College grads in the workplace. Quick with answers but not always looking beyond computer screen

computer (Medium)Another interesting study to mull over today: College graduates understand and excel at Internet grazing, but are less comfortable or familiar with more traditional research methodology, including calling and talking to people, reading annual reports and scouring databases.

This gap is becoming apparent to employers who are impressed with their young hires’ online skills, but also concerned about their lack of more standard research competencies.

According to the “Learning Curve” Project Information Literacy Research Report:

In a world where technology abounds, social networks buzz, and connectivity is as commonplace as electricity, graduates may post their resume on Monster, apply for a few coveted internships they have found on Vault, and hook up with some new housemates on Craigslist. As dating options diminish after college, they may find themselves browsing profiles on But once they settle into a new job, many of today’s graduates soon discover that the techniques that may have worked so well for finding information when they were in college are no longer enough. Other factors also figure into the equation for job success, such as teamwork and the ability to ferret out information beyond what they find on their computer screens. This transition is one of the greatest challenges new graduates face in the digital age.

In this study, we ask what happens to the information-seeking behavior of today’s college students once they graduate and enter the workplace. We explored this question from two perspectives: from that of the employers who hire graduates, and from the experiences of graduates themselves who join the workplace.

Among the study’s findings:

•. Employers placed a high premium on graduates’ abilities for searching online, finding information with tools other than search engines, and identifying the best solution from all the information they had gathered.
• Once they joined the workplace, many college hires demonstrated computer know-how that exceeded both the expectations and abilities of many of their employers. These proficiencies also obscured the research techniques needed for solving information problems.
• Most college hires were prone to deliver the quickest answer they could find using a search engine, entering a few keywords, and scanning the first couple of pages of results, employers said, even though they needed newcomers to apply patience and persistence when solving information problems in the workplace.
• A majority of employers said they were surprised that new hires rarely used any of the more traditional forms of research, such as picking up the phone or thumbing through an annual report for informational nuggets. Instead, they found many college hires—though not all— relied heavily on they found online and many rarely looked beyond their screens.

The report concludes: Overall, our findings from this exploratory study suggest there is a distinct difference between the information competencies and strategies today’s graduates bring with them to the workplace and the broader skill set that more seasoned employers need and expect. Moreover, we found the rapid-answer approach many college hires in our sample took for solving information problems hampered their ability to demonstrate the very research competencies employers we interviewed claimed to need most in the workplace. Nowhere was this divide between employers and graduates more apparent than when each group discussed its best strategies for solving information problems on the job. The employers we interviewed said they expected young hires to be patient but persistent researchers.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog


9 comments Add your comment


January 15th, 2013
12:17 pm

I worked for a certain company for nine years.

The bosses’ son sat in a office next to mine.

When he was in, he would talk on the phone most of the day.

His e-mails were frequently filled with grammatical errors.

He had a BA in Business Administration.

He drive a Benz.

Hey, is this a great country or what!!!!!!!!


January 15th, 2013
12:20 pm

Maureen Downey …”less comfortable or familiar with more traditional research methodology, including calling and talking to people”
Even after all that ” bubbling in” on tests they have been doing for sooooooo many years ???


January 15th, 2013
12:23 pm

This does not surprise me. Most of my high school students do not have the willingness to conduct more than a cursory online search for information, and they use the first nugget from Google (usually wikipedia) as their “evidence” of “research.” As a society, that’s why we are lining up like sheep for the great slaughter as our best and brightest don’t understand the big picture of our societal ills. (Of course, this is also true for adults who put stock in a single “news” source.) The internet gives us instant access to information, but today’s students do not weave that information together to form logical conclusions. Whatever piece of evidence gets pushed to the top of the Google search becomes the Gospel, and that’s scary. One more thought: Today’s students DO have the skill set required for advanced research; they just don’t employ the patience and persistence to see it through.


January 15th, 2013
12:46 pm

Part, I would say, of living a Ramen noodles kind of life.

Mom to Many

January 15th, 2013
12:51 pm

Not surprised. In much the way that teaching penmanship has become “unnecessary” according to some educators…that mathematics in elementary school has been relegated to more “talking about math” instead of actually performing mathematical calculations…”thinking” and “researching” have also been removed.

“Bring Your Own Device” was implemented in my kids’ elementary school, starting with the older students, but eventually being allowed all the way down to kindergarten. My kids have their own devices, but they won’t be bringing them to school. The same school that sends parents newsletters about “limiting screen time at home for tv and computers” are now wanting us to send the same screens to school. Heck, they even sent out a list of “recommended devices” in case we were going to be buying them for Christmas gifts.

I am convinced at this point that my kids will be much better served being removed from the quagmire that is public school. I see my bright child being relegated to the role of unpaid tutor in the classroom, and my child who needs more help being ignored unless it happens to be a major testing year. What the heck are they doing with our kids for 7 hours a day?

bootney farnsworth

January 15th, 2013
1:07 pm

hell, its not just new grads.

once email became available at GPC, people made a art form of NOT making calls, not talking to people, and NOT getting up out of their chairs.


January 15th, 2013
4:50 pm

It seems to me that in college it’s the responsibility of the professor to devise topics for research papers that cannot be completed merely by Googling, but that require some sort of actual research skills. Perhaps require as part of the assignment a bibliography of sources/databases consulted. Allied to this is the need to write topics for papers that cannot be lifted (plagiarized) from the Internet. Comparison topics are good for this, I have discovered.

You have to assume that the student will take the easy way out to complete an assignment, unless forestalled by the terms of the assignment.

Atlanta Mom

January 15th, 2013
5:38 pm

This could have been written 30 years ago. Not the internet part, but the part about recent college graduates not having a clue about the real world.
It’s all about life experience and you don’t get that in school.

N. GA Teacher

January 16th, 2013
11:35 pm

This is true. Easy net information access as well as lax standards by high schools and colleges (to boost graduation rates) in addition to far fewer tough writing assignments have combined to create this situation. Sad.