The Surprising Skill Employers Want in New Grads

Attention college students: Technical courses are not enough to guarantee a successful career. While math, science and tech provide core competencies, employers say writing and communications skills are sorely lacking in many jobseekers.

PresentationTechnical skills “are clearly not enough,” according to John Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Not if you are ambitious and expect to see increasing levels of responsibility in your career.”

More Than STEM

“It is vital not to overlook critical coursework in writing, public speaking and courses that sharpen your critical thinking skills,” says Challenger. “While technical skills are in high demand, employers across the country consistently lament the lack of writing and communication skills that are essential in any profession one might pursue.”

Challenger cited a study in which human resources executives were asked by the Society of Human Resource Management to identify the skills that 2013 graduates were lacking the most. By far, the largest percentage – nearly half — pointed to basic writing skills like grammar and spelling. Math, which ranked second in the list of deficiencies, was selected by 18 percent of respondents.

“Even if you pursue a profession that is desperate for workers, a lack of fundamental written and verbal communication skills will significantly reduce your chances of being considered, let alone being hired,” Challenger warns.

High Potential

Indeed, communication skills are among the factors companies weigh in deciding whether a new hire or candidate is a potential corporate leader, a person with high potential.

“These are people well-integrated with the organization and community, who have high relationship skills, leadership skills, written and verbal communication skills. All those are vital,” Challenger says.

Noting that engineers and technical staff are prone to being stereotyped, reducing their chances for promotion, Challenger says good people skills are a powerful way to prove your potential is beyond the stereotype.

“Having and working on developing social skills, upping your emotional intelligence, is crucial for fitting into an organization and being highly regarded,” he says.

3 Responses to “The Surprising Skill Employers Want in New Grads”

  1. Most employers don’t have to worry. The typical undergrad education, which includes those studiying Computer Science, generally are required to take courses in Speech, and in English Composition. Most classes won’t accept handwritten work….I had a calculus class that required the problems to be typed. Everyone had more than enough practice writing papers and reports using Microsoft Word, or the substitute of their choice. It is really funny that while I was in school I purchased 3 or 4 different versions of Microsoft Office, but yet I can’t “demonstrate” good written communications skills because I haven’t taken a course that specifically teaches Microsoft Word.

  2. Taking a course in ethics should be a requirement. Survey says:

    More than half of the respondents — 52% — felt it likely their competitors had engaged in unethical or illegal activity to gain a market edge. And 24% felt company co-workers had done so.

    • Nearly one quarter — 24% — said they would likely engage in illegal insider trading to make $10 million if they could get away with it.
    • In all, 28% said they felt the services industry does not put the interests of clients first.
    • And 29% said they believed professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal activity in order to be successful.

    “A particularly troubling and consistent finding throughout the survey is that future leaders — the young professionals who will one day assume control of the trillions of dollars that the industry manages — have lost their moral compass, accept corporate wrongdoing as a necessary evil and fear reporting this misconduct”.