A 2016 report from PayScale revealed a disconnect between how prepared grads think they are and what hiring managers actually think. While 87% of grads feel like they are ready for the big-time, only 50% of hiring managers feel the same way. This concern about Millennials’ “skills gap” is even greater among Gen-Xers and Boomers who are in charge of hiring, with only 47% and 48%, respectively, believing recent grads are prepared for full-time employment.
So, what are today’s grads missing? Why are employers so dubious about the skill sets of budding young professionals in the IT industry and throughout the up-and-coming workforce?
“Soft Skills” Are Lacking
Most of the concerns aren’t about technical competence or ability – the “hard skills” involved in performing a job’s essential tasks. Rather, employers see shortcomings in “soft skills” – things like emotional intelligence, communication and interpersonal skills, and personal management. That brilliant new employee may be at the top of their game with their head down, burning through lines of code hour after hour, but when they get up from their desk, can they have a human conversation with their coworkers or superiors? Do they show respect and an openness to collaborating with others, or does every interaction seem like an imposition? Are they responsive, open to suggestions and constructive criticism, and willing to learn? In sum, do they conduct themselves professionally?
The truth is, even the best universities may not spend enough time preparing graduates for the realities of the modern workforce. And companies moving at lightning speed don’t have the time to train people in basic workplace etiquette, attitude, and protocols when they expect new hires to hit the ground running.
Communication is Key
The biggest “soft skill” employers found lacking is the ability to effectively communicate, both verbally and in writing. Because Millennials spend so much time communicating through technology and digital media; their verbal communication skills are rusty. Instead of picking up the phone and calling the client or setting up a meeting, it is their inclination to text because it's more efficient in their mind. But for those who didn’t grow up using their thumbs as their preferred way of communication, having a younger employee communicate through texts can be seen as disrespectful or lazy.
Texting and emails have also led to an unfortunate casualness about spelling, punctuation, grammar, and other fundamental aspects of effective, professional written communication. Younger employees don't always understand the premise behind formal email communication, nor can they navigate work disagreements or lead a conference call. All of these tasks require strong communication skills.
In addition to effective communication, hiring managers also cited the following “soft skills” as ones they look for when evaluating candidates:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work as part of a team
- Organizational skills
Remember, the interviewing process isn't just about learning more about what's on a resume, it's also the time to see how candidates interact with others and present themselves in a professional setting. IT staffing companies in Dallas or wherever your career takes you will tell you that no matter how at ease you may be when communicating through a screen, if you can’t hold a conversation or act like the professional you are seeking to be, you’ll have plenty of time on your hands to text about how hard it is to find a job.