Frequently Asked Questions


What is SkillsFirst?

SkillsFirst is owned and operated by, Inc. dba ThinkOptimal. SkillsFirst helps career centers provide scalable, evidence-based career guidance to job seekers with complete tools for career navigation, career collaboration, and skills demonstration.

Why is SkillsFirst a scalable solution?

SkillsFirst expands career collaboration between individuals and organizations. Organization members get access to a complete set of career tools and can collaborate 1-on-1 to give or receive career assistance. Members can share their profile data and content with specific members or with organization groups, enabling authentic and personalized career exploration. Organization Administrators can invite external stakeholders including alumni, mentors, and employers to their community to enhance career support for job seekers and increase access to opportunity. In addition, SkillsFirst is API-based and is interoperable with other systems.

Does SkillsFirst use role-based access management?

Yes. Members have organization role(s) that give them permissions at the organization. Some roles have more permissions than other roles. For example, organization roles typically granted to career counselors have greater permissions than organization roles granted to job seekers. Administrators can add or remove organization roles from members at any time. Similarly, users control access to their content and can assign content roles (permissions) to recipients. For example, the viewer role gives recipients permission to view the shared content (only). Content owners can remove roles from recipients at any time as well.

Can Administrators control who members can see and share with?

Yes. Administrators can create custom organization people groups and control group permissions, including who people in the custom group can see and share with, and who can see and share with people in the custom group. This approach offers unlimited flexibility and allows administrators to architect their community in truly unique ways.

Can members control access to their profile data and content?

Yes. Robust access management tools enable members to control access to their profile data and content. Only basic profile data (name, avatar picture, header picture, current title, headline, and summary) is automatically shared with members. The primary account email is only automatically shared with Organization Administrators and Organization Staff. Members control access to the rest of their profile data. All member content is private by default until it is shared, with the exception of content created by Organization Administrators and Organization Staff in organization galleries, which is automatically controlled by the organization.

Does SkillsFirst have career tools like OptimalResume?

Like OptimalResume, career tools are an essential part of SkillsFirst. Current SkillsFirst tools include our Career Advice Builder, Interview Builder, Interview Answers Builder, Interview Question Builder, Question Answer Builder, Interview Question Coaching Builder, Note Builder, and Pitch Builder. Portfolio Builder will be available next, followed by Resume Builder and Letter Builder.

Does SkillsFirst share samples with organizations on the network?

Yes! SkillsFirst shares an enormous library of samples with each partner organization, including more than 12,000 interview question/coaching sets, more than 500 professionally written resume samples, and more than 70 high-quality job search tutorials.

Can Organization Administrators and Staff create custom samples for members?

Yes. Organization Administrators and Staff can create custom samples in galleries on the organization profile including custom career advice, files, interviews, interview answers, interview questions, interview question answers, interview question coaching, pitches, resumes, etc. Content added by Administrators and Staff in organization galleries is considered “Organization Content.” Organization Content is automatically controlled by the organization. Administrators and Staff can share custom samples with all members, with specific groups, or with specific members.

Can faculty use SkillsFirst for classroom assignments?

Yes. Organization Administrators and Staff will likely want to create custom organization groups for students and faculty in the class and set the faculty group as a review group. As an example, faculty can create a custom practice interview, select the practice/informational role, and share it with the students group. Students in the class can take the interview and submit their interview answers for review by the faculty group. In order for faculty to add comments, tags, and update the review status of submitted interview answers, faculty will need to sign in to SkillsFirst. If faculty want to review interview answers outside of SkillsFirst, students can share a link to their interview answers.

What sort of data is available to help job seekers navigate the jobs marketplace?

Members can use quantitative and qualitative data to make more informed career decisions. For example, members can take the O*NET Interest Profiler to obtain their R-I-A-S-E-C scores and find best fit and great fit occupations. They can explore occupations by contacting people linked to occupations and by viewing occupation content shared by members and partners. Members can filter occupations by O*NET data, competency, median annual wage (2019), projected growth (2019-2029), career interest profile and more. They can explore “Gateway Jobs,” which are occupations have been shown to bridge to higher paying destination jobs through recent research by Opportunity@Work, and they can utilize Federal Reserve’s Occupational Mobility Explorer to identify high-paying career transitions in their metro area.

