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In the Spotlight: The NACE Career Readiness Competencies: An Employer Perspective
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In the Spotlight:



Sherron Hawkins
Talent Acquisition Manager, Enterprise Holdings


As more college graduates enter the job market each year, professionals in the field of career and professional development seek to foster innovative, impactful ways of preparing their students for post-baccalaureate success. As we acknowledged in last month’s spotlight article, the NACE Career Readiness Competencies help provide a common vocabulary and framework to use when developing programs for their campus populations, and for assessing career readiness metrics to inform future practice (NACE, 2017). Career Centers across the nation work closely with employers to not only identify potential candidates for hire, but to cultivate talent pipelines by participating in targeted engagements on college campuses.

The following interview features Sherron Hawkins, Talent Acquisition Manager at Enterprise Holdings, to get the employer perspective on the importance of the NACE Career Readiness Competencies in regards to their recruitment efforts on college campuses.

: As a seasoned recruiter with Enterprise Holdings, how do the NACE Career Readiness Competencies impact or inform your recruitment efforts?

: The NACE Career Readiness Competencies are incredibly important to our recruitment efforts in that they help us label and identify the necessary qualities we look for in candidates. Leadership, in particular, is a rare quality to find. I became especially aware of the competencies when I was recently recruiting for an Accounting Intern. We weren’t just looking for someone with accounting capabilities; we were looking for an accounting leader with strong communication skills. During the interview process, it was challenging to find any degree of leadership displayed in candidates’ resumes. When I initially posted the position, I received 70 applications overnight. It’s clear that candidates are not struggling with the Digital Technology competency, however, where they do struggle is with preparation and research. I find that many of the candidates I interview have not sufficiently researched the company. Furthermore, many have difficulty with their communication; especially when there is more than one interviewer in the room, it seems to overwhelm candidates. There are certain questions that the majority of them struggle with, primarily, articulating their academic and personal accomplishments, which is a combination of both the oral/written communication and critical thinking/problem solving competencies.

: According to the 2017 NACE Job Outlook Survey, employers rated the “critical thinking/problem solving” competency as the highest for the third time since this particular survey question’s inception. What do you personally identify as the three most important Career Readiness Competencies in the scope of your work? In what ways are these particular competencies important for prospective hires at Enterprise Holdings?

: The top three Career Readiness Competencies that are most important in the scope of my work are Leadership, Professionalism/Work Ethic, and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving. I recruit for the Management Trainee Program, and all three of those competencies are critical to success in those rigorous roles. For example, when people do not possess the Professionalism/Work Ethic competency, it is reflected in their inability to show up on time, inconsistent attitudes at work, as well as tardiness and absenteeism. Because our team members rely so heavily on each other, we can’t afford to hire candidates who are lacking in that area. Management Trainees are given a lot of flexibility and agency to make decisions on their own, so we need to know that they can demonstrate initiative, personal accountability, and time workload management. In regards to the Critical Thinking/Problem Solving competency, a specific incident comes to mind. During an interview, one of my supervisors posed a hypothetical question to a candidate, “If you already have 40 hours of work on your plate, and I asked you to complete an additional task, how would you address your existing workload with my desire for you to finish the task I’ve given you?” The expected response would be to inquire as to the priority level and time sensitivity of the task, however, the candidate had difficulty utilizing their critical thinking/problem solving competency to provide a satisfactory solution.

: What are some innovative ways that you have engage on college campuses to help cultivate the Career Readiness Competencies in students, and to establish robust talent pipelines?

: I participate in many programs at the universities including presentations in classrooms and student organizations, workshops, and panels. My strategy for maximizing campus engagement is twofold: utilize the Career Center services, and identify the professors that offer the best curriculum to match the necessary qualifications. The professors can often help identify students with the qualities I’m looking for. Though the topic of interviewing is one I’ve presented more times than I care to, it is still the most impactful, because it addresses what I consider to be the greatest challenge for students – Oral Communication. An interview should be a celebration of your accomplishments, however, candidates often have a difficult time articulating their successes, and giving examples of demonstrated leadership. The other challenge that students face is to approach the interview as a conversation. Their nervousness negatively impacts their ability to carry on a dialogue with the interviewers. One of the best engagements that I have participated in on a college campus was an Etiquette Dinner. What stood out about this event is that students were taught proper dining etiquette while the meal was being served course by course. I believe that this type of learning is best achieved through active participation, and not by passively receiving information through a workshop. At Enterprise Holdings, every new hire is invited to a luncheon with the Vice President. Etiquette is a direct reflection of a person’s character, so when someone orders the most expensive item on the menu, monopolizes conversations, or is distracted by their phone throughout the meal, it doesn’t set a good impression.

: What other recommendations can you make to Career Services professionals to develop the Career Readiness Competencies in students?

: I have found that workshops in which the presenter is speaking for the majority of the time are less beneficial than ones in which students are able to speak, engage, and participate. The more students interact and actively practice, the more likely they are to refine their techniques. Providing more opportunities for students to do so will increase their likelihood of success. Lastly, I think that Career Centers can leverage their relationships with faculty to help push their students to develop these competencies. Faculty are on the front lines, and need to know as much about the NACE Career Readiness Competencies as the Career Center staff.

: Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with us, Sherron. For resources related to this topic and to join the conversation, follow MPACE on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Sherron Hawkins is a Talent Acquisition Manager at Enterprise Holdings, Inc., and has been with the organization for 21 years.  She started at the company as a Management Trainee, then moved into outside marketing and sales before transitioning to human resources.

This spotlight article was compiled by Kathy Kim, a member of the MPACE Communications Committee. Kathy currently serves as the Internship Specialist in the Career Center at California State University, Dominguez Hills where she coaches students and alumni, executes innovative programming around career readiness, and prepares her students for post-baccalaureate success. She can be reached at
kakim@csudh.edu or (310) 243-3625.


Career Readiness for the New College Graduate: A Definition and Competencies [PDF]. (2017). Bethlehem, PA: National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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