What Employers Want You to Learn

Employers want you to have a very specific set of personal skills. Among the top of the list are:  critical thinking, written and oral communications, inquiry and analysis, quantitative literacy, information literacy, team work and problem solving, life long learning. Notice that this list of priorities does not include, “a college degree from XYZ university” or “a major in ABC”.  This list prioritizes what you need to be able to do to be a valued employee. Your challenge is to wisely invest your time and money in learning that can provide these personal skills. The bottom line is that simply getting a college degree (“getting the piece of paper”) is not sufficient to meet these employer needs.

You need to learn to be able to compete today. Far-reaching global, economic and technological developments have converged to make post-secondary learning an imperative for almost everyone.

Buzz Today Source: Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College Both the country’s future economic growth and individual opportunity are now closely tied to the attainment of high levels of knowledge and skill, and to the ability to continuing learning over a lifetime. Former Harvard University President Derek Bok reports that college students are under-performing in virtually every area of academic endeavor including skills such as critical thinking, writing and quantitative reasoning.

So a question you should be asking is: “Why are employers looking for better ways to hire?” I defer to Laszio Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations to answer this question. “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.s are worthless as a criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless – no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything…On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything.” Source: New York Times Interview

The important thing about this information, is what it means to you – someone trying to decide the best course of action to your learn-prosper future. Here is the main take away. When it comes to getting a better job, one that is challenging, fulfilling and pays well, the things that have been valuable in the past are far less valuable today. Your opportunities are much more defined by how accomplished you are in the skills listed in the first paragraph of this blog than either the major or which college or university you attended. This all brings us to a discussion about the cost and value of your learning. This is a topic I will cover in future blog posts here. In the meantime, it is valuable to read “Your Future is Calling” to better understand why you should view learning as the path to the prosperous future you desire.

What Employers Are Looking for in Degrees and Credentials

Some are arguing that it is possible to get a good job without a college degree.  It’s true.  It is possible.  But the fact is, having the right credentials vastly increases your chances to have the future you desire.  This blog post gives you  facts about why this is the case and what you need to do about it.  Buzz TodaySource:  CollegeMeasures.org     Higher education is one of the most important investments that people make. And most students make this investment because they want a better chance to land a good career and higher earnings. Because college credentials are usually associated with higher earnings, taking on reasonable debt or paying high tuition are not necessarily bad choices. But as they enter the labor market, some graduates earn far more than others. Graduates with the same major but from different schools can take home substantially different amounts of money. And earnings vary widely among graduates from the same school who have chosen different majors.

In BUZZ Today we see what researchers show us about careers, majors and schools.  The CollegeMeasures.org site is full of valuable salary information from thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of college graduates in five different states.  The data is well worth the effort to understand it.

But CollegeMeasures.org looks at actual market data for degrees and careers.  What we want to do here is look at the issues from the employer’s perspective.

For better or worse, this is a JOB market.  Markets are the connection of buyers and sellers.  Employers are hard nosed decision makers and you are a seller and employers are buyers.  To get a sense of the employer perspective as a buyer think about the situations where you are the buyer and someone else is the seller.  An example might be when you are buying a house or a car. What you want as a buyer is a quality product that fits your needs, a competitive price and some assurance that what you are buying has some staying power.  Employers want the same things you do as a buyer.

So what do employers want when they hire you?  They want to have some assurance that you can actually do what they are hiring you to do.  That is what your major is all about.  It is extremely unlikely that they will hire a biology major for a $125,000 a year petroleum engineering position.  Because our world of work is becoming ever more specialized and complex, what you are qualified to do becomes more important every year.  The difference in pay reflects the growing need for skills and knowledge.  The market salaries on CollegeMeasures document the demand for such skills and knowledge in the job market.

A degree communicates more than merely skills.  To an employer, someone with a degree is a person who has demonstrated behaviors that employers value.  Earning a degree is a long term commitment and someone with that degree has proven to be up to the challenge of such a long term commitment. Employers value that.

So, for better or worse, the resume software that will screen your resume with your job application will be screening for the credentials valued by the employer.  A large number of those job postings will have something like:  “Bachelor’s degree required and 3-5 years experience”.   It may not be fair but it is a reality.  In a world where each job opening can get thousands of applications resume screening software is a reality of today’s job market.  Without the credentials job applicants never even get the interview needed to prove themselves.

In the end, degrees and credentials are the price of entry to  many attractive job opportunities.  Winning the lottery is a possibility but having the credentials employers are looking for produces a much higher probability of success.

JOBS – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Faced with a rapidly changing world, job seekers are constantly challenged to address the two key factors in any hiring situation. They are: education and experience.  We have already looked at the Department of Labor data that shows the relationship between level of education, unemployment and income (see:  prior post JOBS for details).  In the traditional path shown above, the challenge is to find a job and hopefully a career that fits the degree earned.  In the Your Future path, the link between who you are and career choices drives the major, degree and university decision, not the other way around.  Buzz Today Source:  Your Future is Calling and O*NET    Key elements of a career: Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Personality, Technology, Education

In the post JOBS -How to Compete we look at the reality of the job hiring market and the role bots are playing in hiring decisions. For better or worse, getting a job that pays well and has the potential to lead to a career requires knowledge and work important to deciding on a major and a degree in education.

