What Employers Are Looking For When Hiring Recent College Grads

To all my recent/soon-to-be college grads, this Forbes article by Sergei Klebnikov hits the nail on the head for you.  Feel free to share and leave a comment that speaks to your experience, either as a hiring professional or a recent/pending graduate.

Many employers today feel that recent college graduates are falling short in their preparedness to join the workforce. The qualities that result in job success are becoming harder and harder to find in college graduates, according to many findings from education research authorities.

“Over half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed,” says Josh Jarrett, CPO and co-founder of Koru, a job placement program for students out of college looking to enter the work force. The new start-up program, which has over 25 college partners and locations in Seattle, Boston and San Francisco, focuses on immersive learning programs that allow students to translate academic skills into professional use and bridge the school to labor market gap.

Fifty-eight percent of students said college should adequately prepare them for a career, according to McGraw-Hill Education’s 2015 Student Workforce Readiness Survey. However, only 20% of students at the time of graduation felt very prepared to join the workforce. According to a recent Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) study which surveyed over 400 private and non-profit organizations, less than two in five employers rate college students as well prepared (8 or above on a scale of 10). Fewer than three in 10 think that recent college grads are proficient in applying knowledge and skills in real-world settings or areas such as critical thinking and communication.

However, there is good news for today’s graduates. Another recent survey, by theNational Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), found that employers are planning to hire 9.6% more college grads this year than they did from the class of 2014. With this uptick in hiring, what can college grads do to improve their chances?

Many of the recent surveys have suggested that there are fewer than a dozen essential sets of skills which help. Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston-based leading labor market analytics firm, found that liberal arts and non-professional degree graduates in particular are having the most trouble finding employment opportunities after college.

In its report, they identified eight workplace-focused technical skills that are “in high-demand among employers” and which drastically improve labor market prospects, especially for liberal arts grads. These skills are marketing, sales, business, social media, graphic design, data analysis, computer programming and IT networking.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to learn them in a classroom. Nearly all can be developed during broader college experiences, such as extracurriulars, or can be learned through internships, explains Matt Sigelman, the firm’s CEO. “Simply by accruing even one of these you roughly double the amount of job opportunities available.” Similarly, Koru identifies seven of its own ‘competencies’ that help distinguish students – grit, rigor, impact, polish, teamwork, ownership and curiosity.

Some of today’s most in-demand employers look for a variety of skills. Large companies such as Goldman Sachs and J. Walter Thompson both cited that instead of hiring students with Ivy League diplomas, there is an emphasis on hiring self-driven individuals who show “an entrepreneurial spirit,” according to a Goldman Sachs spokesperson. Successful hires at JWT are “innovative problem-solvers” and “have awareness to other people and cultures,” says Stacey Klein, head of human resources at J. Walter Thompson North America.

Among some of the other key qualities listed by employers were teamwork, adaptability, and communication. A university recruiter at Microsoft, Anthony Rotoli, highlights potential candidates who are “willing to take risks” and “offer a fresh perspective.” Many of Microsoft’s college hires need to be “self-motivated and excited about technology” to succeed. In the NACE survey, 160 employers nation-wide responded with the specific skills they look for:

Reprinted with permission of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

The NACE survey also examined employers’ hiring expectations by major. At the top of the list is engineering, with 72.1% of respondents looking for graduates in that field. Unsurprisingly, business (68.2%) and computer sciences (57.8%) are also successful majors in the job market. At the bottom of the list ranks health sciences, education and agriculture. Only 11% of employers were interested in hiring humanities majors, and 10% for the social sciences.

Despite this lack of enthusiasm to hire humanities students right after graduation, “Liberal education is better preparation for the global economy and the complicated world we live in precisely because it prepares students to be adaptable,” argues Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College.

With regard to the so-called debate’ between the liberal arts and STEM subjects – the real winners are liberal arts graduates with internship experience,  says  SymplicityCEO Bill Gerety, which facilitates matchmaking between students at large partner colleges, such as NYU and Notre Dame, and big brand name partners, like Google. While STEM grads have more opportunities and higher pay in the short term, the “real-world experience and outside-the-classroom learning” of liberal arts students give them “a unique edge,” he says.

Overall, the AACU study found that as opposed to the major or skills sets, what most employers continue to highlight is having both field-specific knowledge and a broad range of skills as most crucial for recent college graduates to achieve career success.

Reprinted with permission from Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success. Copyright 2015 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

A resume with both of these ranges can prove to be crucial – employers placed the greatest values on demonstrated proficiency in skills and knowledge that “cut across all majors.” Peter Cohen, group president of U.S. Education at McGraw-Hill Education, believes that today’s employers ultimately “need people that have skills that transcend the educational content they get.”

Source: Forbes

Make professional development a priority.

