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 did ThinkOptimal create SkillsFirst?

Collaboration and social learning are key to going beyond traditional career services practices, to extend services efficiently. Remote, high-tech/high-touch service, without sacrificing quality in content and coaching, is an essential service. SkillsFirst is updated technology, using the O*NET-SOC taxonomy, designed as a career collaboration platform and a network to scale career preparedness. In 2021 and 2022, clients will be able to migrate to SkillsFirst.

Why is SkillsFirst a scalable solution?

SkillsFirst facilitates career collaboration between individuals and organizations. Organization members can invite personal collaborators or accept collaboration requests from other members, and collaborators can work together 1-on-1 to get or give needed career assistance. Enhanced sharing capabilities, such as sharing content with organization groups, makes career learning more accessible and engaging. Organization Administrators can invite external organizations to partner or approve partnerships requests. Easily grant roles to organization partners to activate new types of career collaboration and increase career engagement and access to opportunity. SkillsFirst is API-based and interoperable with other systems (such as LMS), and SkillsFirst has an accessibility mode and a VPAT.

Does SkillsFirst use role-based access management?

Yes. SkillsFirst uses role-based access control (RBAC). Your assigned organization role gives you a set of permissions at your organization. Some roles have more permissions than other roles. For example, organization roles granted to counselors will have greater permissions than organization roles granted to end users. Similarly, your content roles (granted to you by the content owner) give you a set of content permissions, for example the viewer role gives you permission to see the content. Roles allow you to customize access to your organization and owners to customize access to their content.

How does SkillsFirst enhance career collaboration?

SkillsFirst uses organization groups to control sharing and collaboration among members. Organization groups have settings that are controlled by Organization Administrators and provide great flexibility to customize collaboration at the organization. Organization Administrators set organization group assignments. Organization group assignments determine how much you can see about others, how much they can see about you, and whether you can contact and share with them. In addition, Organization Administrators can create custom organization groups, further increasing the potential for collaboration and scalability.

Does SkillsFirst have career learning tools like OptimalResume?

Like OptimalResume, career tools are an essential part of SkillsFirst. Current SkillsFirst tools include Career Advice Builder, Files Builder, Interview Builder, Interview Answer Builder, Interview Question Builder, Question Answer Builder, Question Coaching Builder, Note Builder, and Pitch Builder; Letter Builder, Portfolio Builder, and Resume Builder will become available in summer 2020. SkillsFirst also provide hundreds of document samples (updated in 2020) and a video interview library of over 12,000 question/coaching sets. Members can filter content libraries by O*NET data, occupation, type, keyword, and other relevant criteria.

How does SkillsFirst help users demonstrate in-demand skills?

SkillsFirst is built around the O*NET-SOC taxonomy and has skills importance scores for each occupation. Your users can explore their interests by taking the integrated O*NET Interest Profiler, identify their best fit occupations, research careers together with collaborators, and focus on important foundational, transferable, and hot technology skills for their target job. Users set their target skills, rate skills, archive skills evidence, and share skills evidence to get discovered.

Where is personal career content stored on SkillsFirst?

Personal Galleries on SkillsFirst are the analog to the Document Center on OptimalResume and hold your personal content, as well as any content shared directly with you. Personal Galleries content is organized by Gallery Type (i.e. Files uploaded go in the Files Gallery Type, Resumes built on the Resume Builder go in the Resume Gallery Type.). From each Gallery, you can use career tools to create new content or link to organization galleries. All Personal Galleries content is private by default; however, users share their content with others in accordance with assigned organization groups. Additionally, content owners can tag their content with O*NET occupations and skills to demonstrate job qualifications. 

How does SkillsFirst catalyze career learning?

Organization Galleries provide a dynamic career learning environment for your members. Organization Galleries contain career content shared with the Organization and its members. Access Organization Galleries in the left menu on your Organization Profile Dashboard. Like Personal Galleries, Organization Galleries content is organized by Gallery Type. Here your members can view samples databases shared by SkillsFirst with your organization, custom samples created by Organization Administrators and Organization Staff, and other career content shared by your members and partners. To ensure a high-quality learning experience, Organization Administrators have curation tools to remove default content shared by SkillsFirst or any content shared by members and partners. Please contact us for more details on how organization content curation works.

How can SkillsFirst support our 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 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 manage Organization Galleries content. Organization Administrators have the option to remove some or all default content shared by SkillsFirst with the organization. Likewise, Organization Administrators can remove any problematic content shared by members with Organization Groups. Finally, Organization Administrators can require approval of content shared by Organization Partners; Organization Administrators choose which Organization Groups can see approved partner content.

What are the benefits of organization partnership on SkillsFirst?

Verified organizations can establish partnerships. Organization Administrators can invite organization partners or approve partnership requests from other organizations. A partnership is like a bridge between organizations; partners can share content and in new and exciting ways. Each organization has settings to approve content shared by partners, and administrators can customize which Organization Groups have access to partner content.

