According to studies conducted across various sectors in India, a majority of recruiters do not deem most graduates as employable. As the nation grapples with an economic slowdown and employment crunch in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is incumbent upon us to introspect on the reasons.
Upon further questioning, it was found that recruiters had contrasting definitions of an employable candidate. While some preferred a self-sufficient employee requiring minimal supervision, others looked for tenacity and ambition. Still others search for multitaskers or polyglots.
However, while these definitions indicate certain attributes of a candidate’s personality, they fail to identify and actually define what recruiters need. This lack of a common framework for defining employability creates a conundrum not only for students searching for these jobs, but also for educational institutions around the world that are expected to create employable graduates.
Another gaping issue is the flawed system used in the hiring of candidates. More often than not, companies delegate the responsibilities of a recruitment firm to junior level employees, who are left with a large number of resumes to sift through as well as interview potential candidates. These interviews mostly comprise of some standard questions, with the candidate doling out pre-rehearsed answers.
Since most colleges prepare their students to clear such interviews, the true employability of a candidate may not be determined until after they are hired. It is no wonder that almost 60% of new entry-level hires do not work out as expected once they join the company.
A key component for building an education system that creates employable candidates is to first define the parameters of employability, which need to be valid in entry-level jobs across most industries.
Research across a large number of surveys of employers has determined that the most commonly cited employability traits include:
- Strong communication skills – to understand others and convey a point of view effectively
- Good teamworking ability – to collaborate with peers to achieve company goals
- An aptitude for solving problems – to face new challenges and overcome them
- Proactivity – to work without needing constant supervision
- Professional work ethic – to deliver what was promised on time
Interestingly, most employers do not want a creative, highly intelligent candidate. Instead they look for employees who can understand the needs of the organization and their superiors, and deliver efficiently. This is a relatively simple ask and it would be easy for universities to develop an education model that hones these traits.
Faculty, thus, need to make a shift from giving lectures, a one-way communication method, to becoming facilitators for self-discovery, which involves two-way communication and engages students in the quest for new knowledge and skills. Pedagogical innovations already exist, that can aid in this, such as problem-based learning where students work individually or in teams to solve challenges set by their teacher; flipped classrooms where students study the course material before coming to class; case studies or simulations which involve the application of the knowledge learned; and work-study assignments where students intern at a real company and implement a project.
Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed”. If recruiters and universities could find common ground for defining what makes an employable candidate, they will be able to devise a robust framework to enable the development of a skilled workforce that can match the requirements of the industry and help them achieve organizational goals successfully.