Employers to tell students what they want in new hires

GVL/Bo Anderson

Photo Illustraton

Bo Anderson

GVL/Bo Anderson Photo Illustraton

Kara Haight

With graduation looming for many Grand Valley State University students, one of the major concerns for potential graduates is how to be marketable in areas that employers are looking for. The Seidman College of Business is looking to ease students’ worries by pinpointing the traits sought by employers.

The college is hosting a series of events in the Student Professional Development program, with the most recent event titled “What do employers want?” The event will give students access to a panel of company members in the region that will explain what they look for in the hiring process, and how job candidates can prepare to succeed.

Michael DeWilde is behind the organization of the panel and said he got the idea five years ago.

“I conceived of this event because of the disconnect I was hearing between what employers were telling me they wanted in new hires and what students here at GVSU thought they should be doing to prepare themselves for a career,” DeWilde said.

The panel event has been occurring for the past four years, and DeWilde said he has asked previous speakers to discuss the ‘soft skills’ they are looking for.

“I’ve asked previous speakers to assume they want certain basic technical skills and direct more of their remarks to the ‘soft skills,’ like communication abilities, emotional intelligence, creativity and ethics,” DeWilde said.

But the examples given by the panel aren’t the only guidelines students should follow.

“This does not preclude saying to students that perhaps all of them should be well-versed in, say, economics if the companies think that should be the case,” DeWilde said. “Only that students have benefitted in the past by hearing suggestions they may not have considered.”

One element that DeWilde said will be discussed at the panel will be the discrepancy between what CEO’s say they want with new hires and what human resources representatives look for when recruiting.

“Students need to hear directly from employers about what it is (the employers) look for beyond just technical competency. That alone is not enough to get a job or advance within a company,” he said.

The panel discussion is only one of the many events in the college’s Student Professional Development program, which will run throughout fall 2012 with events centering on ideas about intercultural awareness training, moral judgments and an etiquette dinner. On the Student Professional Development website, the program is described as “specially selected seminars custom tailored to prepare students for today’s competitive work environment.”

The Student Professional Development program consists of both required events and elective events, all presented on the website. The site explains that the student has the option of attending the required events and whatever elective events they choose to receive a certificate of completion.

The “What do employers want?” panel is the seventh required event in the program. DeWilde said the companies chosen to participate in the panel have either had a good relationship with GVSU in the past, had a high number of their new hires being GVSU students, or are prominent businesses in their respective fields.

“The ‘What do employers want?’ Business Executive Roundtable is composed of business executives from area firms,” said Catherine Jones-Rikkers, associate professor in the Seidman management department. “Executives from companies large and small, public and private are invited to participate. We attempt to have a panel that reflects the diversity of area businesses.”

The Student Professional Development program is being co-sponsored by the Seidman Business Ethics Center, Seidman Student Professional Development Program and GVSU Career Services, but DeWilde encourages students of all programs to participate.

“Our hope is that students are given an inside look at what it takes to distinguish themselves from the masses applying for jobs,” Jones-Rikkers said.

The event will take place Nov. 13 from 6-7 p.m. in 122E-Loosemore Auditorium in the DeVos Center. Attendees are encouraged to bring resumes.

“Students should please attend with questions in mind, as there will be an hour after the presentations devoted to Q&A,” DeWilde said. “Some students have even been asked for interviews based on their questions, so anything can happen.”
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