Digital visual resumes help people with communication issues make compelling job applications

Digital visual resumes help people with communication issues make compelling job applications
  • PublishedSeptember 21, 2023

For someone with dyslexia, writing a resume that might be the difference between securing a job interview or not can be a disheartening experience. 

Key points:

  • Disability advocate Jane Turnbull says written resumes disadvantage people who have trouble reading and writing, costing them job opportunities
  • She has created a digital resume that allows people to demonstrate skills with video, audio, photos, and text
  • Some large businesses say they are unable to accept digital visual resumes due to their security systems

Jane Turnbull knows firsthand how it feels. She’s a researcher, holds a doctorate of education and also lives with the language-based learning disorder.

Dr Turnbull said creating a resume was a crucial process that set up an applicant for a strong job interview, but it unfairly disadvantaged certain people.

“The problem with a traditional resume is someone who’s good at writing writes the words, thinks about what they want to say, edits it, and goes through the surface understanding to a deeper understanding [of the job].

“Someone who struggles with writing doesn’t go through those stages, so they struggle to write the resume or they get someone to write it for them.

“If they don’t go through those stages, they aren’t confident at the interview and that’s where the problem is.”

Jane Turnbull smiles at the camera while wearing a yellow scarf inside with a brick wall behind her.
Dr Turnbull says a visual resume allows people to show their skills rather than writing about them.(Supplied: Jane Turnbull)

Using words, pictures, video

Dr Turnbull said a fairer alternative to the written resume was one she developed called Own Words Digital Visual Resume, which can include voice, video, photos, or text.

Someone who has trouble writing can choose to film a video of themselves explaining their barista skills, for example, or show a photo of how they would merchandise a retail store.

Sydney woman Sally, who did not want her last name used, provided a digital visual resume to gain employment in the retail sector and said the process was much easier than writing.

“It gives the employer more stuff to know about you than what you would write on the resume and you can show them what you do,” she said.

“It gave me confidence at the interview.”

Three phone screens show the interface of using the Own Words app with a pink background.
Some large companies say they cannot accept digital resumes due to IT security.(Supplied: Jane Turnbull)

Struggle for support from businesses

Dr Turnbull said some employers — especially large companies — refused to allow digital video resumes to be used in the job application process.

“Small-to-medium enterprises have embraced it very well, but the barrier has been large corporations where they say they love the idea, but they have their own security wall that won’t allow them to integrate it into their system.

“It’s been a real frustration for me. Even though they say on their website they employ for diversity, they don’t spend the extra bit of money to make sure my system can talk to theirs.”

Dr Turnbull said by not allowing a digital visual resume to be submitted through their online portal, organisations were “marginalising a big part of society”.

Houses of Parliament, London
Dr Turnbull will address the House of Commons remotely about equality for jobseekers with a disability.(Flickr: Pedro Szekely / cc licence)

Addressing UK’s House of Commons

Dr Turnbull has travelled internationally to present at conferences and seminars as part of her research into education and human resources.

She has met with senior public servants in Canberra at the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, and later this year will virtually address the UK’s House of Commons.

“They’re doing an enquiry into supportive employment in technology and my specialty is in literacy, how people can communicate with an employer, and how we can use multiple modalities,” she said.

Dr Turnbull said, globally, businesses needed to make employment more achievable for people with a disability.

“We reflect the customers in front of us. We’re all human beings and we all need to be able to have a job, make a living, and be the face of society.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *