Communication, Critical Thinking Skills Give Job Seekers Edge

By Dori Meinert Dec 24, 2014
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Being articulate and having critical thinking skills gives a competitive edge to job applicants who have the requisite education and experience, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Kaplan University School of Business and Information Technology.

Business acumen and technical skills remain important, but 386 randomly selected SHRM members surveyed online in September 2014 were nearly unanimous in ranking the ability to effectively communicate as the most valued skill—aside from education—for job seekers in general.

However, communication skills are more important for those seeking jobs in business than in IT careers such as software development, information security and database management, according to Recruitment for Business and IT Employment Opportunities.

Technology/social and digital media skills take precedence after educational training for employers looking at IT job applicants. Industry certifications were seen as more important for IT job candidates (31 percent) than for job candidates in general (6 percent) and business job candidates specifically (4 percent).

Critical thinking skills ranked second in importance for job candidates in general and business applicants in particular (73 percent and 75 percent, respectively), according to HR survey respondents. Two-thirds (67 percent) said critical thinking skills were important for IT applicants.

The majority of survey respondents (45 percent) were at privately owned for-profit organizations. Employers were about evenly distributed among those with staffs of 1-99 employees (22 percent), 100-499 employees (18 percent), 500-2,499 employees (24 percent), and 2,500 to 24,999 employees (25 percent).

Organizations with 100 to 499 employees were more likely than those with 2,500 to 24,999 employees to report professional networking skills as being valuable for IT job applicants (16 percent vs. 2 percent, respectively). They also were more likely to indicate technology/social and digital media skills as valuable for those job candidates.

The survey found differences in recruiting methods by organizational size:

  • Organizations with 2,500 to 24,999 employees were more likely to find their most qualified IT applicants through college recruiting and internal job postings, compared to smaller organizations.
  • Organizations with 500 to 2,499 employees were more likely to rely on industry-specific/niche online job boards to find their most qualified business job applicants than organizations with 1 to 99 employees.
  • Organizations with 100 to 499 employees were more likely to rely on the career section of their website and national online job boards to find their most qualified IT applicants, compared to organizations with 1 to 99 employees.

SHRM suggests in its report that HR professionals explore potential partnerships with local education institutions, including providing input for a curriculum that aligns with the skills their organizations are looking for in job candidates.

“Programs that center on effective communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills should be at the forefront of these collaborative agreements,” according to the report. HR should be aware of government job-training programs that are active in many communities, which can support employers’ recruiting efforts, it adds.

Respondents were primarily at U.S.-based companies (66 percent) that operated in more than one location (76 percent).

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