Employer Perceptions of an Engineering Student’s Electronic Portfolio



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Institutions within higher education are under scrutiny for inadequately preparing students for the challenges of a global economy and workforce. Employers are concerned that college graduates are lacking the 21st century skills and the necessary competencies needed to be successful upon entering the workforce. In addition, under- and unemployment rates for college graduates are notable since the 2001 recession. As a result, students are seeking additional ways to distinguish themselves to hiring managers.

If employers desire evidence that graduates are prepared to enter the workforce, and students wish to showcase their academic and professional attributes to hiring managers, educators should explore ways to meet these demands. Developing career electronic portfolios, or ePortfolios, might address both of these needs. Career ePortfolios are websites that present the highlights of students’ academic and professional work through a more comprehensive medium than a traditional résumé. These websites can be made available to employers and graduate admissions committees to assess students’ preparedness for positions.

The primary purpose of the present study was to learn how those with hiring authority perceive and might utilize student ePortfolios. It is unclear if companies are integrating this tool into their decision-making, and if they are reviewing ePortfolios, how this tool influences their judgments. Many of the studies previously conducted regarding the impact of ePortfolios on employability lacked specifics on how employers would use these websites.

This study evaluated employers’ perceived value of using ePortfolios for the employment process by working from Fowler’s (2012) study on ePortfolios. Fowler interviewed employers from the manufacturing and services sectors to investigate whether ePortfolios were advantageous to their pre-employment screening process. The present study explored some of the questions raised by Fowler, but focused on an entirely separate field—the engineering employment sector. In addition, the present study focused on the potential of using ePortfolios in all stages of the candidate screening and evaluation process.

To address the research questions raised within this qualitative study, hiring managers, human resources directors, and recruiters from the engineering sector reviewed an Engineering Student’s ePortfolio. The participants were interviewed to solicit their feedback on the ePortfolio viewed. The researcher garnered their perceptions of the potential for using ePortfolios within their hiring process.

The researcher analyzed the advantages and disadvantages associated with using an ePortfolio over that of traditional candidate screening and evaluation methods. Those interviewed cited specific strengths of using an ePortfolio as the ability to (1) differentiate a candidate, (2) assess potential fit and future with a company, and (3) encapsulate a candidate’s traditional application materials and online media within one website. The possible drawbacks raised by the participants included a (1) duplication of efforts for the candidate and employer, (2) too much information presented to the employer, and (3) the tool being unsuccessfully introduced into the hiring process, particularly during the initial screening of candidates. The culmination of the project resulted in the researcher presenting essential criteria for engineering students to include when creating ePortfolios based upon the findings from this investigation.



Electronic Portfolios, EPortfolios, Career Electronic Portfolios, Higher education