Deconstructing "How to Nail an Interview"

The other day I found How to Nail an Interview, a one-page website set up to describe the 22 Tips on Interviewing Steinar Skipsness learned as a result of a hidden camera experiment he set up:

What is it that certain people say or do during a job interview that makes them stand out? Why do some people struggle to find work, while others land a job in no time? I wanted to know, and the only way to find out was to experience the interview from the other side of the table. If I could be the one asking the interview questions, not answering, I could see first hand what made candidates stand out. I could then take that knowledge and cater my behavior in any future interview to give myself the best chance of getting hired.

First, I needed to create a "corporate presence." I found a company that rented office space by the hour. It was in a downtown Seattle high-rise, had a killer view, and came with a secretary, who'd call me once an interviewee arrived. It was perfect.

Next, I posted a job on craigslist for a marketing coordinator at a "soon to launch" web company. Literally minutes after the posting, resumes poured in, 142 on the first day, 356 in the first week.

Finally, giving the interview wasn't enough. I wanted to be able to go back, review the footage, and dissect answers, body language, everything, to really see what makes someone look good or bad. So before scheduling any interviews, I got online, bought a couple of small cameras, picked up a couple lamps and lamp shades, and with a drill, some super glue, a little bit of cardboard, and electric tape, I constructed 2 hidden camera lamps.

Of course to make sure everything was legally kosher, everyone was required to sign and fax back an appearance release waiver before an interview was scheduled. The reason, "some company meetings will be filmed and we needed proof you'd be comfortable appearing on a video blog if hired."

While the legality of Steinar's hidden camera approach may be in question, certainly the results are interesting and helpful in a cringe-inducing sort of way.

What caught my eye with this (besides the content) was the simple, streamlined set-up here--a single web page, brief lessons learned from the video-taped interviews and very brief video excerpts to illustrate several of the tips.This is something that could easily be done with a blog platform (Blogger comes to mind as a down-and-dirty choice) or on a wiki.

Although clearly this took time to pull together (28 interviews to cull through), something less elaborate could easily be done to support workplace learning, using videos, screencasts, etc. that have already been developed, either for other purposes within your organization or that are freely available online. You could also use your Flip video camera for quick, informal video that can be uploaded in a few clicks and then embedded into a blog or wiki, along with the tips.This format would also lend itself to an easy online Orientation session.

Taking off the designer hat and putting on the learner hat, I also see something like this as a culminating project for a training to both demonstrate learning and provide job aids or tips to other employees following the training.  Picture, for example, some kind of customer service training. Learners could do brief Flip videos of themselves illustrating various do's and don'ts and then embed those into a wiki or blog with their text tips.

On an individual level, this is the kind of format that might also work well with an online portfolio--maybe "10 Reasons to Hire Michele" or to illustrate a particular skill set you possess.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but the simple format really got me thinking about some different possibilities.

Expanding Your Portfolio

A few months ago I wrote a post on how to use to create an online portfolio. Yesterday Will Richardson posted that he'd used the idea to create his own portfolio, adding a couple of twists.

First he suggested that he could repurpose the tag feed by pulling it into a Pageflakes (or Netvibes) tab. That's a great idea and one that could work really well if you wanted to use the concept for maintaining eportfolios as part of a class. Each person could set up their own portfolio tag and then the instructor could aggregate all the feeds into a single tab. This would also be a great way for a manager to see the work of employees. Again, each worker sets up his/her own portfolio tag and then the manager can create an aggregate tab for all of them.

Will's other helpful suggestion is to create more detailed tags--for example, "michelemartinblogposts" or "michelemartinpresentations." These could then be bundled, making it easier to see the different segments of the portfolio.

Sarah Stewart also had a great idea. She created her portfolio in Wikispaces, but set up a portfolio to keep track of her citations. Then she embedded a widget in her Wikispaces portfolio to pull the citation feeds over into Wikispaces. This makes it much easier for her to keep track of her citations and have them automatically added to her portfolio.

One of the things I love about blogging--we can build on an initial idea to make it even better!

Instructions for Creating a Portfolio

Delicious_portfolio_screencapture I'm testing out a new software package, ScreenSteps, which lets me create visual, step-by-step user guides and lessons. I used it to develop some simple instructions for creating a portfolio, a follow-up to my earlier post.

It took me about 20 minutes to create after downloading the Screensteps software, which I get to test for 15 days. I have to say that it made the process pretty simple and easy, although, of course, the THINKING process required to pull together instructions isn't always simple and easy. I particularly liked the ability to easily identify steps in a process. 

