VR Professionals’ Preparedness to Use Online Career Development Tools

May 2016

Introduction:

Online job boards and social media sites have transformed how job seekers search for employment, how businesses advertise job vacancies and how hiring managers screen applicants. This has implications for how Vocational Rehabilitation, (the government agency responsible for helping people with disabilities find jobs), conducts business.

Intervention:

The study evaluated the effectiveness of live social media training webinars at influencing VR professionals’ preparedness to use online job boards and social media sites during the VR process.  Webinars were offered weekly over a five week period. Webinar topics included: Introduction to Social Media; Online Networking with LinkedIn; Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media Sites; Supercharge Resumes, Cover Letters and Job Boards; and an Introduction to the Talent Acquisition Portal (a job board dedicated to VR consumers).

Sample:

Washington, Montana and Alabama VR offices participated in a quasi-experimental design study.  Local offices in each state were randomly assigned to the training or no training group.  VR professionals in the training group had immediate access to the interventions. VR professionals in the no training group could access recorded webinars after data collection was complete.

Measures:

Participants in both groups completed an online survey at baseline and 4-months post-intervention. A total of 131 participants (65 in the no training group, 66 in the training group) completed both the baseline and follow-up surveys.

A series of nine questions evaluated preparedness to help consumers with different online career development tasks. Responses were rated on a scale from 1-5 with one being very-unprepared and five being very-prepared. A score of three indicated feeling somewhat prepared. The sum of the nine items created an overall preparedness score.  The results of the preparedness scale and individual items on that scale are reported below.

Results:

Overall, participants in the training group reported feeling significantly more prepared to use social media sites and online job boards during the VR process than participants in the no training group (p= .009).  When evaluating items on the preparedness scale, the differences in five of the nine items were significant with a sixth item approaching significance. There were no significant differences or positive trends for preparedness between the training and no training group on the items: “How prepared are you to help consumer’s research job opportunities online?” (3.9 vs 3.9 respectively), “How prepared are you to help consumers post resumes to online job boards?” (3.5 vs. 3.4 respectively) and, “How prepared are you to help consumers address issues of disability disclosure?” (3.1 vs.3 respectively)

Below, we discuss the six items on the preparedness scale with a significant positive trend or with a positive trend approaching significance.

Develop skills for online professional networking:

Figure 1 displays the average preparedness scores for the item, “How prepared are you to help consumers develop skills for online professional networking?”  Respondents in the training group (blue line) had an average score of 2.8 at baseline. Respondents in the no training group (orange line) had a slightly higher score of 3.1 at baseline. At four month post intervention the training group surpassed the no training group with an average score of 3.3 v. 3.0 The differences was significant (p = .001).

Figure 1

Line graph showing increase in preparedness for online professional networking post-training.

Improve their online reputation:

Figure 2 displays the average preparedness scores for the item, “How prepared are you to help consumers improve their online reputation?” At baseline, participants in the training group (blue line) and no training group (orange line) had similar scores on the item, (2.8 v. 2.7 respectively) At four month follow-up, participants in the training group surpassed participants in the no training group with scores of 3.3 v. 2.8. The difference approached significance (p=.063).

Figure 2

Line graph showing improvement in online reputation post-training.

Change their privacy settings:

Figure 3 depicts the average preparedness scores for the item, “How prepared are you to help consumers change their privacy settings on social media sites?” At baseline, the no training group (orange line) and training group (blue line) had similar scores on this item (3.0 vs 2.9 respectively). At four month post intervention the training group reported significantly higher preparedness scores than the no training group (3.6 vs. 3.2; p=.019).

Figure 3

Line graph showing increased preparedness in chaining privacy settings on social media post-training.

Format resumes for applicant tracking software:

Figure 4 depicts the average preparedness scores for the item, “How prepared are you to help consumers format their resumes for applicant tracking software?” At baseline, the no training group (orange line) scored a 2.4 and the training group (blue line) scored a 2.2. At four month post intervention the training group reported significantly higher preparedness scores than the no training group (2.8 vs 2.6; p=.031).

Figure 4

Line graph showing increase in preparedness to format resumes for applicant tracking software.

Keyword optimization strategy for online resumes:

Figure 5 depicts the average preparedness scores for the item, “How prepared are you the help consumers develop a keyword optimization strategy for online resumes?”  Respondents in the training group (blue line) had a score of 2.2 at baseline. Respondents in the no training group (orange line) had a slightly higher score of 2.4 at baseline. At four month post intervention the training group reported significantly higher preparedness scores than the no training group (2.9 vs 2.7; p=.041).

Figure 5

Line graph showing increased preparedness in developing a keyword optimization strategy for online resumes post-training.

An online professional brand or identity:

Figure 6 depicts the average preparedness scores for the item, “How prepared are you to help consumers develop an online professional brand or identity?” At baseline, respondents in the training group (blue line) had an average score of 2.2 and participants in the no training group (orange line) had an average score of 2.4.  At four month post intervention the training group reported significantly higher preparedness scores than the no training group (2.9 vs 2.7; p=.041).

Figure 6

Line graph showing increase in preparedness to develop an online professional brand or identity post-training.

Discussion:

These results demonstrate that VR professionals are largely unprepared to help their consumers with a number of tasks that utilize social media and online job boards during the VR process. However, results showed that training can improve preparedness to use these tools. It is worth noting that even though preparedness scores improved following the training, three items stayed below the “somewhat prepared” mark including format resumes for applicant tracking software, key word optimization, and develop an online personal brand or identity. These three items are the most technical, suggesting they may take more time to master and therefore require more hours of training to reach proficiency. This might suggest to VR administrators the need to not only initiate training opportunities about social media and online job boards, but also provide training on a routine basis.

Training opportunities for social media in the VR process are increasing all the time. Kristen Jacoway Beasley at career design coach will tailor training programs based on the needs of the VR agency. The telecomtoolbox.org provides general guidance on social media use for those wishing to explore the topic further.

These results are part of the Use of Social Media for Employment Project.

Contributing Authors: Rebecca Goe and Catherine Ipsen