Foliotek Blog

Your Virtual Handshake

When you walk into a room to meet someone for the first time, you extend your hand for a handshake. But what do you do before the interview? How do you reach out a steady hand without someone standing directly in front of you? Your cover letter and Identity Page, of course!

A cover letter is used to introduce yourself; a precursor to help you stand out of the stack of resumes an employer has to dig through. It's how you tell them a little more about who you are as an individual and make them want to choose you for an interview. How do you draw them in with your cover letter?

  • Explain why you are a benefit to their company because of your experiences. Don't tell them what they already know - that you're applying for 'such and such job' and that you're 'just plain awesome.'

  • Illustrate how your skillsets and character traits are a valuable asset to their company's culture and values (show your awesomeness without bragging!).

  • Mention something you know about their company or an impressive fact about the industry and how excited you are to be involved.

Get more Cover Letter tips like this and more from's Expert Advice Column. You are more than just what your resume states, and this is your chance to show the company 'the person behind the resume.'


Foliotek adds another dimension to the cover letter through our Identity Page. As discussed in our post last week, Geoff explained the importance of showing your work to potential employers using Foliotek projects. The Identity Page is a perfect place to include these projects along with a description of who you are, your school and work credentials, any websites where you're a contributor, contact information, and your resume. Think of it as your online brand; your virtual cover letter.

Extend that handshake before you even set foot in the door and include a link to your ID Page on both your cover letter and resume. This will give potential employers the feeling that they already know you when you come in for your interview. That, my friends, is what we at Foliotek call a leg up.

Show Your Work!

If I had a nickel for every time my primary and secondary grade level math teacher said "Geoff, you need to show your work," I'm pretty sure that today, I'd still be living off the interest from the money I'd accumulated from 12+ years of education. These days, it’s not me hearing those words from my teacher, it's my kids who are hearing it (BAHAHAHA … evil laughter). Funny thing is, now that I am "older and wiser" (said while smirking), I am 100% on the side of the teacher. I suppose that the "older" me has learned there are tremendous benefits to being able to demonstrate your knowledge.
alt For example, recently I was reading an article in Forbes about the top 10 skills employers most want. They were things like "ability to work in a team structure" (number 1)" and "ability to make decisions and solve problems" (also number 1 … guess it was a tie). If these are the types of "skills" employers want to see from job candidates, how do you demonstrate those on a resume? Sure, you can write "lead an engineering team to develop web-based product X" but that's like giving the answer to a complex math problem without telling your teacher how you got there.

Teacher (Old lady, sounds fragile): "Geoffrey, what's the value of x in this equation: 2x + 4 = 8"

Geoffrey (Young and arrogant): "x = 2, Mrs. Ward"

Teacher (not so fragile sounding anymore): "Show your work!"

Geoffrey (fear and frustration): "AHHHH"

However, truth be told, that is exactly what employers want from job candidates. When a human resources hiring agent sits behind their big, intimidating desk and asks questions like: "Tell me about a time when you were a member of a team." They don't want to hear you say: "I was on a capstone project team in college," they want to hear the story around your team experience. They want you to "show your work."

So why not get a leg up on the interview before you even step foot into a hiring manager’s office? Why not "show your work" before you even "show up"? Wouldn't this drastically change the hiring manager’s ability to ask questions during the interview as well as allow them to see the entire picture of your skill set?

Foliotek is all about providing people with a way to "show their work." The emphasis is on helping people tell their stories around their learning experiences in a way that is visually appealing and easy for a hiring manager to consume.

Check out some of our samples below (or my own) and build your own authentic online brand; you will certainly have a head start over the competition.

Redefining the College Admissions Process

What if we lived in a world that awarded young people for their contributions to others and their community? What if colleges and universities assessed these factors along with personal achievements when deciding whom to admit?

These questions have been on my mind ever since I went through the college admissions process. To me, the process seemed to only reward students with good test scores and grades. While those personal achievements are certainly important, I believe that the world would be better served if the admissions process also took a closer look at the contributions young people make to their communities.
alt The Making Caring Common Project is an effort to revise the college admissions process. It is sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The basic idea is to promote ethical and intellectual engagement as major factors in the admissions process.

The report lists three challenges to be addressed:

  1. Describe how college admissions can motivate high school students to contribute to others and their communities

  2. Demonstrate how the admissions process can more accurately and meaningfully assess young people’s contributions to others and their communities

  3. Redefine achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce achievement process.

The report also recommends assessment practices that emphasize both contributions to one’s family and assessing students’ daily awareness of and contributions to others. Including contributions to one’s family can help students in low and modest income households. Caring for a sick relative or a younger sibling and helping to run a household while parents are working is certainly a valid contribution to society.

Admissions offices should continually seek to better assess whether students are kind, generous, honest and fair.

These ideas have not traditionally been a part of the admissions process. The Making Common Caring Project asserts that they should be.

