March 23, 2016 | By NACE Staff
TAGS: technology, candidate selection, liberal arts, spotlight
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
Why are liberal arts graduates valuable hires for tech companies? These graduates are naturally curious and are able to take a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving, says Alice Harra, associate dean of students and director of Reed College’s Center for Life Beyond Reed.
“In addition, the value of strong writers, good listeners, and clear presenters cannot be underestimated,” Harra says. “These skills are in short supply today.”
Tech companies are hiring liberal arts students for various roles, including as content strategists, audience analysts, concept artists, data storytellers, design engineers, intellectual rights negotiators, social connectors, game designers, coders, and more.
“Prepared by an intellectually rigorous education and trained to think across disciplines, liberal arts graduates can move between tech and non-tech roles at companies, allowing quicker talent movement and growth,” Harra explains.
She notes that a number of tech firms—from Apple to Air B&B to Switchboard to Urban Airship to Puppet Labs—have liberal arts founders or early employees. She also points out that there are similarities between liberal arts majors and STEM students entering the working world, as both groups need:
However, one key consideration for tech employers recruiting liberal arts students is the learning environment of the schools from which they are recruiting them.
“Knowing this speeds up the onboarding period and deepens the engagement between new employees and employers,” Harra says.
For example, she explains that if the liberal arts education is conference-based, then the students as new employees will be organically good at groups and teams, and may thrive if placed in a team setting immediately. If the institution requires a thesis or capstone project in the senior year, the liberal arts students might be comfortable with independent work right away.
“However, students graduating from a lecture-style education may need more group facilitation at first and may need more support with independent projects,” Harra says.
To reach liberal arts students, tech companies can share how the technology they created or use solves human and social problems.
“Talk about your community of purpose,” Harra suggests. “Are you in the business of the care and cure of illness? Enhancing human potential? Creating more civilized living in an increasingly urbanized world? Bringing art and beauty to the world? Your business is your purpose, and students who have a common purpose may be outstanding employees because they already have the same heartbeat as your company, and they can be trained for the skills they need to help you further your purpose and business.”
Some other recommendations Harra makes for tech companies to connect with and effectively recruit liberal arts students include:
“At Reed, we also invited tech firms to pose everyday problems that they face and then come to campus and work alongside a team of students in a whiteboard session,” Harra adds. “It generated both talent identification and student development.”
Harra will present “Why Liberal Arts Majors Thrive in Tech Companies” during NACE16.
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