Jindal Students Learn to Get Employment Edge with Online Portfolios

McClain Watson

Dr. McClain Watson

In a job market where paper résumés are becoming relics and one click on the Internet can ruin an applicant’s prospects, Naveen Jindal School of Management students are learning how to gain an edge with employers.

Through the school’s Advanced Business Communication class, students are creating Professional Online Portfolios that help them stand out in their job searches and give companies a fuller picture of their skills.

“How do they get from 60 résumés to six?” said Dr. McClain Watson, director of JSOM’s business communications programs. “According to more and more surveys, employers Google your name.”

In the class, students are required to create portfolios, which are hosted on free Web platforms, such as Wix, Weebly or Moonfruit. Each portfolio must have a PDF of the student’s résumé, a video introduction, a professional photo of the student and contact information. Links to three class or work projects, two personal/professional interests and Facebook and LinkedIn accounts also must be in the portfolio.

“Dr. Watson stressed the importance of an online presence,” said Caleb Ward, a finance major who completed the class last spring semester. “I took this to mean that first impressions no longer happen when you shake someone’s hand, but when they Google your name to see if you may be a suitable applicant.”

Salik Shariff

Salik Shariff

Watson created the assignment after the Jindal School’s Advisory Council two years ago pushed for new ways to develop students’ speaking and teamwork skills. The portfolio gives dimension to all students. 

“The average supply chain major’s résumé and cover letter looks like 90 percent of other supply chain majors’ résumés and cover letters,” he said. “They are so vague you can’t get a sense of the person. The POP brings skills to the table that weren’t apparent in soon-to-be graduating college students.” 

It provides “a 360-degree sense of contributions” the student could make as an employee, Watson said. Students have found that the portfolio helped them identify their strengths. 

Poonum Desai

Poonum Desai

“I didn’t think I’d have a lot to talk about, but that was hardly the case,” said Salik Shariff, a management information systems major who completed the class earlier this year. “It allowed me to open up and basically forced the shyness out of me.” 

Advisory council members Pat McCown and Daniel Sessa like the results. 

“The video introduction allows you to hear the individuals describe themselves and demonstrate their communication skills. Seeing the individual’s personal interests allows a more well-rounded view of their personality and, in total, this is a much more holistic presentation model than the traditional résumé and cover letter,” said McCown, a partner at Grant Thornton LLP. 

“College students at times are not as comfortable talking about their accomplishments and relating their skills and experiences to the job being sought. The online portfolio helps to break this paradigm for JSOM students,” said Sessa, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Lennox International. 

The project helped junior Poonum Desai expand her skills.

Social Media and Hiring

  • 91 percent of employers use social networking sites to screen prospects
  • 76 percent check Facebook; 53 percent Twitter; 48 percent LinkedIn
  • 69 percent say they have rejected a candidate based on what they have seen on a social network site
  • 68 percent say they have hired a candidate based on what they have seen on a social network site

    Source: The Reppler Report, 2011

“My biggest concern was the whole technology aspect of it, learning how to upload videos and pictures and converting documents,” said Desai, who is majoring in economics and finance. “I’m the most technologically challenged person you will ever meet. But with the help of my sister and friends I got through it.” 

That’s the type of teamwork that Watson envisioned. 

He said employers want to know three things about people they hire: They know the functions of the job, can be trusted and are interesting to work with. The portfolio helps answer those questions. 

Although students aren’t required to keep their portfolios on the sites after the class is over, Watson said many do. They direct potential employers to their portfolios from their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and with a link on their business cards, cover letters and résumés. 

“Students at the start of the assignment think it’s just a website,” Watson said. “Then you get them to buy in as they work on it and see the potential value. They say, ‘This matters because it’s my name and my future.’ 

“If all you have is a GPA, résumé and cover letter, you might get lucky. But you don’t want to have to rely on getting lucky.”

This story was reported and written by freelance contributor Jeanne Spreier.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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