Business Seek Business-Ready Prospects, Technologically and Beyond
The side effect of business leaders expecting that all young applicants have computer skills is that baseline technology affinity becomes a commodity. So, hiring managers prize prospects who have a complete skill set: the ability to communicate in a business setting, multitask, demonstrate leadership, show initiative, and apply their technical skills to the working world. This final point is important: It goes beyond students mastering theory to understanding how technology fits into workflows and how workers can manipulate these tools to do new and innovative things for the company. Unfortunately, students’ inherent technical skills do not naturally translate to having this understanding.
College students are very tech savvy when it comes to recreational aspects of technology — social networking, downloading mp3 files, YouTube, and texting — but when you start to challenge them with the more productive, business-oriented programs [or] technologies, they are not that sophisticated. (Associate professor, supply management)
To stand out during the interview process, recent graduates are going to have to show hiring managers that:
They understand what technology means in business. Job applicants must be able to show that they can combine the theory they learned with the available technology and apply that to the specifics of a business. To do this, students need experience with applicable software as well as an understanding of the business world, which is often gained through internships done independently or through the school’s sponsorship.
We look for . . . experience on [the] digital side. In an interview, it’s important to be able to express the skill set that they learned (show that they’re able to apply it). [Programming languages], an internship, and being able to show application of using general EE principles is key thing. They need real-world experience, not just straight A’s. (Employment manager, telecom)
They can do something more advanced with software packages. Because hiring managers expect students to have a baseline understanding of tools like productivity software, applicants who show more sophistication than their peers stand out. To hiring managers, it suggests that such hiring prospects can be given more work than others because they have the ability to do a range of specialized tasks, making them more valuable to the business.
If they can talk about a good project they did in class involving macros, etc. —something unusual, beyond basic Word and Excel skills — that does stand out in an interview for a new hire. (Human resources manager, accounting)
They could create new tools to help the business. Going hand-in-hand with demonstrating that they are advanced users of technologies, recent graduates who know how to manipulate these tools to create new uses are very valuable to the business. Why? Businesses are always looking for more efficient ways to use technologies, and if an employee can create a means to accomplish this, it can positively affect the bottom line.
We are very scientific, so we look for tech skills. We had one recent grad, through his tech skills, build a credit risk system using [database software]. That is what we’re looking for; the ability to add something we don’t already have. (Human resources business partner, clinical research)