A communication tool that efficiently connects Career Advisors with with recent graduates and industry contacts.
Keeper is a web app that provides Career Advisors with tools to quickly connect graduates with potential job opportunities. The platform gives organization and structure to graduates and advisors throughout the job-search process. A previous UX team created the graduate-facing side of the platform that encouraged accountability for grads. Designation tasked our team with creating the career advisor-facing side of the platform to help advisors maintain their database of contacts and facilitate connecting recent grads to potential job opportunities.
The existing graduate-facing side of the platform consisted of a kanban style job board that displays graduate’s job search progress. The tool motivates graduates to take control of their job search in a organized web app.
When an advisor views graduate's job board, a time stamp appears. The time stamp feature motivates graduates because they know an advisor is checking their job-search progress.
As a team, we came up with a plan to discover career advisor’s process and the pain points they experience so we could develop a valuable tool for them. To understand our users and the industry, we conducted a competitive analysis and held interviews with career advisors, recruiters and hiring managers. Our final deliverables to Designation implemented solutions that are valuable to advisors and streamline their process. Our final deliverables included annotated wireframes, personas, a functional prototype, and a visual representation of the information architecture. We had four weeks to complete and present these final deliverables.
Throughout this project, it was easy to empathize with the graduate-facing side of the platform because my team was attending an immersive bootcamp and our graduation was only months away. To develop more empathy for advisors, we researched their process and the tools they use. We found that career advisors use many tools throughout their process to track students and industry relationships. We grouped these tools into three categories: organizational tools, job-tracking tools, and CRM tools.
Group 1: ORGANIZATIONAL TOOLS
These tools provide advisors with organizational structure and offer the ability to store large amounts of data. Changing the data is easy, but requires significant manual effort.
Google Sheets allows advisors to store data, and communicate with their graduates and staff with real-time updates.
+ Clean interface that allows multiple people to contribute at the same time. Users can manipulate data easily.
– A majority of data must be input manually, and it is time-consuming to edit each cell.
Trello is a collaborative organizational tool that gives users flexibility when viewing and organizing content.
+ Simple, visual way to manage projects and organize information. It allows advisors to create and share information with their grads.
– The kanban platform can be hard to navigate if there is a lot of content and users must manually input data.
Group 2: JOB TRACKING TOOLS
These tools are populated by recent-graduates and viewed by advisors to gather information about the graduate’s job-search progress.
Huntr is a kanban style job board that assists recent grads with prioritizing tasks and marking the status of job applications.
+ The platform is clean and provides a high-level overview of a job seeker's status in their job hunt.
– A feature for collaboration and contact integration is not yet available.
Jobtrack provides a space for recent grads to store information about the status of their job applications. The platform provides users with analytics to give a quick synthesis of their job search.
+ Users can store vast amounts of information pertinent to the jobs they are tracking.
– There is no option to share the board with another person. Users can only store job-related information.
Group 3: CRM TOOLS
CRM tools allow advisors to keep updated information on hiring managers and recruiters that are looking to hire grads.
Salesforce is a robust platform that offers a variety of data tracking. The system provides a high level of functionality to help advisors organize their contacts.
+ Users can track a lot of information and don’t need an IT team to set up the system.
– The platform is time-consuming and expensive. The system doesn’t allow advisors to suggest grads to hiring managers and recruiters efficiently.
Hubspot is a less robust, free platform that allows advisors to store relevant information on their contacts.
+ Users can prioritize and track their most important information. The tool is modular and allows the user to customize how they track data.
– The platform doesn’t make connections between potential jobs and students apparent.
By looking at these tools, we found there wasn’t a single platform that supported a career advisor’s process. The tools only supported a portion of their process and didn’t integrate together. We found an opportunity to create a platform that provided data organization and tracking while connecting graduates to job opportunities.
Recruiting potential users for this project was difficult. Designation provided us with a list of contacts, and after talking to a few, we realized they weren’t users of our product. The groups of people we spoke to classified as industry experts, they were recruiters and hiring managers that hire career advisor’s graduates. While the information we collected from the industry experts was helpful and gave us a better understanding of the industry, we needed to talk to more users of our potential product. We reached out to our personal networks and cold-called bootcamps and universities to set up interviews with career advisors. We ended up talking to five users.
