Beacon News

Career Center Makes “Big” Investment in Student/Alumni Career Success

| Beacon News, Career Development

Marrisa Branch hones her interviewing skills with Big Interview AI.
Marrisa Branch hones her interviewing skills with Big Interview AI.

By Brad Kuhn

At a time when more than half of college graduates say artificial intelligence makes them question whether they are ready for today’s workforce, Beacon College is using AI to help students and alumni beat the odds.

In late 2023, the Juan & Lisa Jones Center for Career Preparation began testing “Big Interview,” an AI-assisted job interview training tool designed to reduce anxiety and improve outcomes by giving users the opportunity to practice and get immediate feedback/coaching whenever and wherever their schedule permits. The software is being rolled out over the next several weeks and if early demand is any indication, it’s sure to be a big hit.

“We started last fall with a few test students representing each major and a variety of skill levels,” said center director Melissa Bradley. “By the end of the year we had a waiting list of 26 students and alumni wanting to be trained on the system. We didn’t promote it, but we kept getting requests from students who wanted to be added to the test group. The waiting list grew solely by word of mouth. It’s very exciting.”

Beacon has long been laser-focused on helping students find meaningful and rewarding work. Estimates put the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults in the United States at somewhere between 30 and 40 percent — compared with less than four percent for the population as a whole. Beacon’s four-year Career Development Model aims to foster a successful transition from college to the workplace through goal setting, internships, counseling, and performance feedback.

“Big Interview critiques drill down much deeper than we’ve ever had the ability to do beforehand in mock interviews,” Bradley said. “We think of it as an advantage for our students to help make them more competitive and successful in the workforce.”

Beacon is ahead of the curve in that regard. “Career success” is the top reason people give for getting a college degree, according to a recent a survey of alumni by the workforce analytics firm Lightcast. Nevertheless, the survey found that fewer than one in five graduates strongly agreed that their universities and colleges had invested in their careers and helped them understand career opportunities, create career plans, and network with employers or alumni.

Students and parents are justifiably concerned about getting a good return on their college investment. They believe a college degree should be a steppingstone toward a good career. Big Interview will offer students and alumni a chance to prepare for that big step, by helping them hone their interview skills in an environment designed to replicate, as closely as possible, the conditions and questions they are likely to experience in the workplace.

“We wanted to create an environment that offered greater practice to students, in a more practical way that also leverages and reflects the technology that many of our future employers are already using,” Bradley said.

Big Interview helps clear a major upfront hurdle, especially for neurodivergent job seekers new to the interview process: it burnishes communication skills, self-confidence, negotiation, and other vital workplace-readiness competencies through recorded practice video interviews.

The software uses AI to track important performance elements, such as eye contact, vocabulary, and filler words. Once students have been trained and enrolled through the career center they can log in and practice anytime and anywhere. There’s no limit on how many times users can take a practice interview, and because interviews are conducted in private, there is no social pressure, or judgment.

Training sessions can be scheduled through Handshake.