What Employers Really Look For
When employers are reviewing applications for new job applicants, they obviously will search for the candidate to have all of the training and education needed to perform the tasks needed for their particular job. A bachelors or masters degree in their specific field seems to be the only thing that would be required to get the job, but when every candidate shows the same qualifications, employers will need to search for other skills to separate each candidate from one another. David Hodges, a composition professor of Rowan University argues that the only thing employers would search for would be high-test scores representing a candidates skill levels.
Although few would argue that high-test scores do separate job applicants from each other in terms of skill level, employers also look for certain skills that can not necessarily be judged by a test score, such as team work & creative thinking. Andrea Kay, of USA Today, stated in an article the value of those topics. More and more companies today require teamwork and leadership skills, as many projects are conducted in teams. BAE Systems needs teams to deal with multinational defense projects. These teams are working across multiple time zones and world regions. Employees who are lacking skills in teamwork can result in weak project results with fellow employee’s confused and unmotivated to work with together. Just like BAE Systems, a multinational company, small companies as well require strong teamwork skills. Small business that employ less than 50 people, such as a retail store, can require a lot of work on a daily basis, and with a small staff, teamwork ensures that employees are all contributing to the same goals of the company as the day progresses.
Kay also argues that thinking creatively is an essential skill that employers always look for. One company in particular she mentioned was the technology firm ZocDoc, who while searching for new employees, require customer service candidates to answer a creative question with their cover letter. Those who use unexpected complex answers are chosen for the interview process. Creativity is what leads to new innovative ideas. An example of a company who utilizes creativity is the Apple Corporation. Before the Cupertino based company developed the iPhone, all cell phones are smart phones were all essentially the same slate design with a different brand name on them. You couldn’t find a single phone on the market whose entire interface was based on touching a screen. Years ago, the idea seemed like a crazy ideas from a science fiction novel, yet today, many people are carrying around an iOS or Android Smartphone, all complete with nothing more than a screen, 1-5 buttons and a camera. The idea to make an all screen, few button phone had to have come from somewhere, and that creativity is what sparked the new smart phone generation. Some creative genius had to develop the idea and had to challenge the market to create and accept such a bizarre concept. In today’s ever changing economy, companies are always looking for new idea to challenge the market and create something to change the world, just as Apple did years ago with the iPhone. Companies search for creative individuals over those who spend all of their time and effort simply crunching numbers in a small gray cubicle.
In order to nurture an individual’s creativity and team working skills, we can look to schools. Schools are where someone will develop the skills to do the number crunching activities of the cubicle, so it only seems logical that we can find classes to develop creativity there as well. This is where art classes come into play. Classes in the arts are some of the strongest options for students looking to increase their skill in creativity. Lisa Phillips wrote an article in the Washington Post highlighting the top ten skills learned from the arts in schools. Those skills, listed in order from the article, would be creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, focus, non-verbal communication, receiving constructive feedback, collaboration, dedication and accountability. From that list, you can see the two skills I already spoke of, being creativity and teamwork (reworded as collaboration.) For creativity, Phillips mentions common activities of art programs, being reciting monologues in 6 different ways, composing a rhyme, and creating paintings representing a student’s memory. The practices of these programs, as well as many other creative activities found in art teacher’s curriculums, enhances students abilities to think on their feet and think outside of the box.
For collaboration, look to the theatrical and musical arts. Unless students are performing on stage alone for an entire performance, each student must learn to work with others to achieve the same artistic goal of the performance. In a musical performance, each performer must play their instruments in the same time as their fellow performers to create a piece that sounds appealing to the ears. Theatre is another perfect example of teamwork, dedication and accountability. Being someone who’s had much experience on stage, I can say with confidence the amount of trust you must put into your fellow actors. You have to trust your fellow thespians to listen and adapt to the scene you perform in. Working with each other, actors try to create a visual performance that entertains and make an audience feel a range of emotions to make their performance seem less of an act, and more of a reenactment of an alternate world on a stage. Actors must learn to dedicate their lives to their character, creating an alternate personality on stage. The goal of the actors is to receive the ever-coveted gift of applause or laugh, or even tears from the audience members, and with a single slip up of a line or the miss of a cue even from those off stage, perhaps operating sound or lights, can throw off an entire performance. Working with the entire crew ensures a beautiful piece of visual art that makes people beg for an encore. Without the teamwork of the cast, and crew, everyone on stage will seem confused and flustered on stage. The skills learned on stage can always be adapted to the workplace. If someone slips up while on the job, they can end up making their entire crew, or even entire company look like fools.
The other skills mentioned by Phillips are all essential skills employers look for. Constructive feedback helps to ensure employees can improve upon their skill with feedback of their colleagues. Non-verbal communication can help employee’s read their colleagues emotions to know when their work can be improved on or if everything is perfect even if the person giving the feedback is not one for verbal communication. Focus and problem solving obviously helps to ensure workers are dedicated to their work to finish their projects without distraction or obstacles. Perseverance and confidence are essential to make sure employees actually are working towards something they want to do and enjoy instead of working day-to-day just to receive a paycheck.
Creative skills are just as important as a high-test score showing a persons individual skill level. The skills developed from the arts ensure an office runs smoothly and operates to its full potential.
Andrea Kay: Teamwork, creative thinking among the traits employers value
Lisa Phillips: Top Ten Skills Children Learn From The Arts