The University Network

Employers Prefer Social Skills, Timeliness To Academic Success

Most employers care more about social skills and timeliness than how well you do in academics, a new study finds.

The research, conducted by professor Phillip Brown and professor Manuel Souto-Otero of Cardiff University, looked at more than 21 million job advertisements in the UK and found that only 18 percent of them specified an academic credential requirement.

Instead, employers are more likely to look for specific social and cognitive skills, such as time management and organization, that demonstrate “job readiness.”

The researchers found that, for most job fields, employers emphasized the need for employees to be able to do their job quickly, efficiently and within short time spans. This ability can’t necessarily be proven with academic credentials, alone.

While this new research could be disheartening to college students who just spent many stress-filled hours studying for their final exams, it doesn’t suggest that academics are a waste of time. Many of the skills and experiences needed to develop “job readiness” are taught in college.

But to be a qualified job candidate, people need more than a degree.

This research highlights how important it is for students to build up work experience through internships and apprenticeships.

Higher education, by itself, can only go so far. Employers want workers who are reliable and efficient, and those qualities are best proven by prior experience.  

Hiring someone with experience, whether it is an internship or a related job, means that employers will have to spend less time and money training new hires.

To employers, job candidates who are “trainable” are not nearly as valuable as those who show they are capable of making an immediate impact.

This study focused specifically on employment in the UK, but similar trends, in which employers highlight the importance of internships and prior experience, occur in the U.S.  

Although some would assume that a shift away from employers focusing on academia would give those who can’t afford college a better chance at landing a good job, the researchers say otherwise.

Job candidates who start off with better financial, cultural and social resources will likely still hold an advantage, the researchers warn.

“If the exchange value of credentials in the labor market is more limited than assumed, the idea of a level playing field will need to be cast far beyond the school gates or university lecture theatre,” the researchers noted. “The failure to consider the importance of other skills, competences and experiences beyond formal qualifications in recruitment processes is destined to disappoint in efforts to reduce educational, labour market and wage inequalities.”