The report makes the following recommendations for community service and engagement:

  • Promote meaningful, sustained community service for at least one year. This facilitates deeper reflection and commitment to a worthy cause
  • Promote collective action that takes on community challenges.This helps to develop problem solving and group skills that relate to job readiness
  • Promote authentic meaningful experiences with diversity
  • Promote service that develops gratitude and a sense of responsibility for the future.

To reduce the amount of achievement pressure in regards to community service, the report asserts prioritizing quality over quantity. This applies to taking advanced courses as well as the number of community service projects in which the student participates.

The report also asserts that students should not be over-coached while they are preparing their applications. Admissions offices should let students know that applications that are over-coached can be transparent and detrimental to admission.

The Making Caring Common Project is a great step toward having a better society. If students understand that their contributions to society are just as important as their personal achievements, they will be much more likely to engage in community service. My hope is that all colleges and universities will change their admissions process to assess the candidate as a whole rather than just looking at test scores and transcripts. I believe that this would be a major step toward creating a society that values ethical behavior and community service.

First Impressions

Do first impressions matter? Sounds like a "duh" kind of question. I'm sure you have heard a hundred times how "You need to make a good first impression." But seriously, does it matter? Can't you fumble the ball a few times and then make up for it with a touchdown later (sports, go sports!)? What if you are in an interview for a job? Can't you sway their negative first impression by overwhelming the hiring manager with content that blows their mind? If that were the case, it would be the exception to the rule, not the norm.


15 Seconds or Less

Research has shown time and time again just how important the first impression is . In one side study done on a research project conducted by Frank Bernier, his graduate student, Tricia Prickett, decided to look at the first 15 seconds of video footage from people being interviewed by hiring managers. Tricia wanted to know if you could determine from the first 15 seconds of video whether or not the interviewing candidate would be offered the job.

We are talking about a knock on the door, a handshake, and a hello.

After studying almost 100 videos, Tricia discovered that after watching 15 seconds of video, people could predict with almost 90% accuracy the outcome of the interview. That's crazy. 15 seconds … game over.

Now I suppose you can look at it two ways, it's either crazy good, or crazy bad. I'll take the glass half full approach and say crazy good. And here's why.

Virtual Impressions

Because our world is currently focused on exposing our lives through visual content on the internet, think about how much time can be spent crafting your "virtual" first impression. You have an opportunity to plan and implement your first impression far more today than ever before. You can tweak your social profiles and various online projects to showcase who you are before you ever knock on the door and squeeze someone's hand. Imagine the feeling of going into an interview where someone has already formed their "first impression" and is now working internally to confirm their own opinion of you (we call this self-fulfilling prophecy … that's another post) based on your professional online presence.

It's time the world wide web starts to work for you.

If you are job hunting, make certain you are taking valuable time to tweak every place on the web where people could form a first impression of you. At Foliotek, we suggest you make use of our tools to help you build your online brand. This helps ensure that you are in control of your first 15 seconds.

GRIT and Intelligence

Why is it that some of the smartest people don’t succeed in finishing college? This is a question that has been a subject of research conducted by Dr. Angela Duckworth. She suggests that when it comes to achievement that one’s grit may in fact be more important than intelligence. In one of her studies, she found that the smarter students actually had less grit than their peers who had lower scores on an intelligence test.


What are the characteristics that are most important in measuring one’s grit? According to Margaret M. Perlis’ article in Forbes online magazine, they are as follows: courage, conscientiousness, long term goals and endurance, resilience, and excellence. Other terms like tenacity and determination have also been used to describe essential elements of grit. The basic idea isn’t complicated, those who work harder are more successful in completing College and going on to successful careers.

As all parents do, I want my children to be successful. So this “Grit Concept” is very important to me. How can parents teach their children to have grit? As a teacher, I learned that students grasped concepts through various modes of learning. Thus, I suggest we teach our children to have grit by employing several strategies.


First, leading by example is a great place to start. Demonstrating determination and hard work to achieve one’s goals is the idea. Parents can do this by engaging their children in projects around the house, volunteer work, and professional endeavors.


Second, involving kids in the process of setting goals and planning action engages them in developing grit. When they work with their parents to set goals and work hard to achieve them, children are more likely to emulate this quality on their own. Another approach is to make hard work, perseverance, and resilience a regular topic of conversation. Some learn by seeing, some learn by hearing, most everyone can learn something by doing. Trying a variety of approaches and having the tenacity to stick to it will help to achieve the desired results.

Of course, encouraging children to take their studies seriously is a big part of instilling the right values. Asking them about their homework and helping them grasp concepts aids students in knowing what is expected. Encouraging them to explore academia to find their passions helps them take ownership of their own learning. With a lot of hard work, goal setting, and determination, I hope my sons will both pick the right field of study. I also expect that they will complete college and go onto productive careers in their chosen fields. They understand these expectations which is an important first step toward success.

To learn more about grit, check out Angela's TED talk below.

For additional information on GRIT: More Information on GRIT