Industry Market Trends

Survey: Students Are Overconfident in Workforce Skills

Oct 30, 2013

Recent college graduates might be a bit too confident about their workforce skills, a survey of students and hiring managers indicates. However, students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) seem much better prepared to embark upon their careers.

Academic resource company Chegg and research firm Harris Interactive revealed in their survey that one area new grads and hiring managers disagreed about most is communicating with authority figures and clients. About 70 percent of the 2,001 college students who were surveyed indicate that they are "very or completely prepared" in communication skills. But only 44 percent of 1,000 the hiring managers rated the communication ability of new graduates that high.

New graduates can also benefit from polishing their public speaking skills and learning how to make a persuasive argument, areas that need most improvement. Less than half of the hiring managers said they feel new graduates are proficient in these areas.

On average, there was about a 20 percent gap in recent graduates' perception of their workforce skills and the managers' evaluations, suggesting that many of the newest members of the workforce have an over-inflated sense of themselves. For general job readiness, 50 percent of students said that they were very prepared or completely prepared. Almost 40 percent of the hiring managers disagreed.

STEM majors, on the other hand, may have the advantage in their job skill sets. The majority of recruiters looking for graduates in the STEM fields say that these recruits are completely or very prepared to solve problems through experimentation. STEM hiring managers also indicated that STEM graduates also have better writing skills (56 percent) than recruits hired by non-STEM hiring managers (43 percent).

The findings also pointed to core areas that matter most to hiring managers. Almost all (93 percent) of the hiring managers want new recruits to demonstrate the initiative to lead, and 91 percent say they hope to see extracurricular activities related to a job listed in a resume.

Chegg, which offers career guides, videos and tips for students just starting their research to the "almost hired," recently compiled a video with experts who provided expert insight into the most in-demand skills.

"It's trite, but communication skills are always going to be critical, and something that we noticed today, not only with people coming out of college, is that writing skills, in a very formal sense, have deteriorated," Steve Ginsburg, the senior vice president of  human Resources at Universal Weather and Aviation Inc., said in the video.

"We're all into the things we do in electronic and social media with how we shorten things up. Well, there's still a lot of formal communication that requires the ability to speak and the ability to write."

Other findings released earlier this year by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicate that graduates fall behind "writing in English" and "mathematics."