I'm not sure how this works as a stand-alone. I'm inclined to think that some people would prefer a screencast with ScreenSteps as a back-up, at least for something like this. For simpler tasks, this would probably work well on its own.  Let me know what you think.

Using to Create an Easy, Always Updated Online Portfolio

A few days ago, I was checking out Nine Notable Uses for Social Bookmarking (read the article--there's stuff there you probably haven't considered before) and I was struck by number 6--build an online portfolio.

I personally believe that having an online portfolio is a critical work literacy skill and an important part of an overall online identity management strategy. So back in April I ran a webinar on using free online tools to create an online portfolio. At that time I was focused on creating a very structured, "beautiful"  product, so I covered how to use wikis and blogs to construct a portfolio. However, the problem with that approach is that it requires a lot of work to continually update your portfolio, which means that you're less likely to do it. What you need is a way to easily and quickly add items to your portfolio that fits into work processes you already have set up.

What's intriguing about using social bookmarks (in my case, to create an online portfolio is that it makes it much easier for me to update on a regular basis. As I create items online--wikis for a training, handouts, blog posts I want to share, Slideshare presentations, etc.--I can simply tag them with "michelemartinportfolio" and they'll automatically show up in my "portfolio" without me having to go through any extra steps of posting them to a wiki or a blog. Since I have integrated into my Firefox browser, all I have to do is right-click on the item, add a note describing it in the Notes section, and then tag it with my portfolio tag. Voila--my portfolio is updated!

Here's how it looks (I need to add more items though):


A couple of other comments on this:

  • When you create a tag, you can also write a 1000 character description of your tag. That's how I created the description of my portfolio that you see at the top.
  • The feature that shows how many other people saved the item acts as a kind of "recommendation" system. Presumably the more people who bookmarked it, the more valuable it is. If I have a lot of items that many people have bookmarked, this indicates that I'm providing some level of quality.
  • If people sign up for the RSS feed to this tag, they can automatically be notified when I add new items to my portfolio. Think about how this could work in a work or classroom environment--you could have staff or students create portfolios by setting up their personal portfolio tag. You could then sign up to their tag feeds and receive automatic updates when items were added. Much easier way to keep track of things.

Although this isn't the prettiest portfolio in the world, I think it might be one of those "good enough" solutions that could have a lot of applications, both at work and for learning. For example, I could see creating an organizational portfolio using the same concept--that's the basic idea behind this "purpose-built" page from Shift Communications. You could also do this on a department or unit level. I'm sure there are other applications for this idea, too.

UPDATE--Here are more detailed written instructions for creating an e-portfolio with

So what do you think? If you had a portfolio, would you be more likely to update it? And do you think there's value to having something like this?

Convert Your Paper to i-Paper for Free!

Scribd_ipaper Last week during the Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio webinar, we talked about strategies for embedding document files into web pages and one of the options I shared was Scribd.  Through its i-Paper interface, it allows you to embed a scrollable picture of your document, somewhat like what you see with a Slideshare slidecast, but it works for Word, PDF files, etc. You can see an example of how it looks here.

Now, via Web Worker Daily, I see that Scribd is prepared to help you out in converting all of your paper documents to i-Paper format for free. Simply email them about what you want to convert and you'll get a reply from one of their representatives. Then send them all your paper and they'll do the high quality scans and convert your documents to i-Paper where you'll be able to access them digitally. Not only is this a cool option for adding digital documents to your personal portfolio, it's also a great idea for organizations. Instead of all of those paper brochures, reports, etc., now you can have high quality digital versions that can be easily stored and used online.

To participate you must:

  1. Have full legal rights to any content you send.
  2. Not be in a hurry.  It will take time - weeks, at least - to get your content scanned.
  3. Agree to have your content published on

This is a limited time offer, so if you need to get that pile of papers off your shelves and into a nice-looking digital format, I'd suggest you check it out.

Guide to Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio

Portfolio_notes_screencaputre_2   Last week I ran my Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio webinar. We had a nice mix of different professional backgrounds, although it was all women, which I found kind of interesting. Men, where were you?

Anyway, I got lots of good feedback and emails and was happy to hear that several people were already working on pulling together their portfolios.

I thought that others could benefit from the handouts I created for the webinar, so here they are, your Guide to Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio.

