Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Half of employers surveyed think recent college grads lack communications skills

Every fall the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), conducts a survey of employers. In a press release on January 21, 2010 they noted that:

“Employers taking part
in NACE’s Job Outlook 2010 survey, ranked communication skills at the top of the skills they seek in potential employees. Rounding out the top five were analytical skills, the ability to work in a team, technical skills, and a strong work ethic.”

When I looked further I found that communications skills has topped the list for the past decade.
Heather R. Huhfman mentioned and then discussed all five skills in a Wall Street Journal blog post on why you should Graduate with Skills, Not Just a Degree.

That is what they wanted, but what did they get? An article in the Fall 2010 issue of Eye on Psi Chi by Paul Hettich titled What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate noted that:

“When National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) asked its employer members to rate the importance of key skills and qualities that job candidates should possess, the 10 skills receivi
ng the highest ratings from respondents (N = 201) were, in rank order: Communication skills, strong work ethic, initiative, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, analytical skills, flexibility/adaptability, computer skills, and detail-oriented.

"....When the same NACE respondents were asked where job applicants fall short, communication skills led the list of deficiencies (as it has for years); teamwork skills ranked fifth.”

Dr. Hettich concluded by advising students to consider seven ways to improve their communications skills. His article got me wondering whether lack of communications skills was perceived as a problem by lots of employers or relatively few.

I went looking for more details about the NACE survey. It was done in 2009. Employers were asked to rate the importance of twenty candidate skills/qualities on a scale that originally ran from 1 to 5, and you can find those results (Figure 34) here. I’ve changed it to run from 10 to 50 where:

10 = not important,

20 = not very important,
30 = somewhat important,

40 = very important,
50 = extremely important.

They also were asked to pick the top five skills, which are shown in the following chart via blue bars. (Click on the chart for a larger, clearer version). Communications skills topped the list with a 47.

Employers also were asked
what skills or qualities they find new college graduates to be lacking, I found the whole survey posted on the web site for Eastern Connecticut State University. Those percentages (Figure 36) are shown via the red bars. We would hope that there would only be small red bars to go with the blue bars at the top of the list. Unfortunately, communication skills also topped that list, and half (49.7%) of employers said new grads lacked that skill. The percentages lacking analytical or technical skills were much smaller.

The following chart reports detailed results for all twenty categories from Figures 34 and 36. Click on it for a larger versio
n. The top ten skills lacking were communication, flexibility/adaptability, tactfulness, initiative, teamwork, organizational, strong work ethic, self confidence, problem solving, and detail oriented. No survey data was tabulated for the percent lacking interpersonal skills.

The chart provides a picture o
f both what employers seek and what they perceive they are not getting from recent grads. If you now are looking for a job you should consider what these results say about your younger competition. Also, you should consider joining an organization like Toastmasters to improve your communication skills.

The image of college grads came from Kit.

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