creating or updating one’s resume to applying to tons of jobs awaiting the callback. Of course, there are resources to alleviate this stress like seeking advice from DePaul’s Career Center, reaching out to like-minded professionals on LinkedIn, or seeking recruitment agencies. To gain more information on the latter, MAE Advisor, Amy Do interviewed Creative Circle employee Taylor Dunlap to gain insight into the world of recruitment and portfolio advice.

Creative Circle is a recruiting and consulting services company that specializes in digital marketing and creative staffing, managed services, and in-house studio development. Recruitment agencies like Creative Circle function as a sort of middleman between the HR department of companies and prospective employees. Often times this means someone looking for work – like a recent graduate – placing themselves into a database and recruitment agents attempting to match their skills to job vacancies.

Class of 2020 Indiana University graduate, Taylor Dunlap, has been working for Creative Circle for 2 years and had some experience in what she calls the creative field before entering into recruiting. This experience has provided the opportunity to learn and teach others what makes a good candidate and a good portfolio for AI & UX, copyediting, marketing, animation, video production, project management, and more.

Here were some major takeaways from the interview:

Typical Day of a Creative Circle Recruiter

Dunlaps’s typical day depends on the particular roles they are working on. As their client is the employer, not the prospective employee, companies come to them with their needs and Creative Circle will work on behalf of them to match candidates within their database. This kind of work includes proactive recruiting which involves reaching out to people on sites like LinkedIn or applicants on their job board.

A portion of the job also involves coaching applicants:

“I’m reviewing applications all day looking at portfolios, and talking to candidates. I coach them on their resumes. You know. How can we tailor this [portfolio or resume] for this specific role? How can we improve? General resume and portfolio feedback to help them market themselves too, even in their own job search. I’m working directly with the clients and the hiring managers as well. Following up on candidates and advocating for them as well, if I think they’re a fit.”

Taylor Dunlap

What Does Applying on Creative Circle Look Like?

When applying, Creative Circle creates a profile in their database so you may receive emails about job openings without registering as a candidate officially. While applying on LinkedIn does not place you in their database you are a possible candidate in the case of a recruiter searching proactively. In this case, you may be uploaded into the system when a recruiter like Dunlap reaches out and schedules a time to meet and register you. Before sending you to any clients, candidates will go through a 30-minute pre-interview to prepare them (this is where the resume and portfolio review comes in).

Dunlap always recommends to send a follow-up email to the recruiter.

“If you’re applying to a specific role, [the recruiter’s] email will be at the bottom of those job descriptions, reach out to follow up. Say, hey, I applied. Here’s my information. Here’s my resume, and then the recruiter will still get back if they think you’re a good fit. For both Creative Circle and the job itself.”

Taylor Dunlap

Why Should Candidates Trust Creative Circle’s Insight?

Beyond the fact that Dunlap herself looks at about 20 to 50 resumes and portfolios a day. Other recruiters in Creative Circle have a long history in recruitment and creative fields providing efficient and proven training to help candidates market themselves and find the perfect match for clients specifically in the creative field.

“We pride ourselves on being extremely specialized and knowing the professionals as well as the specific subject matter in our field.”

In terms of clients, candidates could expect to connect with a wide range of professional environments from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofit organizations to higher education.

Number One Portfolio Mistakes

Often the biggest mistake Dunlap sees is restricting a portfolio to just pictures of designs that are pixelated or too small. Not only is the image clarity important but there needs to be context for what the deliverables are. To combat this they ask leading questions like:

“What was your thought process? How did you get here? Were you working on a team? What was the campaign for? How was the campaign executed? Was it successful? Provide any metrics that you can share around that and any additional information that you can give. Why, it was successful, or how you got here, you know. It just kind of highlights to the client what you can do, and it’s always good to see. You know the thought process behind the design, because I think that’s important for clients to see as well rather than just the end product.”

Taylor Dunlap

Starting Your First Portfolio

A lot of portfolios are websites but some people aren’t particularly web savvy. Some alternatives include presentations, PDF portfolios, or Behance which is a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud and is used by creative specialists to showcase their online portfolio of work – graphic design, illustration, advertising, fine arts, game design, etc. Dunlap finds Behance to be very user-friendly and great for adding much-needed context to projects.

“If it’s just a PDF with a bunch of samples that have no context, it’s a little bit less marketable rather than a PDF that’s laid out nicely, has more context behind the projects, just like a little bit more information. There are so many different ways you could do it, and I don’t think you know we should box anyone into one type of portfolio. I think there’s a ton of ways that you can get creative with it like even Canva.”

Taylor Dunlap

American Institute of Graphic Arts

Dunlap is a volunteer for the American Institute of Graphic Arts which is a professional organization that offers networking opportunities, exclusive job opportunities, and seminars for getting started in the industry. 

“I feel like I’ve met a ton of people that are either students or recent grads, you know, just looking for resources. Especially I appreciate that they’ll bring in people to talk and Creative Circle has spoken at a couple of different events on like, you know, the gig economy, or just last week I gave a presentation on portfolios.”

Final Remarks

“I always recommend candidates like everything is worth a shot, if there is a role that you’re kind of on the fence about.  Sometimes we’ll have candidates that come to us, and it’s like ‘Oh, I just don’t know if it’s the right fit. I don’t know if I want to go through this interview.’ What do you have to lose? Because you never know what’s gonna come out of it? If you don’t get a job offer maybe you just make a connection that you can use later on down the line. Being open to new opportunities as well as being open to feedback, and looking for ways to improve yourself and things like that. I think that’s the way the best way to not only market yourself but show that you’re looking to grow and are dedicated.

Taylor Dunlap

We’d like to thank Taylor Dunlap for sitting with Amy Do for the interview! If you have more questions regarding becoming a candidate for a recruitment agency, need feedback on your portfolio, or just want to talk about career options you can always utilize our career services.


Not sure what the future holds? Need support along the way? That’s exactly where we come in. Whether you’re a freshman or an alumnus, it’s never too early (or too late) to utilize our services.

Book an appointment with Zoe, Amy, or another member of the advising community through Handshake, or by calling the front desk at (773) 325-7431. 

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