After Career Preparation Mastery, Getting through the Digital Gauntlet to a Job Interview

Competency-based adult education and backward (curriculum) design approaches are effective ways to create curriculum content that adult learners need to prepare for careers.

Competency-based adult education is an instruction system in which intended learning outcomes and performance measures are defined and made clear in advance to students who then are given the time they need to learn and to demonstrate that they have mastered the competencies. Increasingly, some industries, post-secondary education institutions, and some adult basic skills program are moving toward competency-based education systems.

Backward design is an approach to creating curriculum that begins with what the designers want learners to know and be able to do when they have completed their curriculum, that is, when the learners have mastered the learning objectives, or have attained the learning outcomes. Curriculum designers then “work backwards,” identifying the instructional activities and resources that will enable learners to master the objectives and attain those outcomes. Developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, this is now a widely embraced and effective approach to curriculum design. However, do competency-based approaches and backward design curricula go far enough if the learner’s goal is to get on a career pathway leading to a family sustaining salary? Is well-designed instruction, with excellent teachers managing it, and students’ commitment to mastering the content all that learners need to get hired for jobs in their chosen career pathway?

If the adult learner has identified a career pathway to pursue, an important if, then it’s not enough to just prepare by completing a well-designed occupational training course and/or a higher education certificate or degree program. Here’s why. The way in which employers, especially large corporations, choose candidates has changed, and this is not a new phenomenon; it’s been moving in this direction for at least a decade. You may have noticed that these jobs all require submitting online applications. A major reason is that they include an applicant tracking system (ATS) a human resources database that sifts large numbers of applications for a job and organizes them into categories, ranking them by keywords (e.g. skills, competencies, titles of positions held, found, degrees, etc.) Typically this takes the software seconds at most to sort each application. Accomplished adult learners may have mastered the intended outcomes of an education or training program, but may be rejected as a candidate for a position by the Applicant Tracking System because they haven’t described themselves using words or phrases that the software understands.

To be asked to a job interview for the position, applicants need to be taught how to look at a position description and identify the key words that the ATS is likely to recognize. This implies that the applicant has access to a computer or portable digital device and the Internet, and the ability to:

  • Use an online job board such as Monster or Indeed to find the right jobs to apply for and to upload a carefully prepared resume
  • Accurately research what a position requires both from the position advertisement and also from O*NET descriptions of what position descriptions that have this or similar titles usually require
  • Select key words to include in the online application for the position
  • If possible, review the online application without completing it to understand the questions, take notes on them, and record verbatim questions not understood which may require further research
  • Accurately complete the application

These are new competencies for finding good jobs that require good research and problem solving skills as well as computer and Internet comfort and competence. These competencies include not only the required knowledge and skills for the position but also the digital literacy skills to get through the ATS digital gauntlet to a job interview in which they can demonstrate that they have the required knowledge and skills for the position.

For more information, see: What do Corporate Recruiters Want? and Applicant Tracking System Definition

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