Six Steps to Creating Your Online Portfolio:

1.  Identify the purpose of your portfolio

2.  Identify/create/organize your artifacts

3.  Identify the technology tool you will use

4.  Set up a portfolio structure and Table of Contents

5.  Create your portfolio

6.  Market/Share your portfolio

You'll also find a bunch of great examples, as well as links to other resources and articles.

One interesting thing I noted in the webinar was that everyone who attended wanted to use their portfolios for passive job searching--essentially building their online reputations and letting people know what they do as a form of networking. I was actually really glad to see this because I've found that waiting until you're actively searching to pull together a portfolio isn't as effective. It takes time to create a body of work and you need to treat this as an ongoing process of pulling together your best stuff. And of course, having an online portfolio is yet another way to manage your reputation.

I'm planning to run the webinar again in a month or two, so if you're interested in participating, drop me an email. Also note that I'm postponing the webinar I had planned for April 8 on Using Storytelling Techniques to Make Your Online Portfolio Rock! I'll post the new dates when I reschedule.

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Dump Your Resume--Build a Reputation Instead

Reputation For anyone who’s looking for a new job or just wants to keep their options open, this is a little scary.

Dan Enthoven, vice president of marketing of job search firm Trovix, recently conducted a study where he sent out 35 fictitious resumes to companies he knew were seeking software engineers:

The resumes included all the right credentials and background needed for each specific job posted on company sites, including degrees from none other than top engineering schools such as Stanford and MIT, just to make the candidates even more appealing.

Out of 35 of these perfect resumes sent only seven received emails saying, “we’d like to talk to you,” says Enthoven. “That was shocking.”

Actually, it isn't shocking. It's an inevitable outgrowth of information overload and the inherent concern most organizations have about hiring the right people. What's a little scary for a lot of us is that even when these candidates looked perfect on paper, that wasn't enough.

So how to get noticed in this kind of environment? Seth Godin believes that resumes are dead, especially for really good jobs, and suggests that you need to find some alternative ways of selling yourself:

  • How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
  • Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
  • Or a reputation that precedes you?
  • Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

I'd add to the list a great online portfolio. It will give you an easy way to share your compelling blog, your extraordinary letters of recommendation and your sophisticated project. With a click, I can really see what you have to offer and whether or not you're worth talking to.

Going digital will also help you build that all-important online identity. The first stop for many organizations to see what they can find out about you is Google. Having an active online presence that presents you in the best light is most definitely going to serve you better than keeping all that great stuff you've done in a box in your office or on your hard drive.

The point here is this--and now I'm quoting Seth again:

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

I'm going to take it one step further and argue that NO job is filled with a resume. It's filled by having people know and love your work, either because someone recommended you or you've demonstrated your greatness on your own. Jobs are filled by people with a reputation. So what are you doing to build and communicate yours?

Photo via monsieur paradis

EPortfolios: A Tool for Organizational and Individual Development

Here's another guest post for the Nonprofit Congress Blog. You can read the entire article here.

After reading the recent Ready to Lead report on nurturing the next generation of talent in the nonprofit sector, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the report’s recommendations about what nonprofits and their staff can do to improve the process. One tool that I think could help the process tremendously is online portfolios, which have benefits both for the organization and for staff.

What is an Online Portfolio?

An online portfolio (also known as an “eportfolio” or a “digital portfolio”), is a collection of employee information that is maintained online. It includes records of the individual’s work history, competencies, credentials, and work samples and, done well, can provide a comprehensive picture of each employee’s talents and strengths.

There are a variety of free tools available that can be used to set up and maintain an online portfolio and because the portfolio is digital, it can be accessed anytime, anywhere. It also allows people to share a much wider range of information about their work, including multimedia, and some of the capabilities of these tools allow organizations to more easily and effectively recognize and manage staff talent.

Read the rest of the article here.

How Public Should Your Portfolio Be?

Privacy_3 Sarah Stewart is continuing to build her online portfolio and in doing so has run smack into an issue that concerns anyone who has information online--how much should she share?

As Sarah points out, she's in a bit of a fix, because of course some aspects at least of her portfolio must be public if she's going to use it to build and communicate about her professional identity. But the question becomes "where's the line between being transparent and sharing too much?":

Most of the reasons for having an ePortfolio are tied up with giving it a public profile ie role modeling to my students and midwives, and using it as a teaching tool. My friends know I am quite shameless in wanting to build a public profile as a midwife and educator who uses Web 2.0 and social networking effectively in her professional practice. And ultimately, I may want to change my job one day which will require my ePortfolio to be made available for potential employers to view. So if I wish to achieve these aims, my portfolio will have to be public. portfolio is also an extremely important part of my ongoing professional midwifery recertification
and has the potential to contain some very sensitive material and personal reflections about women, students, and colleagues. It is highly unlikely that I am going to write anything sensitive about what I learned from attending a conference, but it is much more likely if I am talking about my clinical midwifery practice. I have a professional and legal requirement to maintain my clients' anonymity. My position as educator could also be seriously compromised if I published inappropriate material, be it in my portfolio or on this blog.

