An App to Make Career Counseling More Like a Video Game

Diana Cobbe believes she has a way to help students communicate their skills to potential employers: Make filling out an online résumé feel more like a video game than like paperwork, and use it to connect students looking for jobs with businesses looking for talent. In short, she’s created an app that she describes as a mix of Candy Crush and LinkedIn.

“In college, kids leave the job-search process for the last minute,” Ms. Cobbe says. “They’re in a situation where they don’t find out usually until it’s too late that they don’t have the skills they need.” Her goal is to “bring all the stakeholders together on an app.”

It’s called JobVille, a not-so-subtle reference to the once-popular FarmVille Facebook game. The app presents students with three featured jobs each day and prompts them to identify and describe relevant skills they’ve acquired through classwork, internships, and jobs to unlock more career information hidden in the “company headquarters.” In the spirit of a video game, it stores skill development and creates an “employability score” for hiring managers whose companies have provided the app’s career profiles.

“I personally feel there’s great value in a liberal-arts education and skills kids come out with, but I don’t think they’ve been given a mechanism for identifying those skills,” says Ms. Cobbe. “We’ve got these mechanisms by which we’re drawing this information out of kids so they’re not overwhelmed.”

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She won a $10,000 prize for the app in October from the Economist-Lumina Foundation Challenge, which calls for products that “facilitate better communication between employers and higher education” to help college students gain work-force skills. (At the time, the app was called OnCampus.)

Ms. Cobbe’s business plan is to market the app to colleges, which can then provide students with activation codes to access the software.

Tim Luzader, director of Purdue University’s career center, says that he has not heard of the app but that he often sees pitches for services like it. “A lot of service providers are trying to get into this space,” he says. “We always will take a peek and see what the service provider provides, to see if it adds value.”

Purdue does use NACElink, an online system, produced by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, that connects students, colleges, and companies. Mr. Luzader calls that service mobile-friendly and sophisticated.

“We already provide a common platform among hundreds of colleges and universities that has appeal to employers,” he says. “We keep seeing an increasing percentage of students who are engaging through their mobile app. They can get in and out, and have an aesthetically pleasing experience as they go through.”

Correction (11/6/2014, 4:59 p.m.): This post originally stated that three universities had signed agreements to test the app’s beta version. Efforts by The Chronicle to verify those agreements were unsuccessful, so that part of the post has been removed.

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