Bridging the Protocol Chasm: Employers Are Becoming More Interested in Applicants' Attitudes and Behaviors Than in Their Grade Point Averages and School Evaluations. What Is Your School Doing about That?

Article excerpt

A CHASM EXISTS FOR GRADUATING COLLEGE STUDENTS AS THEY complete their senior year and prepare to enter the workforce. Many employers today believe that American colleges and universities are not preparing students for the professional workplace. Graduates don't know how to dress, lack essential dining protocol skills, and don't understand the interview process; many of them cannot hold their own in a business conversation. Simply put, most young employees are well versed in computer skills and "book learning," but lack social graces crucial to success. Yet according to a nationwide DOE survey, employers are becoming more interested in applicants' attitudes and behaviors than in their grade point averages and school evaluations.

Certainly, no one doubts the importance of a solid liberal arts education, but institutions must rethink what that term means. Most students enter college with one primary goal: to earn a diploma to secure a high-paying job. Yet, in almost all markets, it is hard to get a good-paying professional job without every edge. Employment experts indicate that the average college graduate will change jobs at least 10 times, and change career fields at least three times during a professional working lifetime. Universities have a responsibility--nay, a duty--to prepare the college senior for the corporate culture. It is no longer about what a university can do, but what a university must do to meet those expectations. According to the Research Institute of America (www.riahome.com), over go percent of customers will stop doing business with an organization whose employees have been discourteous to them. Business-savvy supervisors are foolish to permit subordinates to interact with customers when they are not literate in appropriate business protocol--especially considering the international factors. Studies conducted with human resource personnel indicate that what an applicant says is far less important than how he says it: the vocal inflection, facial expressions, body language, eye contact, and appearance speak volumes over the uttered word.

So, what's the solution? Let it be handled by the private sector with qualified etiquette instruction? Certainly, such training often includes the finer points of proper dress, making an introduction, delivering a toast, hand-shaking skills, formal table service protocol, making dinner conversation, as well as understanding how to effectively communicate during a business dinner and at an interview. But although the instructors who staff these seminars and workshops are well trained, the cost for the average college senior remains prohibitive (from $500 an hour to well over $5,000 for the day!). Group rates are available, but clearly, the less expensive solution for college seniors lies elsewhere.

The same curriculum for a class in etiquette and protocol could be easily incorporated into a college class syllabus, or a series of college seminars. …