End Debate Over ePortfolios: Just Do It!


To do, or not to do an ePortfolio? That appears to be the question facing many soon-to-graduate students as they prepare for highly competitive job searches.

Unless you have a job locked up already, the answer is a no brainer. An ePortfolio can boost your employment chances unless you do a lousy job with it.

The business world is somewhat split on the value of ePortfolios. Some hiring managers say they don’t look at them while others confirm they can become the deciding factor on who to interview and hire. Many students wonder if they’re worthwhile or just make work. Even with the debate over their value, more than 50% of U.S. college students last year produced ePortfolios, according to Educause, a higher education nonprofit. That up from 7% in just the past four years.

Few recruiters ask to see an ePortfolio, but most agreed that “if it’s there, we’ll look at it.” That’s the point of view of Heyman Associates recruiter Jamie Wernet, who says: “We always Google our candidates, so if it’s on the Web, we’ll turn it up.” She looks at the quality of the pieces in the ePortfolio, but also wants to see if the candidate is tech savvy and didn’t produce something that looks like a MySpace page.

“You could have the most beautiful writing samples and showcase metrics from the coolest projects, but if it looks unprofessional and is difficulty to navigate or isn’t up-to-date (a common sin), it is a point against you,” Jaime says. Students and teachers considering their own blog can get useful tips from Build Your Own Blog.

Porter Novelli HR Vice President Karen Swiatek sees ePortfolios as “supplemental material,” noting that it’s something that you might use during the actually interview process.  “Online portfolios also make sense because recruiters usually recruit for a region, and may not be able to meet people in person, or they can be interviewing with people who may not work directly in the office where the position as located,” Karen said. One recruiter said having the ePortfolio easily accessible on an iPad is advisable for fast reference during interviews.

The PR and advertising graduate program at DePaul University ended comprehensive exams this year after successfully testing ePortfolios that showcase student work. The academic director of our program, Dr. Teresa Mastin, is addressing Jamie’s concerns by developing a standard consistent structure for ePortfolios, e.g. resume, research, social media and writing samples.

Tara Giuliano is one of the initial ePortfolio success stories at DePaul, while Dionne Gomez is another future pro who pulled together a fun, information-packed ePortfolio.

Edelman’s vice president of recruiting Travis Kessel sees significant value in ePortfolios. “Regardless of whether someone reads it from beginning to end, the effort in and of itself requires students to be organized and can allow them to put their mouth where their resume is,” Travis said. “While the number of employers looking at the portfolio might be low now, that does not show the ‘trend’, which in my opinion will likely grow more and more toward reviewing this type of content in the future.”

Unfortunately, part of the bad rap for ePortfolios stems from the fact that some students put in too little effort. The result simply becomes an electronic version of a resume that fails to demonstrate their experience or capabilities. As Tara and Dionne did with their ePortfolios, make your professional and college experience come to life. Your next job could depend on it.

From my Culpwrit on Careers column in the current issue of FORUM, a publication of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). For teachers thinking about blogging, get some great tips from Build Your Own Blog.  

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