How does SkillsFirst help users demonstrate in-demand skills?

SkillsFirst is built around the O*NET-SOC 2019 taxonomy and is regularly updated to match the most recent release of the O*NET database. SkillsFirst emphasizes important skills for each O*NET occupation, including hot technology skills, transferable skills, knowledge, and abilities. Skills ranks score and importance scores help job seekers use prioritize target skills. Members can tag their profile and content with skills, rate their profile skills, and share skills evidence inside and outside SkillsFirst.

How does SkillsFirst enable authentic career exploration?

With access to people and career content shared by your organization, job seekers can explore careers and competencies in an authentic way. Members can network and collaborate with people linked to their target occupations and skills, and they can browse organization galleries to access relevant content and career information shared by organization members and partners.

Does SkillsFirst support peer-to-peer career learning?

Yes! In less than 1 minute, Organization Administrators and Staff can enable peer-to-peer career collaboration by making minor adjustments to default organization people group permissions. Please contact us if you’d like assistance with this.

How can SkillsFirst help our organization improve employment outcomes?

SkillsFirst is a social learning platform designed to help job seekers build new relationships and expand their networks. Members can share content and collaborate in a variety of ways. In doing so, SkillsFirst help job seekers expand their “weak tie” networks that have been shown to increase one’s chances of finding a job. By facilitating authentic career conversations, SkillsFirst sets job seekers up for success and catalyzes behaviors shown to improve employment outcomes.

How can SkillsFirst support our organizational career coaching efforts?

SkillsFirst includes a comprehensive, evidence-based career coaching program designed to help students and adults find their way to the in-demand jobs and careers best suited to them. Our self-guided program include steps for preparation, self-understanding, option exploration, decision making, and action planning and guides users through a process of achieving and gathering evidence of their own skills and abilities to connect them to employment.

Can administrators curate content in organization galleries?

Yes. Organization Administrators can remove any content from organization galleries. Administrators can also create custom content types and folders to organize galleries content and make it more discoverable by members.

How does SkillsFirst expand skills-based hiring?

SkillsFirst helps job seekers demonstrate their skills with complete career tools to create skills evidence, tagging functionality to add skills tags to their user profile and content, and the ability to share their profile competencies and skills evidence inside or outside of SkillsFirst to get discovered by employers.

Evidence-Based Career Pathways (EBCP)

How does SkillsFirst expand demand-driven, evidence-based career pathways?

SkillsFirst utilizes the 7-Step Career Pathway Model™ (“Pathway”) developed by Metrics Reporting, Inc. to expand demand-driven, evidence-based career pathways. Employers power the Pathway by sharing current and future hiring needs though O*NET-based career profiles that automatically signal important skills to program participants and career coaches.

What are the steps in the 7-Step Career Pathway Model™?

The 7-Step Career Pathway Model™ is a includes seven steps to each participant’s success: intake, coaching, support, learning, credentials, profiles, and placement.

What is evidence-based career coaching?

Evidence-based career coaching helps individuals make informed career choices, after advancing through five stages: preparation, self-understanding, option exploration, decision making and action planning. After taking assessments, researching career options, and reflecting on their own strengths and growth opportunities, job seekers create an evidence-based Career Pathway MAP with their planned job progression and need education, credentials, and supports.

Why are partnerships an essential part of evidence-based career pathways?

Partnerships are bridges between talent suppliers and employers that connect participants with in-demand jobs. Organizations operating the Pathway can invite organization partners and grant them specific roles within the program to expand regional talent supply chains and increase access to opportunity.

How does the 7-Step Career Pathway Model™ advance skills-based hiring?

Pathway employers receive evidence-based career profiles from participants who have been through the career coaching process. Career profiles contain evidence of skills such as assessment scores, work samples, participant career action plans and more. Employers evaluate candidates based on evidence of skills, not proxies for skills.