Looking Beyond the Résumé

Can employers find people with the skills they need in the new economy?

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According to Census Bureau data, Americans who graduate with a bachelor degree will earn approximately $1 million more over their lifetime than students with only a high school diploma. Compounding this reality, unfortunately, is the youth unemployment rate, currently twice the national average at 13 percent. With, more than 3.5 million new college graduates flooding the workforce in 2012, securing employment will likely be even more difficult going forward. 

It is also estimated that there are more than 3 million job openings in the U.S. that are left unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers. Employers lament that they are unable to find workers with basic skill sets, like reading, writing, and the understanding of basic math problems.

Other employers complain that a student's performance at college offers them an incomplete picture of their likely success as an employee. A January 2013 Hart Research Associates survey of employers found that 93 percent of corporate and business leaders believed "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

According to the Wall Street Journal, 200 college students will take a new test this spring, called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, that claims to be a better "report card" of a student's skill set and potential value to a company. But, just as a grade point average can be misleading, so can any arbitrary, standardized test.    

Similarly, the SAT isn't always the best indicator for how a student will perform in college. These tests can't completely capture a person, let alone their full potential.  As with most other metrics, it becomes only one data point in a sea of information and analytics.

To be successful in today's workplace, it's necessary to go beyond raw intelligence and what might have been learned in a textbook. One must possess judgment, integrity, analytical skills, the ability to articulate clear thought in writing, and the capacity to adapt to ever-changing technology. 

As companies seek to fill the skills gap and begin to increase hiring, it's my hope they go beyond the candidates who only "look good on paper" and expand their focus and outreach to the complete person sitting before them. While it's truly difficult to imagine our hiring system ignoring traditional measurements like GPA and SAT scores, technology now exists to broaden searches, sort through candidates more efficiently, and make better, more informed decisions about particular positions.

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