[heading size=”18″]Getting a job might be trickier[/heading]High school is a time for exploration and self-discovery. Childhood aspirations of becoming a firefighter or a professional ballerina are put to the test as students gain real world experiences through volunteer work, internships and jobs. But these alone are not enough.
According to a publication by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), there are certain skills “key to the success of young workers in the 21st Century workplace,” which correlate to soft skills that are attractive to employers hiring new workers.
While the three “R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) are still fundamental to every employee’s ability to do the job, employers view “soft” skills as even more important to work readiness. The report also finds that younger workers frequently lack these skills, which include professionalism, work ethic, communication, teamwork and critical thinking or problem-solving skills.
In mid-April of his junior year, senior Grant Powell submitted an application to the Andrew McAllister Memorial Internship coordinated by the Division of Information Technology (IT) at the University of Missouri in hopes of putting his classroom fostered IT skills into action. In late May, Powell was notified that he was selected the 2015 Andrew McAllister intern.
“The McAlister internship was a great experience. I learned so much in such a short amount of time and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work alongside,” Powell said. “When I was awarded the internship, I was really happy and excited because I knew it would give me a good idea of what jobs in networking would be like.”
Powell underwent the conventional application process: he applied, he interviewed and he awaited his decision. Although his application form and teacher recommendation surpassed that of any other applicants, and although his grandiose resume played a significant factor in his decision, as well as listing his achievements and competence, Powell believes employers should place a heavier emphasis on applicants’ technical skills overall.
“The resume is great to look at to see all of the applicant’s accomplishments and their qualifications, but in my opinion, there’s a difference between being book smart and being hands-on smart,” Powell said. “Anyone can read a book and memorize the information — but if you don’t understand why something is done, then you’re just not getting any practical use out of the information you are studying.”
For example, Powell believes if one were to apply for a networking job, they should be tested on the technicalities. In other words, applicants should be able to apply their knowledge to the task at hand.
For Powell, the McAllister internship presumes its spot below “Work Experiences” on his resume, in addition to another paid internship at Missouri Book Services done during the summer of his junior year. Powell is also currently employed at the local supermarket, Hy-Vee, working as a cashier and a courtesy clerk 15 hours a week.
Each and every one of his experiences has prepared Powell for a real job applying process, which came in handy when applying for the McAllister internship.
“The process used to select the Andrew McAllister intern is really good because it’s the same hiring process you would go through to get other jobs; it helps prepare you for job searches in the future,” Powell said.
In addition, Powell has been awarded the Columbia Area Career Center’s (CACC) highest honor, called the ‘Outstanding Student Award.’ The process of being named an ‘Outstanding Student’ is based on that of the real workforce.
Students who demonstrate ‘workplace ready’ behaviors are first nominated by CACC instructors. The student competes with other finalists in their region of study and they must provide a written essay, a filled out application and a resume. The nominees are then called in for an interview with the University of Missouri–Columbia Administrative Services, CACC’s partner in education.
But nowadays, the workforce is changing its policies for better — and for worse. Students heading out into the workfield face an unconventional method of hiring. They are asked several true or false questions, ranging from “My parents praised me for my achievements” to “I dislike the high taxes we pay in this country.”
And surely enough, these series of bizarre, ambiguous questions have a purpose. This demonstration is referred to as ‘personality assessments,’ and they are increasingly becoming more popular as companies submit to the idea of assessing potential employees’ personality in hopes of achieving a perfect workforce by analyzing the results and data of these assessments.
With more than seven billion people in the world, each with their own distinct set of personalities, there’s really no set qualities employers are testing for. So with the void of IQ and EQ, ‘XQ’ arises, a curious and mystifying concept, like an unknown variable in middle school algebra. Thriving in the new economy only means facing an assessment that no one has prepared you for.
Rebecca Pisano, Assistant Director at the CACC, doesn’t think these personality assessments are a bad idea, but does believe they should not be replaced for conventional hiring methods. If used, they should simply be an additional instrument in choosing a employee.
Pisano said there is a possibility that personality assessments and people analytics could increase as a preliminary sorter for potential hires in the near future.
“Personally, I would feel uncomfortable only using the data from a personality assessment to hire an individual,” Pisano said. “There is the possibility one could miss out on a really good hire, or hire the wrong person. I’m not opposed to using personality assessments— I would also want to use traditional interviewing methods as well.”
One of the most popular tests, Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, is now used by 457 of the Fortune 500 companies as a way to communicate with workers, according to the Wall Street Journal. These type of personality assessments are similar to the Myers-Briggs tests students so often have to take during middle and high school. Pisano has taken the Myers-Briggs on two different occasions within a span of 20 years and received the code “ENTP” both times. However, Pisano knows of individuals whose scores have differed in multiple testings.
“The Myers-Briggs test can assist in identifying a detail person vs. a big picture person,” Pisano said. “It identifies a person who has a plan for the day and plans to stick to it versus a person who is able to improvise. Both types of personalities are equally important to an organization, but there needs to be a balance. Implementing a personality assessment as a hiring tool could assist an organization in achieving this balance.”
infographic by Joy Park
Do you think personality assessments are appropriate in the workforce? Have you been asked “XQ” questions? Leave a comment down below!