This fall, AUSU began a new partnership with SMART Career Center to use their VMock program to provide Athabasca University undergraduate students with an innovative way to navigate the tough job climate. Using artificial intelligence, VMock matches a candidate’s skills and talents with specific career opportunities. The online technology differs from traditional job databases by helping candidates build the best possible online profile to market their experience and education. VMock’s services include streamlining candidates’ résumés, conducting mock interviews, scanning online profiles, and providing personalized feedback. The program is designed to utilize modern technology to enhance students’ online portfolios. AUSU’s decision to invest in VMock has been influenced by graduate feedback and a desire to help all AU undergrads succeed in their future careers.
I caught up with AUSU’s Executive Director, Jodi Campbell, to discuss why VMock was chosen for AU students. Campbell said that, during a 2019 review, AUSU identified career services as one area where AU students are under supported. When looking for a way to provide students with access to résumé services, AUSU ”focused on ‘online’ career options/services that all AUSU members could access”. He noted that VMock’s focus on candidates’ online portfolio development made them stand out against other more basic job databases. Their AI technology supports successful job applications by guiding you through what a good résumé looks like, how to prepare for competitive interviews and how to highlight marketable education and skills.
The benefits of the program are not just to match students with potential employers, but for students to be able to concisely market all of their talents; this includes feedback on mock interviews with attention to appearance, tone, body language, and industry related literacy. Campbell also indicates user friendliness and personalization were strong factors in AUSU’s decision to partner with VMock. I personally see VMock’s innovative strategy as an effective tool for highlighting candidates’ best characteristics; their scanning technology optimizes your strengths, identifies key competencies and makes résumés more noticeable to employers.
However, this program does come at a cost and AUSU has invested $15,000 USD to ensure students have the tools they need to be competitive in the job market. Campbell notes during this first year, AUSU is eager to measure how well the program benefits students’ ability to gain meaningful employment either during or after their studies at Athabasca University. AUSU is not alone in partnering with VMock and the program is used in 130 countries and by 250 academic institutions. These statistics alone infer universities all over the globe are investing in the success of their students.
What are the Main Features?
Initially, I assumed VMock was just another online job databased, but upon further investigation it actually has some really innovative features such as:
- SMART Career Platform – Provides personalized feedback on your résumé and utilizes AI technology to compare your experience against corporate job criteria and global standards. This allows you to modify your information to match employer job postings or take notice of areas where you may need more professional growth and development for your chosen occupation/career path. The best part – it is quick and personalized to your résumé and career ambitions.
- Social Media (LinkedIn) Analysis – Allows you to match your online presence with your résumé and qualifications. This ensures you send a consistent message across all online platforms as prospective employers do check your social media accounts!
- Smart Pitch – Practice makes perfect. VMock gives you real time advice on your interview skills. Practice and perfect your pitch to make yourself stand out against other candidates. A score is provided to benchmark your skills and attributes over possible competitors.
- Cross-placement of talent – By engaging with VMock’s portfolio process, potential candidates are linked to any number of career options, some they may have not considered. With the recent pandemic this is even more essential as jobs become more competitive and companies are looking to hire based on specialized skills and education backgrounds.
What are VMock’s Limitations?
When comparing the value of different career placement technologies, VMock scores quite well but AI technology does have some “human” limitations. VMock can match you to jobs you may qualify for, but it can’t provide you with the knowledge gaps you may need to be competitive across different industries and job descriptions. For example, the AI might match you to eligible jobs, but it doesn’t necessarily know which jobs would be a perfect fit for your personality. In a recent article, Sharpening The Spear: 5 Ways To Leverage The Lockdown, Forbes recommends investing in your own future during this global pandemic by taking to heart the knowledge gaps you may have and building skills which will make your profile more competitive. VMock can shed light on skills you should invest in, but it doesn’t give you direction for to how to acquire them.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) present another shortfall to VMock’s abilities. Jobscan argues many employers use ATS to weed out applicants without needing to cite a reason for their résumé being disregarded. You may qualify for one job posting in your chosen industry but not another and not know why. Jobscan investigates what algorithms are being used by employers to sort applicants and uses the information to make recommendations for specific words and skills candidates should include in their applications for certain job titles.
The scoring system used by VMock also does not support creativity or artistic expression in résumés, it is only qualifying your content. Applicants should consider adding more qualitative measurable data over the inclusion of stylistic elements. Boston University has tips and tricks for student submissions to VMock, citing that even the best résumés they submitted during their trial only received a score of 80%. Even with these challenges, there are many benefits for students to improve their applications, highlight their experience and skills and be connected with jobs in their preferred career paths.
Do you have a VMock Success Story?
AUSU’s previous President, Brandon Simmons, tested VMock’s platform during a review of potential career services for AU students. Simmons had a positive experience, citing the online services and résumé advice as beneficial. Through the comparative research on other similar online products and based on Simmons personal feedback, AUSU initiated the partnership with VMock. Since it has been available, over 70 AU students have interacted with VMock. I am eager to hear how these students interacted with the program and if they thought it was a valuable tool for building eye catching résumés. I also wonder if the process as user friendly as it claims. I would love to hear your feedback if you have personally tried VMock. AUSU hopes it will be a valuable career service to AU students and I believe this service is both timely and essential for students to be competitive in an increasingly challenging job market. I am definitely intrigued and anticipate that I will want to try it once I have completed my program.