Reinventing the Resume: An Inside Look at Portfolium
Making a positive impression on potential employers is a crucial part of the job hunt. A traditional resume and cover letter may no longer be sufficient, especially when hiring managers and human resources personnel receive hundreds, perhaps thousands, of them on a regular basis.
The process of receiving attention for your resume can be even more uncertain if you are a new college graduate. How can you be expected to have the wealth of work experience that some companies establish as a prerequisite? How can you stand out and show potential employers that you are well worth interviewing?
A young man named Robby Leonardi created an interactive resume mimicking a video game. Potential employers could use their mouse pad to lead the character through education, work experience, and other pertinent information. It provided a unique way for Robby to demonstrate (rather than simply list) his programming abilities, talent for design, and other achievements that would not stand out on a traditional CV.
Leonardi understood that sometimes displaying a talent or accomplishment is better than telling someone about it. Another young man, Neal Bloom, feels the same way, believing that vibrant, digital, and interactive resumes are the optimal medium for job-seekers. In order to fill the gap that Bloom saw in the resume-creation space, he and two friends decided to build thePortfolium.com, a website where you can showcase your accomplishments, work experience, scholastic achievements, community service, and other undertakings that may better illustrate the totality of who you are for potential employers. I spoke to Bloom in an interview about the website and what it can offer through the use of a social resume.
A virtual portfolio
How do you go about applying for and getting a job if you have little to no prior experience? This is a problem that many college graduates face. Bloom thinks Portfolium will help these students showcase work experience they may not even know they have.
"While a majority of students are not joining LinkedIn for lack of work experience, they do have content and skills that are better showcased in a visual format, and that's where our platform meets their needs," Bloom told me during our conversation.
How many papers did you write while in college? How many PowerPoint presentations have you put together? Many of them may just be sitting in a folder. They do not really serve any purpose right now, except for the occasional reminiscence. Portfolium could help students find a new use for these papers.
"When you create that Portfolium account you can upload any kind of multimedia, whether it's PDFs, slides, videos, pictures, Word docs. You can show off what you actually put your time and energy into instead of just writing a bullet point saying 'I wrote a grant.' Well, why can't you let someone read the grant you wrote? Let someone judge if they like your writing, not get a summary about it."
So what about the traditional CV? Is Bloom trying to eliminate it with Portfolium?
"It definitely still has its place," Bloom said of the CV. "You know, there is still a formality to business. Business cards are things that still exist, even though we're all adding each other on LinkedIn. So what our students are doing is, they're taking their Portfolium URL and putting it at the top of their resume. They're also putting it in their email signature and in the job application. They know they are going to be Google searched, and they want their portfolios to be found."
Bloom wants Portfolium to supplement current social media employment tools. When you sign up on the website you can use information from your LinkedIn or Facebook accounts to populate your Portfolium account. You can also upload a traditional resume, leveraging a multitude of formats to entice a potential employer.
When I asked Bloom how young was too young to begin thinking about putting together an account on Portfolium, he said that, "Originally it was thought that it would be for just college students." However, he found that there were some high school students who "started using it to find out what major they should apply for." It was an unintended use for the platform, but one that Bloom found made sense when he thought about it.
"We've got all these college users who are showing off their experiences as a college student. The high schools' users will message the college students on Portfolium and ask questions such as 'What's your university like?' or 'Would I fit there?' and even 'What's your major like?' And so we're creating this kind of social network online that people are getting to ask the culture questions beforehand, which is pretty cool. We weren't expecting that."
I asked Bloom about other unintended uses for the site, and he shared a circumstance with me that involved his attempts to partner with postsecondary institutions.
"Our big push is to get universities to adopt Portfolium campus-wide. A good way to build a social network is to get 30,000 people from one university to adopt it at the same time. What we weren't expecting was for universities to come to us and say 'We would pay you to get the analytics about our students.' They figured if students are spending their time putting all of their content online to get a job, when they get that job they are going to post about it, right? Now we are capturing this data of where students are going when they leave school. So we can tell what universities and what companies are looking at the students on our site."
Universities are even looking at Portfolium to find potential students that might slip past admission officers with the deluge of applications they receive, or those who might not even apply to certain colleges in the first place.
One of these students is not like the other
Portfolium offers individuals a new way to differentiate themselves, and a way to showcase talents, achievements, and skills that may not fit on a traditional CV but illustrate who you are.
"When a student graduates today with a certain major every classmate in that major has taken similar courses. How are they going to stand out? Well, by showcasing everything else around them. Showing off leadership skills through a club they are in. If they participate in sports they can post a picture of their team hoisting a championship trophy," Bloom said.
These are not things that someone may think to place on their resume, but they are aspects of a person's life that may resonate, especially through pictures. This is something Bloom has heard from hiring managers in the past.
"We hear from employers who say that when they are looking to staff sales jobs they look to see if someone has played a sport before, because they want to see if that person is competitive."
Finding a way to stand out from the crowd is important, since we may never know what hiring managers consider to be distinguishing characteristics and experiences. We may also never know what kept us from getting a job for which we interviewed. Perhaps by using Portfolium to build a more well-rounded image of ourselves for potential employers, we may have an easier time finding the right job, not just the job that is offered to us.
Interview with Neal Bloom, co-founder of Portfolium, conducted by Jamar Ramos, December 9, 2013
Interactive Resume of Robby Leonardi, http://www.rleonardi.com/interactive-resume/