I spent last Tuesday downtown at our Executive Development Center with about 50 central Florida recruiters. Collectively they work for a wide variety of companies and industries. Some worked for large firms, others small. Some were UCF COBA grads, but most were not. A few had never recruited at UCF, but had coworkers who graduated from our institution.
I had three goals, pretty typical stuff really. One was to get a sense of what recruiters thought of our students—their strengths and weaknesses. Another was to understand how recruiters assess the professionalism of the job candidate during interviews. A final goal was to encourage more recruiters to take a look at our students.
Most of the conversation went as one would expect: UCF students tended to have good technical knowledge but scored lower on emotional intelligence. Every report I have ever seen from recruiters on college graduates says this: They have the knowledge, but can’t communicate, play well in the sandbox with others, or recognize and conform to culture expectations of the company they want to join.
The surprises came around recruiter perceptions of our students’ experiences both inside and outside the classroom. Many of the recruiters believed our students have never worked (our data shows otherwise) and that they lacked an opportunity to apply what they learned in class to real world situations. The UCF graduates were quick to correct them, pointing to classes like cornerstone and capstone that required students to apply their skills to real world problems.
After much discussion, the diagnosis came down to this: Too many of our students cannot connect the skills they are learning and the experiences they have had while at UCF to the requirements of a specific job in an interview setting. In short, they are bad story-tellers—unable to craft a compelling narrative of their value to a potential employer with a specific need. One recruiter put it this way: “If you can’t make the connections between school and work I’m not going to hire you. It doesn’t matter whether I know you have had these experiences; you have to be able to effectively communicate these to me.”
This is something we can fix. Perhaps it is a module on story-telling. Maybe it involves the development of student portfolios. It certainly requires more practice at interviewing. But until we do fix this, we are not going to get the credit we deserve for the novel practical experiences we provide our students.