Textbook rental company Chegg asked 1,000 hiring managers about the preparedness of new hires right out of college. Chegg then asked 2,001 recent graduates to rate how prepared they were to enter the workforce. The result? A gap in perceived strength versus reality.

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This is sometimes called the “Lake Woebegone Effect,” named after the fictional town from Prairie Home Companion where all of the children are above average. While most “hard skills” are measurable in some way, soft skills are more open to interpretation. Moreover, most of the above skills often aren’t taught in the classroom.

For grads, the more you can do outside of the traditional learning environment through side projects and internships, the more opportunities you’ll have to hone these skills. It’s better to know where you need to improve when the stakes are low rather than when you’re facing a hiring manager later on. Also, check out the PDF guides Chegg provides to help you get started.

Previously on soft skillsYou Don’t Need To Learn To Code + Other Truths About the Future of Careers

  • smash17

    Maybe, but it also assumes that the hiring managers’ assessments were correct.

    • Plathrop

      It might not matter as much whether the hiring managers’ assessments were correct as what importance they placed on their subjective impressions of grad readiness. After all, they are hiring, so their assessments have more impact than any objective measure.

      If we were to analyze this information in a meaningful way, we would want to factor out the average gap between the two sample’s responses and look at the relative gap between the group’s assessments for individual items. For example, there is a much larger gap for communicating with authority figures than there is for developing slide presentations. Schools have succeeded to some degree in teaching presentation software. They continue to fall short on teaching business etiquette and social skills.

    • Sean Blanda

      For sure, who are they to objectively measure talent (and who can, really). But if the goal is to be hired than wouldn’t the hiring managers always be correct?

      • smash17

        The figures indicate that there is a gap in the perceptions of the graduates and the hiring managers but it doesn’t establish as the article contends that there is a gap “in perceived strength versus reality”.

        The take away from the article is that candidates overestimate their strengths. This seems to be the likely conclusion. But this conclusion is intuitive, and it’s based on an assumption in the article that the hiring manager is an authority and therefore correct, and a suggestion that the candidate is likely to overestimate his skills – which the reader is already swayed to believe from the title of the article.

        However, if you think about it, the candidate actually knows him or herself better than the hiring manager and is more familiar with his or her skills. They also may not be able to articulate the skills they do in fact have.

        The hiring manager is determining the candidate’s skills on the basis of documents and possibly an interview. But I also think a strong case can be made that hiring managers are likely to be influenced by their experience with other hires.

        I’m not disputing the take away from the article.

        However, I think the article does take two sets of figures and draws an obvious conclusion. And frequently obvious intuitive conclusions turn out be wrong.

        The article could just as easily be titled “Evidence shows hiring managers grossly underestimate candidates’ skills’!

      • Sean Blanda

        Fair point!

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