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Enterprise representative fills out the Journey of a Resume tool during a design session in San Jose, CA. This tool allows us to pinpoint where 21st Century Skills Badges could be useful in the hiring process

Through #TeeUpTheSkills, we set out to find answers to the question everyone in digital badging is trying to figure out: do badges have market value for employers? Can digital badges level the playing field for underserved and non-networked learners in the hiring process?

We started by learning all that we can about employers’ existing hiring practices. We know the badge can shine in the interview process, where employers can ask how the candidate developed a skill. The problem is those who can benefit most from the digital badge’s proposition are also typically the ones that often struggle to get to the interview stage in the first place. Employers want candidates with 21st century skills, but the traditional resume does not allow for all students to fully tell their story of what they know and are capable of doing, beyond technical skills. Digital badges offer students a way to demonstrate 21st century skills, such as initiative and resilience, that they have developed informally through their lived experiences as first-generation students or single parent learners who have learned by necessity to master time management and persistence.

In San Antonio, TX, #TeeUpTheSkills partner Alamo Colleges Online (with support from SA Works) invited a host of area employers to a December convening led by the Lab to introduce our 21st Century Skills Badges. Employers from the following local companies participated: Valero Energy, H.E.B., Accenture Federal, CPS Energy, and Caterpillar.

We journey mapped the hiring process—illuminating the possible places where the digital badges could be leveraged to benefit job-seeking students and employers.

[ Download the Journey of a Resume tool ]

This is what we learned:

  • Starting with posting the job description, employers noted they need to be more transparent about the skills they’re looking for. More than one employer remarked: “I highlighted the skills (in the T-Profile) that are most important for the position, but none of them actually show up in the job description itself.”
  • During the first filter, we’ve heard employers scan a candidate’s resume in anywhere from 8 seconds, to 2 minutes.

We asked employers if the badge really is a good indicator of the individual’s skill, how can we make the badge visible in that initial scan so they make it into the next pile for review? Their answers:

  • A system/platform level change needs to take place to recognize the badge: in some companies, this is a human, and in others, it’s technology, depending on the size and maturity of the company.
  • It needs to be a graphic or something visual that catches the eye on the resume.

Many employers have keywords, such as ‘core competencies’ or ‘leadership principles’, that they look for on the resume and in the interview. Some companies, notoriously Amazon, have gone public with these principles so that candidates can prepare related experiences. When we asked employers how they ‘spot’ these skills at interviews, we heard: presentation, punctuality, engagement, or the vague “we know it when we see it” catch-all.  

The digital badge serves as a mechanism to surface the characteristics that employers say “they know when they see.” With a 21st Century Skills digital badge, students are able to display their skills along with evidence showing how they developed it, before the interview. Conversely, employers gain a more objective way to evaluate a candidate’s skills. We believe badges hold the promise of opening doors and improving economic opportunities for underserved students entering the workforce, ultimately creating a more diverse and comprehensively skilled workforce—and less biased hiring processes.