Resumes suck, portfolios are hard
As builders of portfolio systems (and employers ourselves) – we think portfolios show an authentic picture of who you really are and what you can do that goes way beyond a resume (cough pack of lies). We believe everyone should be building portfolios, and employers should be looking at them when evaluating candidates.
While electronic portfolios are extremely valuable, they are a ton of work to produce and take a long time to finish. This fact can be very demotivating to even get started – it is difficult to take that first step when looking up at a mountain. Even if people recognize the value in having a portfolio, they often won’t start the process of building one. Only the most motivated (or those forced to in school) take that first step.
The other difficulty is that portfolios take time to evaluate, so employers often won’t look at them to narrow down candidates. As an employer, I wouldn’t look at hundreds of portfolios to narrow down to a list of a few candidates to interview. However, if I have something like a stack of resumes – I would narrow candidates down to ten based on the resume (and related school/work experience and transcripts), then interview each of those candidates to get some evidence of what the resume says to narrow down candidates for a deeper second interview. We think that portfolios can take the place of that first interview and actually save the employer time. Unfortunately, resumes are still necessary to efficiently narrow down a large list of candidates, though – even with all of the problems that resumes have (exaggeration, verifiability, keyword stuffing, etc).
Badges are better than a transcript or work history
I think one way that we can improve the status quo is with badging. The folks over at Mozilla are working on OBI – an open badging initiative that will allow any authority (school, employer, certifier, conference, etc.) to hand out virtual badges (small pictographic awards for discrete skills – think virtualized boy scout sashes) that are backed by evidence of the skill awarded. The learner can take these badges that come from any source, and store/organize them all at one place, which then can be displayed elsewhere (their Facebook profile, for example). I see this as potentially serving as a much finer grain and verifiable picture of what you typically get out of a education and work history/skills section of a resume/transcripts. Depending on how many badges the learner chooses to display – it can be as quickly scannable/reviewable as those documents.
What about dispositions?
There is still a problem that badging systems don’t aim to solve, though. Employers don’t just do first interviews in order to verify what is on the resume. They also want to find out about the candidate’s personality, motivations, passions, work ethic, and so on. Educators often refer to these attributes as “dispositions“. A good portfolio will have information about your dispositions – but once again, those are difficult to build, and most people aren’t building them. Many employers are now resorting to searching for candidates on Google, and then seeing what they can find. This often produces a scattershot (and undesirable or inaccurate) picture of a candidate.
Web business cards
Putting all of this together, we see the potential for a system that doesn’t currently exist. This system has several key properties:
- Lets you build something that is sharable in 10 minutes or less
- Can become the “identity page” that shows the self-curated, desirable picture of your professional/educational/social life
- Stores data in Microformats to make it easy for employers to identify candidates based on specific criteria, and more likely for this profile to become the first Google result for a person
- Is scannable by employers in the first couple of minutes to determine a candidate’s fit and whether they want to look deeper
- Displays OBI badges and/or links to portfolio evidence to verify skills
- Allows easy embedding and linking to dispositional data from other sites: social media, portfolios, etc.
This system would be a fairly simplified version of our current portfolio tools. It would be superficially similar to about.me and flavors.me – but it would be backed by the hard evidence of badges and portfolios and the searchability of microformats. It would be your web business card, resume, and/or cover letter – and it lets anyone dive as deep as they want (and you allow) into who you are.
Here is a sample we came up with:
We know we can develop a system like this. We believe our portfolio tools prove we have the chops. Go try our current portfolio system for yourself and see if you agree.
We think people want a system like this even if they don’t know it yet. We aren’t sure if people would pay for it. We think people should have an online identity like this, and we’re ok with giving it away to get it going.
However – we are a self-funded small company, and so we need to be able to make money somehow to keep the lights on. The classic “get eyeballs now and sell ads later” model doesn’t work for us. We are confident we can get some of the users to pay for portfolios in order to bring more attention to their id page – but that will only fund the project if we get a lot of people to build an id page in the first place.
Since we are a small company, we are also worried that we’ll go and build this awesome thing and then nobody will notice. We want people to notice. We see this project as a way to invest in our product sales efforts by building something great instead of throwing a bunch of money at ads or sales people. We also are a bit concerned about how much it’s going to cost to host a free system where we are targeting lots of usage.
This is where you come in: I need your help convincing my boss to think differently. We traditionally have used a business-to-business, hosted, software-as-a-service type model. We control our data, support, and operations end to end. That’s quite costly, but it feels safe to be in control. It’s scary to think about doing something different for this project, but I think we need to.
I think that at the very least, we should make this system in open technologies – and make it easily and freely installable. I think individuals, businesses, and schools should have the opportunity to control the system operations and data if they desire to. This is a bit scary for us – while it does have the advantages of removing the support and hosting burden – if we give it away for free, aren’t we giving away opportunities to upsell and make a profit? I think I mostly have him convinced that the benefits to our reputation are worth the giving up those “maybe revenues” – but I could use some extra ammo here.
I really want to go even further out of our comfort zone, though. I want to build this thing and open source all of it. I think our opportunity to get early traction goes up exponentially if we do so. Many of our potential early adopters are into open source – either they work on it, or they like to look at it, or they just feel better if it is available. If the source is out there – we can prove we aren’t doing any funny business with your data (we wouldn’t anyways – but this is better than a promise). It also gives us the opportunity to prove that we not only build pretty and extremely usable systems, we also know how to build them the right way. I also believe that even though we would be giving away all of our code for free – when we get real traction, most people will still come to us to host and support the system to save themselves the hassle. They’ll even pick us over any competitor that might try to host our stuff, because we know it best.
That said, the whole idea of open source grates at my boss’s business sense – so this is a hard topic to push. I truly believe it is our best business case (in addition to being the right thing to do), but I need help convincing him.
What you can do
Please help me. Comment on this post. Share it on twitter/facebook/google plus – or message us (Foliotek/@Foliotek) there. Vote it up or comment on reddit. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask us through any of those mediums to get on our beta list. The more data I have to give him now that shows that people want something like this, they want to install it, and that they want it to be open source – the more likely it is that we’ll start building it right away and everyone will benefit.