Online Portfolios Harness the Power of the Internet for Job Searches

online portfolios


Business students at The University of Texas at Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management are required to take BCOM 4350 — a traditional business communications course in name only.

Most students don’t realize that upon finishing their semester, they’ll have a website that is a game-changer in the hunt for a job. The Professional Online Portfolio (POP), completed in class, could be the most persuasive piece of their job-hunting arsenal.

Dr. McClain Watson knows the web is the go-to place for information. Watson, director of business communications for the Jindal School, says that’s equally true for employers. The majority use the internet to winnow stacks of resumes they receive to find a few candidates to interview.

“How do they get from 60 resumes to six?” Watson asks. “According to more and more surveys, employers Google your name.”

The assignment requires each student to create a POP, hosted by free web platforms. The portfolio must have a PDF of the student’s resume, a video introduction (to give an employer a sense of verbal skills and poise), links to at least three class or work projects, a professional-type photo of the student along with contact information and links to Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Since this component was added to the business communication curriculum in 2013, about 2,000 students have created an online portfolio.

This project was one of 30 innovations recognized earlier this year by AACSB International, the global accrediting body for business schools. AACSB highlighted ways business schools are modernizing and diversifying their business education environment and selected POPs as one example of innovation in business education.


Jindal School business communication faculty regularly receive emails from former students reporting that they were called in for an interview because of the strength of their POPs, and several graduates have received internships or job offers as a direct result of their POP.

“The average supply chain major’s resume and cover letter looks like 90 percent of other supply chain majors’ resumes and cover letters,” Watson said. “They are so similar you can’t get a sense of the person.”

Portfolios are common for liberal and fine arts majors, but Watson said portfolios for business school graduates are relatively new. These “e-portfolios” are used in some business schools, but the Jindal School might be the only undergraduate program with an e-portfolio requirement that gives students wide latitude in design and content.

Students have found that creating their POP helped identify their own strengths.

“I didn’t think I’d have a lot to talk about, but that was hardly the case,” said former student Salik Shariff.  “It allowed me to open up … and basically forced the shyness out of me.”

“First impressions no longer happen when you shake someone’s hand, but when they Google your name to see if you may be a suitable applicant.” -Caleb Ward

“Dr. Watson stressed the importance of an online presence,” former student Caleb Ward said. “I took this to mean that first impressions no longer happen when you shake someone’s hand, but when they Google your name to see if you may be a suitable applicant.”

Watson said employers want to know three things about people they hire: that the prospect can perform core functions of the job; can be trusted; and is interesting to work around. POP helps fill in those blanks.

There’s no requirement the site stay live after the class is over, but most students keep their sites up, Watson said. Students then direct potential employers to the site with links from their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and with links on their business cards, cover letters, and resumes. And the link works exceedingly well for text messaging.

More than 360,000 people graduate from U.S. business schools every year.

“If all you have is a GPA, resume, and cover letter, you might get lucky,” Watson said, about the value of a POP. “But you don’t want to have to rely on getting lucky.”

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