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Be a Good Friend

The title of this post sounds simple enough, right?  But what does it have to do with your professional development?  Well let me tell you what I’m sure you’ve heard before: It’s not about what you know but who you know.

As some of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@DeryleDaniesJr) know, I recently relocated back to the Triangle (for those who are not from North Carolina, that is the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area).  My fiancée (*News flash* – I got engaged on 12/28/14!) and I left our jobs and friends in Charlotte and moved back home to be closer to family.  All this was done without any solid plan but luckily I hadn’t burned any bridges so I was able to return to Nordstrom, Inc., this time as a stylist.  Now, don’t get me wrong, getting people into the clothes they need for interviews, business meetings, and just fun nights out on the town is a large part of what I am looking to do in the long run.  But the sales aspect of the position isn’t exactly my cup of tea.  And I’m not a fan of working every weekend.  So I’ve been reaching out to my network, looking at other opportunities to set myself up for a successful, more stable future.

Tonight I had a close friend reach out to me and inform me that she was recruited for a position at a very reputable company in Research Triangle Park but she had to decline because she had recently been offered another job.  So she forwarded my name on to her recruiter and he asked her to have me give him a call.  I got on the phone and the recruiter said that she gave me an all around rating of A+ when it comes to being a good fit for the position.  After he and I talked, she was spot on.  The position would be a great one for me and would give me the ability to grow in the areas I need to and strengthen some skills I’m already confident in.  After speaking with the recruiter for about 20 minutes, he was impressed and wanted to get my résumé in his hands.  I sent it to him and he immediately got me an interview for tomorrow.

Now, what does that have to do with being a good friend?  Well my friend who referred me has known me for going on eight years.  She knows that I am driven and reliable.  We often discuss aspirations, upward mobility, and the current state of society.  We also have fun and take ownership over our positions in anything we do.  In other words, she knows that, in putting her reputation on the line for me, no risk has been taken because I would not make her look bad.  So be a good friend.  It’s the only way anyone will ever go out of his/her way to help you get ahead.

Should Companies Monitor Their Employees’ Social Media?

Our generation definitely feels like we have rights that have are unclear because so much has changed since the 1980s.  So, when it comes to our private lives and what can be used against us in the hirign process, what rights do we really have?  This WSJ article from this past weekend really delves into the issue and addresses it from both points of view.  Check it out and share. — Deryle A. Daniels, Jr.

Social networks offer a window into how people live their lives.

But should employers be looking into that window?

It’s becoming an increasingly important question. The number of people fired over social-media posts is rising, and many employers look closely at a job candidate’s online presence before making a decision.

For an idea of how prevalent those practices have become, consider a 2013 survey from CareerBuilder, which helps corporations target and attract workers. According to the survey, 39% of employers dig into candidates on social sites, while 43% said they had found something that made them deep-six a candidate—such as posting inappropriate photos or information, or bad-mouthing a former boss.

On the flip side, 19% said they found information that sold them on a candidate, such as communication skills or a professional image.

Some advocates say employers should be doing even more than they are now to monitor social media—they should keep an eye on workers’ tweets and updates around the clock. Privacy proponents and worker advocates say it’s unnecessary. Most of what people post has nothing to do with work, they say, and shouldn’t be monitored unless there’s a clear reason to suspect wrongdoing.

Arguing the case for strong monitoring by employers is Nancy Flynn, the founder and executive director of the ePolicy Institute. Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, argues it’s counterproductive and unnecessary.

Yes: Keeping an Eye on Employees Helps Companies Protect Themselves

By Nancy Flynn

Management has a right and responsibility to monitor how employees are using social media at all times. If companies don’t pay attention, they may end up facing any number of serious problems.

It’s all too easy for disgruntled or tone-deaf employees to go onto social media and criticize customers, harass subordinates and otherwise misbehave. Sometimes that can bring workplace tensions and complaints, sometimes it can damage a company’s reputation in the marketplace, and sometimes it can lead all the way to lawsuits or regulatory action. (And, like email, social-networking records can be subpoenaed and used as evidence.)

Not Harmless

Some critics say that this is an exaggeration—that most of what people post on social networks is private and perfectly harmless, and has no bearing on their work. These critics also argue that companies often do these searches out of prudery or as ideological witch hunts.

In fact, a significant chunk of employees acknowledge posting information that they shouldn’t. Consider the results of the “2009 Electronic Business Communication Policies and Procedures Survey” from American Management Association and my organization, the ePolicy Institute. In the survey, 14% of employees admitted to emailing confidential company information to third parties; 6% sent customers’ credit-card data and Social Security numbers; and another 6% transmitted patients’ electronic protected health information.