As we interviewed career advisors and industry experts, we found advisors used simple organizational tools that were time-consuming and required a lot of manual effort. Advisors used these tools because they were easy to learn and gave them full control of their data.
Our interviews gave us a detailed understanding of advisor's process and how they support their graduates. By interviewing both bootcamp career advisors and university career advisors, we were able to identify fundamental differences between the two. Bootcamp advisors wanted to help their graduates find specific jobs that match their values. A bootcamp advisor's reputation is critical, they take pride in matching their students with the right opportunities. University advisors try to match graduates with a variety of available jobs not necessarily jobs that match their graduate's values because university programs are typically less specialized than bootcamp programs. Since Designation was our client for this project, we decided to focus on bootcamp advisors' as our primary users in future sprints. With the data collected from our interviews, we mapped out advisors’ behaviors, wants and needs. We identified four main takeaways:
Users need the ability to track and monitor relevant student activity and their history.
“I don’t always remember off hand if I have already recommended someone from the 1st cohort vs the 3rd or 4th cohort.”
-Mike, Bootcamp President
Advisors need assistance empowering their student’s with self-sufficiency.
“I give motivation pep talks for people who may seem exhausted or burnt out. Once a week meetings makes grads feel accountable.”
-Rachel, Bootcamp Career Advisor
Advisor’s current process is time-consuming and relies on manual work.
“ I connect the dots, listen to what companies are looking for, and what grads are searching for in their job. Brain rolodex.”
-Rachel, Bootcamp Career Advisor
Advisors spend a lot of time forming industry relationships that can result in potential job opportunities for graduates.
“Sylvia’s been there for 18 years, she’s built relationships with employees, companies get involved and through word of mouth, they like the program and the students.”
-Carrie, University Career Advisor
These main takeaways gave us insight into what could be improved and solved for in career advisor's process. The takeaways gave us a direction for our product, and we used the patterns we saw to create proto-personas. We developed one primary persona and a secondary persona for the platform. The secondary persona represented hiring managers that interact with advisors with throughout their process. Since we were integrating our product with the graduate-facing side of the platform, we also used the previous UX team's recent graduate persona, Melissa.
PRIMARY PERSONA BOOTCAMP ADVISOR JACOB
Jacob is a proactive career advisor who loves helping graduates achieve their goals. He wants to place grads in jobs that match their values and build a strong community within his bootcamp. He is frustrated with graduates who aren't motivated and don’t pay attention.
SECONDARY PERSONA HIRING MANAGER BETSY
Betsy is a hiring manager looking for quality candidates. She relies on Jacob to send her candidates who will perform well for her. She trusts Jacob as long as he provides her with good candidates.
SECONDARY PERSONA RECENT GRADUATE MELISSA
Melissa is a recent graduate of Jacob’s bootcamp, she is looking for a job. She is overwhelmed and relies on Jacob for guidance. She provides job-search updates to Jacob and receives feedback from him on her resume, cover letters and work samples.
We used these personas as a tool to remind us of our primary users when making critical design decisions. We decided to map out Jacob’s typical journey so we could identify his highest pain points. In our initial interviews and research, we found cohorts at bootcamps graduate every six weeks. On average, it takes a graduate three months to find a job after graduation. Over the course of three months, Jacob is assisting three or more cohorts with their job search. We measured Jacob’s effort and time required for each step in his process to gain a better understanding of his needs.
We mapped out Jacob’s interactions with the secondary personas Betsy and Melissa. Jacob’s effort level was consistently high, but his effort peaked when he had to send recommendations of students to hiring managers because his recommendations directly affected his reputation.
After gaining a detailed understanding of Jacob’s journey and how he interacts with hiring managers and graduates, we identified a need that could be solved; Proactive career advisors want to facilitate professional connections between students and employers, but managing their growing database of past graduates and professional contacts is time-consuming with the demands of multiple cohorts. Career advisors need a way to maintain their expanding network and efficiently connect graduates with employers so that they can successfully match more graduates to jobs.
To guide us in solving this problem for career advisors, we created a set of design principles:
Give users control over how they view and manage data.
