Monthly Archives: January 2015

New Research: Employers Want Smart and Socially-Savvy Workers

shutterstock_140079079_Students Round Table_Fall 2014It’s not enough for new hires to be smart or well educated. A new study indicates that employers also want their fledgling employees to have strong social skills.

Soon to be published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, the research drew connections between what employers say they want in an employee and high-paying jobs requiring complex interpersonal skills. Such abilities include problem solving, complicated communication required in directing and planning, and the vague “people skills” so frequently appearing in job descriptions.

The research, conducted by UC Santa Barbara professor Catherine Weinberger, showed that today’s labor market demands higher-skilled workers who are not just smart but who are also well rounded. Only those who possess both skill sets reach the highest tiers of the corporate ladder.

Previous research has shown a direct correlation between non-cognitive skills demonstrated in high school and higher wage earning later in life, especially among high school athletes, leaders, and the socially adept. In the past, employers were content with hiring a worker who possessed either cognitive skills—i.e. book smarts—or social savvy.

The same is not true today. To assess the situation, Weinberger examined US government surveys from 1979 and 1999 that measured high school seniors’ math scores and their earnings when they reached their late twenties. The surveys also contained data about students’ social engagement in activities like yearbook, sports, or other outlets. Weinberger then measured skills required in different jobs. Some were managerial and required both social and cognitive skills. Others required one skill or the other, such as number crunching to measure cognitive ability or social adeptness needed in sales or marketing.

Weinberger’s analysis showed that in today’s labor market, both skill sets had to be present for the individual to earn more. In previous years, there was no additional benefit to having both sets of skills.

Her research also showed that students who are neither socially adept nor academically engaged are doing worse than expected and worse over previous years.

The ramifications for education policy are great, Weinberger says. The next questions to ask are whether people are naturally gifted in both areas or if they can be educated differently to give them stronger and more balanced bundles of skills as they enter the labor market, she adds.



Sending E-mail in Anger… “Subtle Sell” a Must… Outlook for 2015 Grads… Resolving Hostilities

Send in Anger, Repent by Grovelingshutterstock_86053912

It’s possible to undo e-mails sent in anger, but it’ll take groveling. If the e-mail was sent to a boss, the best strategy is to apologize in person for both the content and tone of the message. If the lashing out affected a group of recipients, the only way to show regret is to apologize in a group e-mail. The best strategy for communicators? Don’t write when angry.

Post-Interview “Subtle Sell” a Must

In a competitive market, job seekers must go all out to stand out, and that means following up after an interview. A brief e-mail sent the morning after the interview should thank the hiring manager and mention a specific point discussed during the meeting. The most important part of the message, however, is the “subtle sell,” in which the candidate expresses enthusiasm for the position. Making a final point describing how the job is a good fit with the candidate’s skill set can help close the deal.

Bright Outlook for 2015 Grads

Hiring for those earning bachelor’s degrees will increase by 16% this year, according to a survey conducted by Michigan State University. The growth will occur in various sectors including nonprofits, government, professional and business services, finance, and insurance. Information services will see the largest uptick, with hiring increasing more than 50 percent over previous years.

Speak up to Prevent Long-Lasting Workplace Hostilities

The best strategy for dealing with an insensitive remark is to bring up the incident rather than let it fester. With the variety of personalities and sensibilities coworkers bring to the workplace, it’s easy to unintentionally offend a colleague. If you think you may have said something hurtful, take the coworker aside and address him or her directly. Then express your sincere regrets so the incident can be forgotten.

Home Depot Delivers—But It’s Bad News

Recently the Home Depot experienced a widespread security breach and was required to disclose the news to its customers. Delivering bad news requires deft writing and analytic skills. Read the below e-mail to Home Depot’s customers. Then answer the questions following the e-mail to judge just how well the “world’s largest home improvement retailer” did.



Dear Valued Customer,

As you may have heard, on September 8, 2014, we confirmed that our payment data systems have been breached, which could potentially impact customers using payment cards at our U.S. and Canadian stores. On September 18, 2014, we confirmed that the malware used in the breach has been eliminated from our U.S. and Canadian stores and that we have completed a major payment security project that provides enhanced encryption of payment data at point of sale throughout our U.S. stores, offering significant new protection for customers.

There is no evidence that debit PIN numbers were compromised or that checks were impacted. Additionally, there is no evidence that the breach has impacted stores in Mexico or customers who shopped online at

We are offering customers who used a payment card at a Home Depot store in 2014, from April on, 12 months of free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, beginning on September 19, 2014. We apologize for the frustration and anxiety this may cause you and we thank you for your patience during this time.

For more information, please visit our website where you’ll find frequently asked questions, helpful tips, our Important Customer Notice, and information about how to take advantage of the free identity protection services, including credit monitoring. Should you have questions regarding the authenticity of this email or any additional questions over the coming days and weeks, please call 1-800-HOMEDEPOT.

We hope this information is useful and we appreciate your continued support.

The Home Depot


Critical Thinking Questions and Activities

  1. The message above was sent in an e-mail. Why do you think Home Depot decided to use e-mail as its channel rather than a print letter? Would a print letter have been more effective? Why or why not?
  1. Which organizational strategy does Home Depot’s negative message use? Why was it chosen, and what benefits does it offer?
  1. Why was a comma used after the greeting rather than a colon?
  1. The second sentence contains 53 words. Could the sentence have been revised for easier comprehension? Do you think the long sentence illustrates a careful choice or careless writing? Can you find other phrases or wording that would benefit from a careful revision?
  1. Delivering bad news has five goals: (a) Explaining clearly and completely (b) Projecting a professional image (c) Conveying empathy and sensitivity (d) Being fair (e) Maintaining friendly relations. Using the e-mail, identify where you see evidence of each goal. Then, in groups or as a class, discuss your findings.


Note to instructors: If you’d like to share our revised version with your students, write to Dana at