Archive for September, 2013

I wanted to highlight the recent turmoils many college kids are facing by not getting hired after they spend years getting their undergrad degree. Martha White from business times writes an interesting article highlighting how college grads can outshine their counterparts –

It’s because college kids today can’t do math, one line of reasoning goes. Or they don’t know science. Or they’re clueless about technology, aside from their myriad social-media profiles. These are all good theories, but the problem with the unemployability of these young adults goes way beyond a lack of STEM skills. As it turns out, they can’t even show up on time in a button-down shirt and organize a team project.

The technical term for navigating a workplace effectively might be soft skills, but employers are facing some hard facts: the entry-level candidates who are on tap to join the ranks of full-time work are clueless about the fundamentals of office life.

A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

Another employer survey, this one by staffing company Adecco, turns up similar results. The company says in a statement, “44% of respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.” Only half as many say a lack of technical skills is the pain point.

As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list.

Jobs are going unfilled as a result, which hurts companies and employees. The annual global Talent Shortage Survey from ManpowerGroup finds that nearly 1 in 5 employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills. Specifically, companies say candidates are lacking in motivation, interpersonal skills, appearance, punctuality and flexibility.

(MORE: Black Swan Event: The Beginning of the End of Unpaid Internships)

One thing that does appear to make a difference is internships, according to a Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 college students and 1,000 hiring managers on behalf of textbook company Chegg: more than 80% of employers want new grads they hire to have completed a formal internship, but only 8% of students say interning in a field related to their major is something they spend a lot of time doing. Instead, the top extracurricular activities are hanging out with friends, working in an unrelated job and eating out.

And all internships are not created equal. Overall, only about half of college grads say they’re prepared for the workplace — and the number of bosses who think they’re prepared is lower than 40%.

Among students who don’t intern, only 44% consider themselves ready for the job market. That improves for students with unpaid internships; 58% say they’re prepared for the workplace. But among students who complete paid internships, that number jumps to 70%.

Part of the problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know, as the saying goes. Harris Interactive found a huge gap between students’ perceptions of their abilities and managers’ perceptions of those same skills.

(MORE: Three Little Words to Never Say in an Interview)

None of the students think they’re entirely prepared for the workforce, but they’re a lot more confident than the managers surveyed.

There’s a 22-percentage-point difference between the two groups’ assessment of the students’ financial skills, which Inside Higher Ed calls “alarming,” in an article about the research. Managers also take a much dimmer view of students’ abilities to communicate with authority figures, prioritize and organize their work, manage projects, work in teams and with diverse groups.

It’s just harder to teach these skills, experts say. “It is hard to correct a lifetime of bad habits in a short period of time,” Roderick Nunn, vice chancellor for economic development and workforce solutions at St. Louis Community College, tells the St. Louis Beacon.

Read more: The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired |



Call good employees who have left.

“Former employees are absolutely your best source of prospects to fill your available positions,” says Kleiman. “Make a conscious effort to call previous workers. See if they are happy or if they want to return. Maybe they won’t come back right away, but somewhere down the line they might. So keep the lines of communications open.”

Kleiman suggests waiting about six months before calling higher level employees, since they will want sufficient time to become acquainted with their new positions. As for middle level positions, wait just one or two weeks. Sometimes it quickly becomes apparent to these individuals that the greener grass on the other side of the fence has some pesky weeds.

Show prospects how you can help them in their career paths.

Although you want to encourage employees to stay with you as long as possible, it’s also true that the best individuals expect to depart for another employer within a few years. You can attract the best people and encourage them to stay longer by describing just how you can assist them in their long-term career goals.

Such assistance comes in two varieties: vertical and horizontal. In vertical advancement, the employee “moves up the ladder” in your business. In horizontal, the individual takes additional educational courses and expands his or her skills in adjacent work areas, which makes the employee a more valuable part of your team and reinforces their employability for other businesses.

“With baby boomers in their 40’s now, there are many more people clamoring to get into more responsible roles,” says Challenger. “But there just isn’t enough room for everyone who is driven and talented.” 

If people can’t move “up” the ladder of success, they can move “sideways” to greater education and expertise.

“You must be able to show there is growth potential in your business,” says Don Schackne, president of Personnel Management and Administration Associates, a consulting firm in Delaware, Ohio. “For example, one employer tells each prospect about three “ladders” that are available at the company. 

“The hired employee can climb one ladder as far as possible or transition to adjacent ladders – representing different career paths – and then move up.” 

This employer shows prospects there is growth potential at the business, and describes exactly what individuals must do to climb the ladders.

“There is no doubt about how far the employee could go at that business,” says Schackne.