Relieve users of time consuming activities by streamlining their processes.
Allow users to quickly pick up where they left off by displaying contextual historical information.
We defined our principles around providing tools to organize and maintain an advisor’s database of contacts while promoting connections to streamline their current process. These principles helped us focus on necessary features when forming ideas later on in our process.
With our problem established, we began to form creative solutions. As a team, we conducted a brainwriting exercise and rapidly sketched ideas. We grouped our ideas into four concepts and developed working prototypes in Axure. The four concepts tested were:
1. SOCIAL UPDATES
A social platform that emphasizes connections between graduates and potential job opportunities.
2. AI MATCHING
A platform that matches graduate values and skills with companies seeking candidates.
3. AI TAGGING
A platform that matches graduate values and skills with applicable employers using AI tags.
4. CONTACT MANAGEMENT TOOL
A tool that allows career advisors to search and sort through graduates within one web page.
Our principles guided these themes. Each concept provided an efficient solution for career advisors to manage a growing database of information. We tested our ideas with four advisors and one recruiter. We wanted to test with more advisors, but due to our small user base and time constraint, we weren’t able to. From testing, we wanted to understand which concepts achieved the ideal balance of automated and manual functions. We also wanted to know how the tools would fit into advisor’s current process.
CONCEPT 1: SOCIAL UPDATES
I created this concept to streamline our users’ process under one platform. The app gave advisors a high-level view of who their grads were talking to and jobs they applied to. By syncing the app with LinkedIn, advisors saw connections between their industry contacts and current grads.
FEEDBACK FROM USERS:
Users reacted positively to the categorization of high-priority graduates, but they didn’t think the platform was intuitive. Separating graduates and industry contacts helped advisors organize and assign priority to action items.
We needed to create a more intuitive platform and determine if status updates were necessary for an MVP. We also needed to decide how to best separate graduates and industry contacts.
CONCEPT 2: AI MATCHING
The second concept we tested used AI matching to connect graduate’s values with potential employers. This platform acted as a filter for advisors and displayed graduate matches with potential job opportunities. On each graduate’s profile advisors can view top companies the graduate matched with and recommend them to hiring managers.
FEEDBACK FROM USERS
Users reacted positively to the matching capabilities of the platform, but they didn’t think the platform cleanly displayed large amounts of data.
We needed to create a platform that displayed valuable data for career advisors and stored large amounts of information.
CONCEPT 3: AI TAGGING
The third concept we created used AI tagging to organize content and connect graduates to opportunities. The homepage was a kanban layout that allowed users to control the organization of their grads. The app also suggested candidates to advisors by scraping data from messages.
FEEDBACK FROM USERS
This concept was controversial; some users loved it while others disliked it. Users enjoyed being able to sort data through hashtags, but the kanban layout deterred some advisors.
We needed to create an intuitive layout that allowed users to seamlessly tag and organize data, so they don’t miss important details.
CONCEPT 4: CONTACT MANAGEMENT TOOL
The third concept we created was a simplified contact management tool. The platform consisted of one webpage where advisors interacted with their contacts. From the platform, users could export information to email.
FEEDBACK FROM USERS
Users rated this concept the highest on a Likert scale. We found users were comfortable with the spreadsheet format because it was familiar to them. However, this concept wasn’t scalable for long-term use because of the lack of hierarchy and prioritization.
We needed to create a scalable solution that allowed users to control their data and show prioritized actions.
With the feedback received, we determined that all of our concepts solved different parts of our problem. We decided to converge by merging the most successful features from each concept into one platform.
After establishing a direction for our prototype, we held a whiteboarding session to prioritize critical features for our MVP. Looking back at how we converged and what I know now, I believe we would have had a more successful end product if we had moved forward with one concept and chose to integrate with more tools advisors use in their process instead of creating more features. In my CallOnTheGo case study, my team did a better job of carefully selecting critical and technically feasible features for an MVP.
During our whiteboarding session, we decided to display high-priority graduates on the home page to gain advisors immediate attention and moved all industry contacts and employed grads into a contact page within the top nav.
Mapping out the site architecture helped us determine the top navigation and establish hierarchy.