Some of the examples I’ve come across show just how serious those types of employee missteps can be. Hospital employees have come under criticism or have been fired for discussing patients on Facebook—which violated not only hospital policy but also the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. A city official accidentally put some city employees’ private information on a public website, then linked to the site from Twitter, which exposed the workers to potential identity theft and left the city vulnerable to regulatory action, negative publicity and lawsuits.

In many other cases, employees have griped about their company online, or posted joke videos that put it in a bad light and took a considerable amount of damage control to undo.

Strict monitoring allows employers to spot potential problems early, get the information offline as quickly as possible and discipline the employees involved. Along with keeping an eye on what happens on internal computer networks and public social media, companies should ask for access to employees’ Facebook accounts and other private social media.

Looking at Candidates

Beyond that, some critics say it’s unfair for companies to use social media as a factor in screening potential hires. It could lead to discrimination, they say, and it may screen out otherwise strong candidates who have done some things the company doesn’t like but aren’t related to work.

Of course, it is important that companies don’t use social media to discriminate based on things like age, ethnic background or religious beliefs. Employers should make sure that they have legitimate business reasons for rejecting applicants.

But, contrary to what critics argue, when companies conduct social-media checks on prospective hires, they typically are searching for legitimate evidence to withdraw or rethink a job offer, such as references to drugs or other illegal activities, comments that are discriminatory or harassing, or signs that an applicant has been dishonest about work history or abilities.

They aren’t just snooping around for, say, embarrassing photos that offend HR’s sensibilities. To suggest that HR professionals monitor social media to root out private activity that they personally disapprove of is to make light of real dangers and potentially costly and protracted legal and regulatory risks.

Ms. Flynn is the founder and executive director of The ePolicy Institute, a training and consulting firm that helps employers limit email and Internet risks. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com .

No: It Too Often Becomes a Fishing Expedition Unrelated to Work Issues

By Lewis Maltby

Employers don’t need to practice wall-to-wall monitoring of employees’ social media to protect their legitimate interests.

Yes, employers have a legal right to monitor employees’ conduct on their work computers. But the only time employers have a legal duty to monitor employee communications is when the employer has reason to believe that the employee is engaged in illegal conduct.

 Many successful companies do exactly that—monitor only when there is a solid reason to suspect employee wrongdoing. These policies have been in place for years and work well.

The fact is, the vast majority of what employees do on the Internet has nothing to do with work, takes place during their private lives and is done on their personal computers. Once again, employers should get involved with employees’ private lives only when there is reason to be concerned.

Human Elements

It’s simply too easy to turn social-media searches into fishing expeditions. Employers are human and cannot avoid being offended by employees’ private behavior that goes against their values. Experience shows that employers fire employees for reasons having nothing to do with work. People have lost jobs because of their political opinions and religious beliefs. A photo in a bikini has cost many women their job. One man was fired because his employer didn’t like his short stories (too much sex and violence).

What’s more, companies frequently reject qualified applicants because they don’t like what they find out about them online. The majority of employers in a recent survey (77%) said they now conduct Internet searches of prospective employees, and over a third (35%) have rejected job applicants because of information they found. I have spoken to otherwise fair employers who refuse to hire anyone who has party pictures on their Facebook page.

Refusing to hire people because of private behavior unrelated to work is not only unfair, but hurts the employer. In a competitive economy, companies need to hire the most qualified applicants. When HR professionals reject the top candidate because they disapprove of the person’s private life, the employer loses, too.

There’s more subtle damage as well. HR professionals are already hard pressed to investigate applicants thoroughly. Often there isn’t enough time to speak with every prior employer, or to verify the applicant’s academic record. Taking time away from these crucial activities to go on Internet fishing expeditions diminishes the quality of the hiring process.

Internet searches also put employers at risk of liability. An employer who learns that an applicant is gay, Moslem, disabled, or over 40 years old, and then hires someone else may face discrimination charges. Once the employer has such information, it may be difficult to prove that it wasn’t used in making the hiring decision. Even if the employer ultimately prevails, valuable time and money are lost. It’s much safer not to acquire the information.

Use With Care

Of course, there are situations in which an applicant’s Internet activity is of legitimate concern to an employer. A police department should think twice about hiring an officer that belongs to racist groups. Someone who visits child-pornography sites shouldn’t be hired to work with children. A applicant with a drinking problem could be the wrong choice to drive a truck.

In cases like these, employers should hire a third party to conduct the search. Employers should determine what type of information is relevant to the job and instruct search firms to report only this type of information.

You can’t blame employers for wanting to know more about applicants before making a commitment. There are circumstances where the Internet may contain relevant information. But sending HR professionals indiscriminately trawling through social media is unfair and causes more problems than it solves.

Mr. Maltby is president of the National Workrights Institute, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on human-rights issues in the workplace. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com .

Source: Wall Street Journal