Trucks at Work

“Attitude” still biggest plus for job seekers

Here’s something that won’t shock anyone in trucking: high integrity, a strong work ethic, accountability, self-motivation, and strong basic interpersonal ability – all attributes lumped together under a category labeled “attitude” – are considered as the most critical attributes for college graduates, according to a recent survey of hiring managers.

By contrast, those same hiring professionals considered “tangible skills” such as with technology, decision-making, presentation, and risk-taking as “not essential.”

While such findings gleaned from an October poll of 524 hiring managers responsible for screening post-college-level applicants and making hiring decisions by the Career Advisory Board (CAB) at DeVry University surely shouldn’t surprise anyone, the fact that they are in many cases lacking among what’s supposed to be the “upper level” of the labor pool is more than a little worrisome.

Look at this “entry-level” job applicant finding for example. The CAB report found the greatest gaps between what hiring managers are looking for and what candidates are showcasing are adaptability and written communication skills – skills considered “most desirable” by those hiring professionals yet that are also the least common among job seekers.

When it comes to piloting a big rig for a living, such characteristics as “adaptability” are critically important, I would think. I mean, so many things can go wrong when hauling freight from point A to point B – traffic congestion, incorrect directions, loading and unloading delays – that drivers, much less dispatchers and others, need to be supremely adaptable in order to deal with what are often such daily disruptions.

Indeed, CAB’s poll found hiring managers want to hire employees who meet as many of their criteria as possible, but only 7% say “nearly all” or “most” job seekers have the right combination of skills and traits. This is critical as problem-solving skills are viewed as a critical “differentiator” in the job market these days.

Indeed, Madeleine Slutsky (at right), CAB’s chair and vice president of career and student services at DeVry, noted that job seekers who showcase how they’ll use their knowledge and experience to make an immediate contribution to the organization’s bottom line have an advantage.

“Employers want to see more than a good pedigree; they want candidates who can think critically on the fly,” she stressed. “Job seekers should tailor their résumés to specific job opportunities and explain how they will hit the ground running to become an integral part of the team quickly.”

On the other side of the hiring desk, CAB’s survey found that despite sophisticated sourcing technology and globalization, only 25% of hiring managers hire and relocate candidates from other geographic areas regularly, and nearly a quarter said they are more likely to hire from within than they were last year.

Increasingly, CAB’s poll found that internal candidates are given priority consideration over external ones, and successful junior-level employees are purposefully trained and groomed for internal promotions. On top of that, when the right talent isn’t available to fill open positions, several hiring managers cited “growing their own” as a frequently employed solution – a tactic no doubt more than a few trucking firms employ in terms of promoting veteran drivers into dispatching and other management openings.

Based on its survey findings, CAB offers up several pieces of advice for job seekers in today’s market, including these:

  • Showcase your integrity: Perhaps given how badly some employers were burned during the recent financial crisis, trust is a major issue in today’s organizations. Hiring managers are looking for candidates who are honest and forthcoming and will be fair in all of their dealings. As a result, during the application and interview process, don’t exaggerate your credentials or try to cover up unpleasant circumstances (e.g. being fired). Instead, share examples of ethical business decisions you’ve made in the past.
  • Beware too much informality: We suspect that the informal nature of e-communication (e.g. emoticons, acronyms) are what’s partially behind hiring manager’s dissatisfaction with candidates’ written communication skills. When preparing application materials, use proper grammar and spelling and have a friend or family member review them to ensure that you’re expressing yourself clearly, concisely, and professionally.
  • Demonstrate that you’ll ramp up quickly: Over the last four years CAB has conducted this survey, hiring managers continue to say they lack patience for developing candidates into the competent employees they need – though grooming people for internal promotions is another story. They want hires who meet 100% of the criteria now and for this reason, candidates should carefully analyze job descriptions and, in their resumes, show how they can check every box in order to demonstrate how they can make an immediate contribution to an organization’s bottom line – with minimal training.

Advice worth thinking about as the we prepare to enter a brand new year.

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