Measuring the graduate soft skills gap


How best to explain to your child on their first day of school that, rather than being a doctor, lawyer or an astronaut, they’re more likely to land a job that doesn’t yet exist?

It’s estimated that 65% of all new school starters are in this position. This owes to the dizzying technification underway in almost every possible sector. The question is: do new grads have the skills necessary to succeed in this changing world?

Mind the gap

A CareerBuilder survey found that just 20% of companies feel their graduates are arriving ‘ready to go’, i.e. fit for the job. Graduates naturally need room for development, but there’s one worrisome aspect to all this: it’s not their technical expertise that’s in doubt. Instead, it’s their soft skills. What many elite sports coaches call the ‘intangibles’.

Hard skills will always be in demand. A visionary coder or engineer will be worth their weight in gold, regardless of soft skills. However, as automation is predicted to absorb vast numbers of tasks, qualities like flexibility, curiosity and emotional intelligence are increasingly valuable.

We can partially attribute the skills gap to two frustrating factors:-

  • Styles of education
  • An expectations gap between graduate and recruiter
Styles of education

Your child, now a graduate engineer, will have left university with a wealth of applicable technical knowledge. But they’ll probably never have seen a section on flexibility in their textbooks (unless it’s referring to the structural kind…).

Overhauls are underway at many institutes to assure students (and parents!) that, upon paying those princely fees, they’ll be ready for an uncertain job market. These include increased coverage of digital and soft skills – something hiring managers will surely welcome.

Expectation gaps

There’s also a gap between graduates’ and employers’ ideas on the qualities necessary in the workplace. While graduates placed data skills and resilience as their 12th and 13th priorities in a recent survey, these were actually placed 4th and 5th by recruiters.

So, has it ever been harder to find graduate recruits matching both your values and expectations? As the workplace seas shift, hiring managers should seek solutions that clarify the muddying waters.

Unknown unknowns

It’s clear that companies able to keenly assess soft skills – those “intangibles” – will be best-placed to secure the talent befitting the future of work. Right now, however, you might be asking yourself:

“How can I measure a candidate’s soft skills gap, and make the right decision?”

We’d answer this question with another: have you considered behaviour-based assessments? It might’ve been a challenge in the past, but measuring soft skills is much easier when you let someone else do it for you.

Psychometric assessments, like ours at Arctic Shores, can accurately measure the personal traits you deem central to success. Such insights can, and should, form the building blocks to help you bridge that skills gap.


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