Published on 2012/02/23

Identifying Skill Development In The Workforce: Challenges Of A Modern-Day Resume Reader

Identifying Skill Development In The Workforce: Challenges Of A Modern-Day Resume Reader
Mozilla Badges could help employers find their way through mountains of resumes. Photo by Keith Williamson.

I just published a new job posting. So any minute now, I’ll be inundated with a deluge of resumes. I’m sure some of the applicants will be worthwhile. And a few might even be top-tier employee material. But finding a needle in a haystack would be easier.

I mean sure, the right candidate is out there… but I just can’t find them. And now that I’m giving my hiring-induced headache a little thought, I realize something:

The problem is in the presentation.

It’s only been 12 minutes since I posted that job and I might as well write off the next few days because the resumes have already started rolling in. I mean, how many “software engineers” are out there? I visualize the tedium associated with slowly sifting through each email. Four more resumes arrive. My eyes glaze over.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m interested in hiring a software development all-star. But finding one isn’t easy. And let me tell you: It’s not for lack of effort, either. They all just look the same. See, the system society uses to solicit and understand talent is cumbersome, ineffectual and archaic. It’s only made worse with standard (read: identical) boilerplate templates. You know, like the one your resume is printed on…

It’s not that the structure doesn’t make sense, in its own right—name, qualifications, experiences and interest—but I see page after page of impersonal facts. And since I don’t own the most detailed university ranking guide ever created… it doesn’t tell me much about the candidate, and even less about their workplace worth. But it gets worse.

In the dynamic industry of information technology (and truthfully, what industry isn’t dynamic these days?) a degree earned many moons ago means far less to me than the years of pertinent experience. Specifically, what valuable skills this potential hire has developed since leaving the hallowed halls of higher education.

In my opinion, it’s that commitment to on-the-job development that really distinguishes the A-Players.

And to those top-achievers reading along: I hear you. It can be really tough to accurately and concisely highlight your ongoing development. I know this because my certification as a Scrum and Agile Practitioner doesn’t shine like I expect it to. Instead, my value-added certification is just another bullet point lost in a sea of CVs. Unfortunately, in today’s resume game, the good, the bad and the ugly all kind of look the same.

So that’s why I’m excited about Mozilla Open Badges. And whether you’re a student, employer or workforce participant, you should be inspired too. I mean, have you heard about this? It’s actually very simple…

The Mozilla Open Badges project is making individual skill development truly worthwhile! By creating forgery-proof badges to display on websites, resumes and all manner of online profiles, 21st century skills are finally easy to display, decipher and understand. Let me explain:

First, any organization or community can issue badges backed by their own seal of approval. Then, you collect the badges by continuing your learning outside of school, on the web or from work and life experience. Finally, you can differentiate your capabilities by displaying your badges on your resume, website or anywhere else to get recognized for these accomplishments.

That’s right, this is an easy and effective way to display skills and achievements your traditional degrees and transcripts leave out. This means, with a Mozilla Open Badge, you’re no longer just another acronym.

Now I already hear that voice in the back of your head, so let me tell you: Of course there are concerns. How can the badges be forgery proof? Do they devalue if everyone gets them? And how do you qualify one badge against another?

But hey, let’s take this one step at a time. The basic premise is worth celebrating. Because at long last, there is a way to increases the payoff from lifelong learning, by giving potential employers (like me) a fast and easy way to see specific skills. You finally get rewarded for improving on the job. And no longer do I need to guess based on a resume, or infer expertise because of a degree. The Open Badges Project also recognizes different kinds of education, and takes the onus off finishing a degree in its entirety, especially when all you might need is a specific skill.

Now let me be clear, I’m not predicting the end of the resume age (sorry everyone!). But what I am advocating is the value in a system like the one developed by Mozilla.

Finally we can celebrate, promote and identify marketable achievements and skill developments in a way that means something. Employers will notice. And hey, anything that makes it easier for me (as an employer) to very easily identify potentially high impact staff is worth writing about.

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Readers Comments

Mitchell Young 2012/02/23 at 11:50 am

Sign me up coach! I’m sitting in a sea of resumes right now as well.

Imagine having everyone send in their “resume file” which is a series of badges and explanations. I could just run a program to sift for the skill-set I’m looking for and immediately take 40% of the legwork out of the hiring process.

Joe Beckmann 2012/04/18 at 12:33 pm

You ought to do some homework. As long ago as the 1990’s the US Department of Labor framed what were then – and are still – the “soft skills.” They represented then – and still do – the results of the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills and produced a tidy taxonomy which most smart HR departments, workforce programs, and schools still use.

Around five years ago, the Assistant Secretary of Labor from the era of SCANS, Dr. Arnold Packer, updated the form to what he called – and published fairly broadly – the Verified Resume. And the Kellogg Foundation funded a pilot through John Merrow’s Learning Matters, in New York, to see how useful and adaptable such skills might be to teenagers in summer jobs, for career planning, college readiness, and to “verify” the skills themselves by summer employers.

The ideas are neither unique nor particularly new – except, it would seem, to you. Check the history and do a google the next time you think portfolios, self-assessment, and other options are particularly new or different from resumes.

Finally, and this is my real point, the open badges project at Mozilla – like the WICS program that Bob Sternberg did at Tufts, and many, many others – really requires a template or a framework with which to compare skills over time and across applicants. Relying on job titles (and then job descriptions) is mechanical and, ultimately, futile, since people will say what they think you want to hear. In contrast, building portfolios and scaling those portfolios against these standard (if non-traditional, or at least non-attended by the likes of you and Mozilla) categories of responsibility, teamwork, creativity, etc., as documented (in whatever media are available) by the applicant, says what they want YOU to hear, rather than parrots a mechanical formula. Too bad you didn’t know.

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