The Three Big Skills Missing in New Graduates and How to Find Them
As more and more graduates enter the workforce for the first time, employers are making a startling discovery. Many of these well-educated candidates are severely lacking in what are called soft skills. These skills are actually the foundation for success in any job market and continuously top employers’ lists of most sought after attributes in new hires. Over the next few weeks, we’d like to tackle the Big Three soft skills:
- Critical Thinking
We’ll delve into the importance of the Big Three, why they are missing in many candidates, and how you can find these skills in new hires and encourage and cultivate them in your current staff.
We’ll start with the skill that continuously stays at the top of the list for employers, communication.
Part I: Communication
Why Communication is Still Key
It may be hard to believe, but the digital world has not made communication obsolete. In fact, today’s busy international digital markets require more proficiency in communication than ever before. Here are a few reasons why communication skills are still vital for your success in the digital world.
- Fast-Paced Business Requires Clear Communication- Today’s market moves faster than ever. If you want your company to keep up, your employees will need to be excellent communicators, both verbally and in written form, and your discussions will need to be sharp, concise, and clear. Every member of your staff will need to get their ideas across as concisely and clearly as possible, so there will be no misunderstandings or mistakes. The smallest error can end up costing a lot of time and money.
- International Markets- Another wonder of the digital world is the widening of the international market. This means that even the smallest mom and pop business is easily thrust into the international market at the click of a button. Because of this, your employees need to have top communication skills, no matter how big your company is.
Plus, all these added companies doing business in the marketplace means you will have added competition. Clever, crisp, and memorable communication could set you apart from your competitors.
- Person to Person Still Gets the Job Done- Even though a lot of work is done through emails, texts, or posts, you will still need to have exceptional personal communication skills. Video conferences, webinars, and live presentations are all popular tools in today’s business world. Your company will need employees who are articulate and persuasive speakers to keep your business thriving.
- Competing and Collaborating Across Markets- In the current market, you will often find your company competing with other companies that aren’t traditionally your competitors. A staff that is able to communicate clearly the advantages of what your company has to offer will offset these unusual challenges.
You will also often find that your company will be collaborating with businesses in other fields. A strong communication skill set will help get you the results you need in these collaborative efforts.
Where Did the Skill Gap Come From?
As companies look to hire new employees, they are noticing a gap between the skills they need and the skills available. This skill gap has baffled employers and applicants alike. While today’s new graduates are some of the most highly educated individuals to enter the job market, they also appear to be some of the least qualified. How did that happen?
The answer is both complex and simple. When you look at this generation, they have lived their lives within a digital bubble. They have never known a world without technology. The internet has always been available to them and they are very adept at utilizing technical skills. In fact, millennials are very accomplished when it comes to hard skills, those skills that are more focused and measurable. Technical, mathematical, software program proficiency, accounting, and analytics are all hard skills. Unfortunately, this digital bubble has created a void of interpersonal skills necessary in the real world.
Communication skills, both written and verbal, have been abandoned in the quest for competitive education. Being able to score well on a test replaced real world skills in all levels of schooling while reliance on technology has slowly evaporated personal relationships and conversations. However, there is hope for both the millennial generation and future employers. Soft skills can be found in this generation if you know what to look for.
Finding Communication Skills in Today’s Applicants
General skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking are missing in many of today’s graduates. Yet, these very basic skills remain at the top of the list of desirable attributes in candidates for jobs across markets. So how do you find applicants with the right soft skills to bridge this new skill gap? Here are a few tips for recognizing and finding communication skills in job candidates.
- Recognize the Importance of the Resume – Take a real look at the resume of your applicants. Check the resume to see that it has:
- A well-written and clear cover letter that properly introduces you to the applicant. Not sure what a cover letter should look like? Take a peek at this example for reference on good and bad cover letters.
- Correct Grammar and no slang words.
- Well-organized points and references for all experience.
- Insight into their personality. What do the words they’ve chosen say about them? Are they ambitious or kind or a team player? Look for attributes that fit the position and the company.
- Look for specifics, including knowledge of your company and the position they are applying for. A basic cover letter without any specifics is a sure sign the candidate is looking for a job, not a career.
- Body Language- Communication skills rely on nonverbal exchanges as well. Carefully watch the applicant and see how they respond, not only to questions but also to conversations. A good communicator will have:
- Good Eye Contact- Paying attention while being spoken too, not staring off into space or looking at a device.
- Show Interest- Nods, smiles, and leaning into the conversation all show an individual who is invested in the interview.
- Confidence- A self-assured individual will have a confident posture and gestures that match the conversation. There may be nerves, but they will not overwhelm the right applicant.
- Conversation Style- During interviews, applicants should be able to also have small talk. Polite conversations about shared experiences or personal goals should also be part of the interview. When the applicants speak to you, great communicators will:
- Be able to comfortably talk about past experiences.
- Talk clearly.
- Talk properly, using proper language, not slang.
- Polite conversation skills. Do they cut off other speakers or wait patiently for time to speak? Do they ask reciprocal questions? Are they as interested in the position as they are in telling you about themselves?
- How Do They Respond?- An applicant’s response to questions can tell you a lot about their skill set. There are basically four different types of communication; assertive, passive, passive-aggressive and aggressive. You want to look for assertive people who are able to respond in honest, respectful, clear tones. These individuals will be the best at realizing their own value and the importance or their coworkers.
Communication Skills for a Strong Future
The need for strong communication skills isn’t disappearing. If anything, these skills are in demand now more than ever. By hiring candidates with strong communication skills, you will easily set your business above the rest. Check out our podcasts on how to find these skills and increase communication aptitude in your employees. You will see immediate improvement in your company.