The topics of education and experience are ones we will explore in great depth in future postings.  For now let’s look at a small sample of how education, experience and knowledge already impacts what jobs employers will consider you for.  Remember the bots.

Here are three very different careers and the technology knowledge you will need to compete. Clearly education and experience will determine whether you get an interview.  The short inventory for each of the highly diversified careers listed below shows why the education you invest in, the experience you gain and the personal knowledge you learn are so very critical to your job opportunities today and even more so, in the future.

Buyer Purchasing Agent Farm Products

Accounting software — Deltek Costpoint
Data base user interface and query software — Microsoft Access; Product producer databases
Electronic mail software — IBM Lotus Notes; Microsoft Outlook
Enterprise resource planning ERP software — Enterprise resource planning ERP system software; Microsoft Great Plains software; SAP software
Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel

Reporter and Correspondent

Analytical or scientific software — SPSS software; Statistical analysis software
Data base user interface and query software — FileMaker Pro software; Microsoft Access; Microsoft SQL Server; Online databases
Map creation software — ESRI ArcView; Mapping software
Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
Web page creation and editing software — Facebook *; Social media software

Marriage and Family therapist

Accounting software — Intuit QuickBooks software
Electronic mail software — Microsoft Outlook
Medical software — Anasazi Software Client Data System; Blueberry Harbor Software Clinical Record Keeper; SumTime Software SumTime; Synergistic Office Solutions SOS Case Manager
Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
Word processing software — Microsoft Word


Accounting software — Intuit QuickBooks software; Intuit Quicken software; Job costing software; KRS Enterprises Service First!
Analytical or scientific software — Elite Software DPIPE; Elite Software FIRE; Klear Estimator; Quote Software QuoteExpress
Computer aided design CAD software — Autodesk Building Systems; Elite Software Plumbing CAD; Elite Software Sprinkler CAD; Horizon Engineering Sigma Plumbing Calculator
Data base user interface and query software — Database software; Insight Direct ServiceCEO; PricePoint software; Wintac Pro Software
Word processing software — Atlas Construction Business Forms; Contractor City Contractor Forms Pack; Microsoft Word; Wilhelm Publishing Threshold

JOBS – How to Compete

Traditional: University, Major, Major, Major, Degree, Job, Career?

Your Future: Who You Are, Career, Major, Degree, University, Job

In our last post titled JOBS, we looked at some important data about the relationship between an education and unemployment and income. It provides important evidence about why it is so important to learn.

Buzz Today Source: The Wall Street Journal. Procter & Gamble Inc. got nearly a million applications last year for 2,000 new positions plus vacant jobs. And the Texas Roadhouse Inc. gets as many as 400 resumes for a job opening within 24 hours after listing it online.

What the Department of Labor data in the JOBS post shows, is that it is not only about getting your degree, it is really about learning more in general. That is why I call this blog Learn Prosper. The data shows that for both unemployment and income, more post secondary education is always better. The data shows that an associates degree is more valuable than some education but no degree and that each degree there after – bachelors, masters, Ph.D./professional decreases your likelihood of being unemployed and increases the probability of higher income. The can be no other conclusion than the fact that learning is good for your job and income prospects no matter what the Non-Degree crowd is saying.

In the face of the BUZZ Today information we see here, combined with the data we saw about Starbucks in the last post titled JOBS, it is very clear that merely submitting resumes is not a successful way to compete. When you look at it from the hiring company(s) point of view, you can see why submitting a resume does not work in today’s job market. No one can read 7.6 million or even a million or even 400 resumes for every job.

What companies are doing is using computer software, what are called bots (short for robots) to scan candidate credentials. The approach is to eliminate resumes from consideration to narrow the candidates down to a manageable number. Here are a couple of pointers about this. When the job posting says “bachelor degree required and 3 – 5 years of experience in the field” they mean it. Recent data indicates that as many as 60% of the jobs in the future will require some form of post secondary education.

If you do not have the education and the experience listed, the bot throws your submission out right at the beginning. From there, the bot is looking for matches of key words. The match is between the words in the job posting description and the words in your application and resume. One word of advice. In this case more is not better. What the bot is looking for is matches, not volume. It’s all about the bots.

The harsh reality is that bots are really stupid. They are not designed to interpret and infer. They match key words. If you do not have the key words they are looking for, they do not advance your case to the hiring manager. This is why it is so important to follow the path of Your Future above. Working with O*NET data to understand careers that match who you are is the place to start. From there, the major you chose to study and the degree you earn will put you in area of job opportunities that match who you are. Details on how to best do that are in Your Future is Calling.

From there, it is well worth your effort to really be disciplined about the key words in the job posting to make sure that your submission has the greatest chance of the bot finding the match. Unfortunately the bots are not looking for your potential five years from now. They are looking for what you can do today. It is all about the key word matches.

The other big “gotcha” in the job market is that common phrase: “3-5 years of experience”. More on that in the next post.