SMPL Q&A is a blog feature in which we interview experts on all things relevant to branding, design and simplicity. In this Q&A, we speak with Lori Almeida, chief talent officer, about what she looks for when evaluating design talent. This blog originally appeared on HOW Design. 

When reviewing designer resumes and portfolios, what are the first things you look for?

What makes a designer’s portfolio stand out is great work that is both thoughtful and strategic. The difference between an average candidate and one we want to hire is consistency, a theme, a clear voice and evidence of their own “brand” throughout their portfolio.

What do you like to see in a designer’s education?

Creative thinking outside of their formal education is always a plus. What they do in their downtime—whether it be maintaining a blog, photography, drawing or any other form of creative inspiration. We particularly appreciate the work of students coming out of the Rhode Island School of Design, California Arts, Pratt, Illinois Institute of Technology and the Art Center of Design in Pasadena.

To what extent do the awards a designer has won affect your impression of them and their work?

When hiring design talent, we don’t necessarily look for candidates with awards or public accolades, but they are a bonus.

How many internships do you like a candidate applying to an entry-level position to have had?

Two to three internships is ideal. Each experience will help shape you in different ways. It’s important for designers to see how the creative process happens in different environments.

What should designers strive to do above all else in their resume and portfolio?

Try to always be consistent throughout your portfolio. Define your passion and what makes you stand out. Be prepared to explain the rationale for your work. We want to know how designers develop ideas and execute their work.

Is there anything designers should refrain from doing or including in a resume or portfolio?

Don’t ever copy another person’s work or try to be mainstream.

Can you recall the portfolio that left the strongest impression on you and led to a job offer? 

A standout portfolio demonstrates the sheer amount of work, thought and purpose designers invest in what they’ve created, resulting in them designing something that made a difference in somebody’s life. One very memorable example was an artist that designed a prosthetic for a swimmer. To me, that is life-changing.

Lori Almeida is chief talent officer at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @lorialmeida