In December 2020, WholeStory completed a year-long course of evaluation research designed to assess the platform’s impact on job seekers. The results of this research are clear and unambiguous: WholeStory significantly and measurably improves job seeker confidence and ability to talk about their soft skills in interview settings.
The impact of these findings extends beyond the job seekers, also delivering significant value to employers and hiring managers. Soft skills are as important as technical skills—and possibly more so—for most roles, but most employers have inadequate tools and processes to identify soft skills in the hiring process. Therefore, job seekers with the ability to speak proactively and authentically about their soft skills during job interviews represent precisely the sort of candidates that employers should prioritize in their screening processes.
WholeStory is a technology platform built to provide insight into life experience to power better hiring. The platform serves both job seekers and employers, providing proprietary tools, training, and processes to each. The objective is to create a more authentic interview, where the job seeker’s soft skills—character strengths, people skills, and leadership qualities—can be highlighted and identified in the context of both their life and professional experiences.
The study was designed in collaboration with research psychologist David Boninger, PhD1, who also conducted the statistical analysis of the results. It used before/after questionnaires of multiple student cohorts within three workforce development partner organizations (Year Up Puget Sound, TLG Learning, and Year Up Dallas) to assess whether the use of WholeStory enhanced their confidence and ability to speak to their soft skills in interview settings. Utiliziing a “train the trainer method,” WholeStory staff trained employee specialists within these organizations on the platform. These workforce development staff then incorporated WholeStory into their job training education curriculum.
The study began with Year Up Puget Sound in November 2019, with the initial training material introduced in an in-person format. TLG’s first cohort began in February 2020, also with an in-person component. The coronavirus pandemic necessitated a shift to digital delivery beginning in the spring of 2020. The Year Up Dallas cohort, which began in October 2020 drew on the success of the Year Up Puget Sound engagement. It was distinct, however, in that it was the first cohort to digitally deliver the end-to-end program, with zero in-person contact to date between WholeStory or Year Up Dallas students or staff.
Year Up is a national workforce development organization whose mission is to close the Opportunity Divide. They ensure that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. They have 28 sites nationwide, and their students are disproportionately from underrepresented backgrounds.
“WholeStory empowered our students to think about their life experiences in a new and meaningful way. Thinking about their lives through the lens of a ‘whole story’ has helped them articulate how they stand out from other job applicants and will be a valuable asset to any company.”— Year Up program staff
TLG Learning has been trusted by premier companies and government agencies to deliver effective training programs tailored to their needs for more than 25 years. Their workforce development programs put a strong focus on Veterans reentering the civilian workforce.
“By facilitating the telling of one’s story, we are seeing an increased rate of successful interviews leading to job offers.”— TLG Learning program staff
For the study, students were asked the same four questions before and after the WholeStory training. These questions were answered on 10-point scales where higher numbers indicated greater comfort/confidence.
- How comfortable are you in talking about your own experiences?
- How confident are you in your ability to stand out from other job seekers?
- How well do you feel you can speak to your soft skills?
- How confident do you feel talking about yourself in an interview setting?
In total across all cohorts there were a total of 353 participants, and of those participants 178 provided data that formed the basis for what we describe here. While there were unique characteristics with each cohort, a clear pattern emerged where the meaningful impact of WholeStory was observed in each of the three cohorts and was more impactful each time. We attribute this improvement to trainers developing enhanced fluency with the material and platform, as well as to improvements in standardized training delivery catalyzed by the requirements of remote delivery.
Year Up Dallas Aggregate Confidence Measure
The final cohort, Year Up Dallas, showed the strongest results of the three cohorts and so we report those results in detail here. To analyze the data, we computed a mean of the four questions listed above. Use of this aggregate measure (combining the four questions) was justified by Cronbach’s Alpha scores of 0.77 (before) and 0.78 (after) indicating good internal consistency among the four questions. A paired-sample t-test on this aggregate measure indicated that post-WholeStory participants reported significantly greater overall confidence (M= 7.86,SD=1.12) than Pre-WholeStory participants (M= 6.99,SD=1.29),t(23) = 4.26,p< .001. Importantly, a measure of effect size (r²=.35) indicated a large practical effect.
Additional information based on interviews with program staff corroborate the findings of the main research.
- At Year Up Puget Sound, mock interviewers reported to program staff that students were noticeably more open and confident in their mock interviews after the WholeStory training.
- At Year Up Puget Sound, program staff has decided to move the WholeStory training earlier in their curriculum to more fully infuse the value from it into their existing Behavioral Interviewing module.
- At TLG Learning, multiple students reported to program staff that they received job offers which they attributed to the confidence they brought to their interviews which had been instilled through the WholeStory training.
For decades, employers have struggled to identify soft skills in the hiring process. Today, they are more important than ever for employee and company success. 92% of hiring managers believe that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills,2 and yet, their ability to identify them in the hiring process is little better than it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
According to top global management consulting firm McKinsey, one of the most effective things companies can do to address this challenge is to structure interviews to incorporate life experiences into the discussion around soft skills.3 We agree with them. Life experiences is where most of our professionally-relevant skills are forged. Creating space for an authentic conversation for those elements to emerge can create a competitive advantage for companies in acquiring the best talent. WholeStory helps employers create this authentic space.
For job seekers, confidence going into a job interview has a measurable effect on the likelihood of receiving an offer. Taking concrete steps to build that confidence such as using WholeStory, especially around the critical but traditionally difficult-to-quantify area of soft skills, is an effective method to boost your chances at standing out from the crowd and getting hired.
While this stage of research has concluded, WholeStory will continue to seek data-driven partnerships with workforce development organizations to improve our platform and outcomes for both job seekers and employers.