Establishing the structure of the platform helped us prioritize the most valuable features to advisors. We determined users needed the ability to sort and filter contacts, view priority graduates, and interact with contacts. We implemented those critical features into our converged prototype to solve our users' problem. We added an option for users to generate reports based on analytics as a future consideration because we found this feature helpful to advisors, but they didn’t need this feature to complete their tasks.
With our features determined, we created a converged prototype in Axure and scheduled testing with three advisors and two industry experts. Due to the lack of bootcamp advisors available to test, we prepped our industry experts for testing by giving them a detailed backstory and asked them to roleplay as a career advisor while using the platform. Through usability testing, we wanted to validate that the platform was intuitive and provided advisors with the tools they needed to manage their growing network and connect graduates with employers effectively. We documented any suggestions for significant changes as next steps for Designation at final handoff.
Feedback from users: Career advisors were excited to see their top priority graduates categorized on the main page. Separating their job-searching graduates streamlined advisors' process and allowed them to quickly prioritize their tasks.
We recommended creating an onboarding flow for advisors to increase their confidence and trust with the platform.
HOME DASHBOARD EXPANDED GRADUATE CARD
Feedback from users: Career advisors were relieved to see a detailed history of their notes and interactions with graduates. Advisors refresh their memory with these notes before meetings with graduates and before recommending them to hiring managers.
We recommended highlighting when a graduate makes a change on their job board by using a distinct color, so its evident to advisors when an update was made.
Feedback from users: Advisors navigated the industry contact page easily. The contact view was familiar to them, and they were able to share contacts quickly.
We recommended integrating with existing CRM tools that advisors are using so users don’t have to manually input information.
GRADUATE AND CONTACT PROFILE
Feedback from users: Advisors enjoyed seeing job opportunity recommendations for their graduates, they were curious to know how the platform was matching grads to opportunities.
We recommended adding more descriptions and an onboarding flow to explain the matching feature to users.
While there is still some testing and iterating that needs to be done, our users reacted positively to the web app and found it intuitive. We presented our solution to a panel of experts who were very excited about our product. They saw how our product tied directly to career advisors needs.
We had career advisors perform tasks that connected students to hiring managers with open positions. We asked them to compare this platform to their current process so we could determine how the tool met their needs. The video of our prototype shows the interaction patterns we used in our design.
I’m very happy with what our team was able to accomplish in four weeks and the outcome of our product. My team developed annotated wireframes for our design explaining our research and decisions. The wireframes were passed on to a group of UI designers who brought the wireframes to life. We conducted a kickoff meeting with the UI designers to introduce them to the project.
Our annotated wireframes explained design decisions and all states of the product.
Because of our tight timeframe, we weren't able to explore as many all opportunities we saw. We created a list of next steps for Designation to consider:
Develop an admin job board view
We saw value in creating an admin view of the graduate’s job board. On the board, we recommended visually distinguishing new updates and edits; this will help career advisors catch up on a graduate’s progress quickly and efficiently.
Integrate with other tools advisor’s are currently using
Advisors currently use a large number of tools, and we recommended integrating with popular CRM tools, so users don’t have to duplicate work or manually input information. Once these other tools are integrated, the platform can pull more data through AI matching and tagging.
We recommended storing a history of email conversations advisors have with graduates and professional contacts. Saving conversations reminds advisors what graduates they have already suggested for positions.
By addressing these next steps Designation will improve the value of Keeper to advisors by integrating with the tools they are using and assisting them with manual tasks.
Keeper showed me the power of iteration, my team refined our deliverables countless times throughout this project. As a result, we developed a more valuable end product for our users.
This project also taught me the importance of domain research. We didn’t conduct enough domain research at the beginning, and as a result we spent time interviewing professionals who weren’t our primary users. Since this project, I’ve made a conscious effort to conduct more domain research and will continue to do.
Finally, I learned how a team of designers with different backgrounds can work together to create better solutions. I collaborated with three other designers throughout this project, and we all had different ways of approaching the problem. I was able to learn from my teammates’s perspectives and strengthen my empathy skills. Overall, the experiences from this project increased my confidence as a designer and prepared me for future client projects.