How does SkillsFirst expand skills-based hiring?

SkillsFirst helps job seekers demonstrate their skills with complete career tools and functionality to tag their content with O*NET occupations and in-demand skills. Job seekers can share their skills evidence with Organization Groups and Partners, making it easier to employer partners to source and connect with talent based on demonstrated skills. Employers participating in the 7-Step Career Pathway Model™ program evaluate candidates on evidence-based career profile submissions.

We use OptimalResume. When can we migrate to SkillsFirst?

The migration from OptimalResume to SkillsFirst will happen in cohorts during 2021-2022. As of now, we plan that by the end of 2022 all clients will be moved to SkillsFirst. Although the timeframe may extend a few months beyond, we plan that by the end of 2022, or shortly thereafter, we will discontinue the platform. Please contact us for additional information.

OptimalResume Redirect to SkillsFirst for HTML 5 Video

Why are we redirecting OptimalInterview™ and OptimalVideoResume™ end users to SkillsFirst in summer 2020?

SkillsFirst utilizes HTML5 video recording, so your users can practice interviews and create video resumes (referred to as "pitches" on SkillsFirst) from any mobile or desktop browser. No mobile app download is required, as SkillsFirst is a responsive website.

Are end user interviews, interview answers, and pitches private?

Yes! With SkillsFirst, your members have full control over their interviews, interview answers, and pitches and who can access them. When members elect to share their content, they assign specific roles to recipients (who they are allowed to share with). For example, when sharing interview answers, owners can choose from default roles including owner/co-owner, editor, reviewer, or viewer. Similarly, owners can revoke sharing at any time, providing more control over access to their content.

How will the redirect to SkillsFirst work, and when will it take place?

The target date for redirecting OptimalInterview and OptimalVideoResume end users to SkillsFirst is in late July or early August 2020. At that time, existing practice interviews and video resumes will be removed from the Document Center. OptimalResume end users will continue to sign in to OptimalResume to access SkillsFirst. A SkillsFirst account is automatically created when an OptimalResume User clicks "Take Practice Interview" or "Create Pitch". The only data that is passed from Optimal to SkillsFirst is name and email address. All interviews, interview answers, and pitches created on SkillsFirst are automatically available in the end user’s Document Center.

When will OptimalResume Administrators and Staff get access to SkillsFirst?

OptimalResume Administrators and Staff will be invited to SkillsFirst in late July or early August 2020. You will receive an email invitation to register and sign in to SkillsFirst. There is no redirect or single sign-on from the Optimal Administrator System to SkillsFirst. There is no need for Administrators to immediately sign in to SkillsFirst because no configuration is required for this summer’s interview redirect. However, reasons that you may want to sign in and use SkillsFirst include creating custom questions and coaching, managing default content, collaborating on content shared by members, or viewing reports.

Can Organization Administrators and Staff create custom practice interviews, questions, and coaching?

Yes. The easiest place to do this is in your Organization Galleries. Content added by Administrators and Staff in Organization Galleries is “Organization Content.” Organization Content is automatically shared with and controlled by the Organization Administrators and Staff Groups. When ready, share your sample with additional organization groups or by selecting a role.

Can faculty use SkillsFirst for classroom interview assignments?

Yes. Organization Administrators will want to set up custom organization groups for students and/or faculty and to configure group settings appropriately. Faculty can create a custom practice interview, select the interview practice role, and share it with the custom students group. Students take the interview and share interview answers with the reviewer role with the custom faculty group. In order for faculty to add comments on shared student interview answers, faculty will need to sign in to SkillsFirst. If faculty just needs a link to the interview answers without commenting, students will have the option to share a link with viewer permissions outside SkillsFirst.

How will SkillsFirst help us increase interview readiness and career engagement?

SkillsFirst offers over 12,000 questions/coaching sets, more than 100 hours of interview coaching. There are practice questions for every O*Net occupation and a plethora of question types. Not only can users practice privately, they can share interviews and interview answers with organization groups and collaborators. Users manage access to their interviews and interview answers by assigning specific roles, giving them more control over who can access their content and how they work with organization members. Sharing with other members, groups, or one-to-one will enhance peer-to-peer career learning, make career readiness more social, and boost community engagement.

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 holistic program includes seven steps to each participant’s success: intake, coaching, support, learning, credentials, profiles, and placement.

Why is evidence-based career coaching (EBCC) and essential part of evidence-based career pathways?

Evidence-based career coaching helps individuals make informed career choices, after advancing through four stages: self-awareness, option exploration, decision making and action planning. Utilizing assessment scores and demand data from O*NET and other sources, job seekers develop evidence-based career action plans and career profiles with proof of relevant skills for target jobs.

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

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

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

Pathway employers receive vetted, evidence-based career profile submissions from program participants that have been through the career coaching process. Career profile submissions include evidence of skills such as assessment scores, work samples, participant career action plans and more. Employers can build skills-based talent pipelines and connect with participants of interest.