What complicates things for Sarah is the fact that she's in a healthcare field where issues of privacy are huge and, as she points out, being transparent about mistakes can have some serious repercussions. Part of her wants to be able to write about these things because she believes that the profession would be better served if healthcare professionals were able to talk about their mistakes. But another part of her worries that this could be catastrophic career-wise.

Sarah's considering what I think is the best strategy for dealing with the situation--having two portfolios. One will be public and include all of the information she wants potential employers and "customers" to see, while the other will be password-protected. This version will be more for her personal/professional development, a place where she can reflect on more sensitive situations and even reflect on mistakes she's made without fearing that others will see it.

My personal opinion is that you should always have more than one portfolio. One is your working portfolio that includes everything and is basically for your eyes only as a professional development tool and repository of information. Then you create presentation portfolios, subsets of your full portfolio that are customized for specific purposes and audiences. Potential employers, grad schools, customers, etc. all want to see only the parts of your work that are relevant to their needs. I would argue that each presentation portfolio has to tell a different story about you, which means what you present and how you present it will vary depending on the purpose of the individual portfolio.

This still doesn't answer the question of how far you go in what you include in your portfolio. There I think we're talking about having to find your own personal comfort level. What I'm willing to share with people may be far more than you're comfortable with. I will say that I think there's value in including something in your portfolio about a mistake and how you've handled it. We're all great when things are going well, but how you handle failure says a lot more about who you are as a person.

What do you think about going public with your portfolio? How much should you share? How much should you keep to yourself?

Illustration via mushon.

Using Voicethread to Create an Online Presentation Portfolio

I've been doing a lot of work and thinking lately on the online portfolio concept as I'm in the process of putting together a webinar on how to use free online tools to create your own porfolio. (Email me or leave a comment if you're interested in attending).  It occurred to me over the weekend that a tool that could potentially be very useful for creating a presentation portfolio is VoiceThread, so I did a little playing around. The VoiceThread you see here is the result. A few comments on the process:

  • I'm seeing this as an option for putting together 2-5 minute mini-presentations that either demonstrate key skills/competencies or to illustrate your work on particular projects. These are the stories that you want to tell to a particular employer about the kind of work you do and how you do it. By creating these mini presentations, you can put information together in a way that makes that story more compelling.
  • Ultimately you could actually have your online portfolio be a combination of several VoiceThread mini presentations, along with links to key documents or other work samples. I could see, for example, a wiki page that has a VoiceThread presentation on a project embedded and then underneath you could have links to some of the key documents from the project that you wanted to share.
  • One VoiceThread feature that makes this tool particularly useful for portfolio work is that you can make your VoiceThreads private, only sharing them with people you invite. So if you'd like, you could create a whole library of VoiceThreads that illustrate particular projects or skills and then pick and choose those particular VoiceThreads that will tell the most customized and appropriate "story" about you to a particular employer. 
  • When you share a VoiceThread, you can choose to allow comments so it's possible that an employer could actually interact with you through your VoiceThread portfolio. You could also get feedback from others on the stories you're telling about your skills and your projects if you chose.
  • Notice that I can create a link to a web page to go with each image, so on the first page of the presentation, I did a link to my "About Michele" page. Then on the Bamboo Project page I have a link to the blog. This way if I'm sharing my VoiceThread as a sort of stand-alone portfolio, I could be sure that there were links back to key online information about me, like my full portfolio or my blog.
  • On a technical note--for some unknown reason, my microphone was not working to create recordings, so I had to use the VoiceThread phone commenting option to get the audio on the first two photos in the VoiceThread. Unfortunately, I quickly ran out of my allotted time, so I had to resort to written comments on the remainder of the photos. Think of it as demonstrating the two ways of commenting and how it's much more effective to use audio rather than typed comments for this sort of thing.

I'm curious to get your feedback on this. Feel free to leave something in comments here or you can practice actually leaving something on the VoiceThread by either recording using your computer's microphone or webcam or by typing your thoughts. Notice that you can comment on each page, so you don't have to confine yourself to the first one.