From ePortfolio to interview

HR managers are turning to social media more and more as part of the recruitment process, as this infographic from GetSmarter shows. Sylvia Hammond agrees. She is an experienced HR practitioner who is currently a consulting editor for a range of online recruitment, skills development and HR portals, which grew from the skills portal started with her son, who now manages the websites as Portal Publishing. She is also doing her PhD in EBE.

Source: Personal Brand Guide 2014 by GetSmarter

PGDip Marketing and Entrepreneurship students created ePortfolios as part of their e-Marketing course (slides here and example site for students here) and were encouraged to think about themselves as an online brand. Graduation is around the corner for these students and many are navigating the job market or will embark on this mission in the near future. I chatted to Sylvia and asked if I could make this video for the class. I was a guest lecturer on the course and assisted the course convener, Steph Houslay, with the process of integrating ePortfolios in the course. Even if you were not a student on this course, you may find Sylvia’s tips useful. She shares good practical advice on how to modify your ePortfolio to get to an interview.

For lecturers using ePortfolios to enhance students’ employability or embedding graduate attributes and literacies in the curriculum, this may provide a new perspective as well. We need to escape the walled garden of the university every once in a while and get in touch with what’s happening in the real world. While integrating the use of online tools in curricula and digital literacies is very trendy for practitioners and theorists alike, we need to be more critical about our own assumptions: what can ePortfolios contribute in the long run and what do we imagine we are preparing our students for? In the case of this particular course, it got me wondering whether our attempts at authentic learning were realistic and what is authentic learning really? But that’s a paper for another time…

Back to the video!

As part of our discussion, Sylvia raised some interesting points. For example, while lecturers may think that ePortfolios can provide a holistic overview of a student with insight into their academic interests, skills, achievements and to some extent, who they are as a person (rather than just a student number), this perspective is not shared by busy HR managers and employers. These people are very busy and don’t have time to download documents to read or click on multiple links. You can provide artifacts such as reports as links for reading for further interest, but the main artifact for recruiters is more a summary of what that report was about and what skills you gained or abilities you had to harness as part of the process.

Sylvia’s advice to students about ePortfolios from Nicola Pallitt on Vimeo.

Like CVs, ePortfolios also need to be tailored to the job you are applying for. Sylvia provides the example of the copywriter, creative and exec and the kinds of information valued in these positions and how to communicate this on an ePortfolio.

We also discussed ‘how personal is too personal?’ where we may be sharing our hobbies or personal pictures as part of providing a more holistic view of ourselves, but it might set us up for discrimination by employers. Sometimes these may be innocent things. For example, while you may love surfing and hiking and think it shows you to be an outgoing and nature loving person, an employer may think ‘he’s going to want to leave early on a Friday afternoon or be late for work on a Monday morning’. And being a young person in the job market makes it even harder. Sylvia also mentions some of the preconceptions employers have about youth in this video. Let’s prove them wrong UCT graduates:)

Whether you are using an ePortfolio as a student or a lecturer, I am sure you will be inspired to add some of Sylvia’s tips to your to-do list. You may have different purposes for developing your ePortfolio depending on the stage of your career and what sector or field you are working in (or plan to). Sylvia shared these examples to illustrate this point:

·         A student looking for a job – the first page could be titled something indicating that “Shortlist Bio” – or something more creative.

·         A professional person already in a job looking to improve their professional profiles, then further pages with published articles, projects implemented, etc.

·         If the person has a more NGO profile, then charities supported, community work, English as a foreign language and countries where taught, etc.

It is also useful for lecturers to bear some of Sylvia’s tips in mind when integrating ePortfolios in their course if they are using it as a way for students to improve their online presence and showcase their work to stakeholders beyond the university, such as potential employers. ePortfolios have many forms and are not all used for this purpose (see some of the range of purposes here). Some may be used to document and collect various forms of evidence, such as a pre-service teacher doing a first prac (here the ePortfolio is more likely to be private, as a lot of the accompanying reflections are likely to be private), to showcase a portfolio of work (graphic designers, artists, architects) or perhaps using it as a space for personal professional development and sharing (as I am here). The purposes are multitude and one person’s use does not define what you can do with it. (For more info on ePortfolios, see these slides).

Feel free to comment and share your experiences of using an ePortfolio. What did potential employers say about your ePortfolio at your interview? If you shared it with a recruitment agency, did they offer you any advice or comments?


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