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Inappropriate appearance, lack of dedication, and poor work ethic are the top three offenders that make recently hired college graduates unprofessional, according to Professionalism in the Workplace, published by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania.
The study measured online responses from a random national sampling of 309 human relations professionals who interviewed applicants and 312 people supervising or managing new hires. This is the third such study to be conducted by the Center.
Professional behavior was defined as having interpersonal and communication skills, being knowledgeable, and demonstrating etiquette. Appropriate appearance, dedication, strong work ethic, and effective time management were also markers of professionalism.
The HR professionals and managers named specific unprofessional behaviors. The number one complaint was inappropriate appearance, which included attire, tattoos, and piercings. The second and third examples were a lack of dedication and poor work ethic. The respondents noted the recent graduates also showed a sense of entitlement, were disrespectful (inconsiderate and rude), lacked focus, and had a poor attitude.
More than half the HR professionals and one third of the managers found an increase in the new hires' sense of entitlement over the past five years. The study concluded that the problem of poor professionalism is largely a U.S. phenomenon; managers whose companies operated both in and outside the U.S. did not experience the same issues with their new hires abroad.
Another aspect of the recent graduates' lack of professionalism was IT abuses, which included excessive social media and phone use as well as texting at inappropriate times.
The findings are important because a lack of professionalism affects whether a new graduate is hired. Over 95 percent of the HR managers named egregious behaviors they witnessed during interviews: inappropriate attire, being late, lack of preparation, and poor verbal skills including improper grammar. All lead to not being hired. Supervisors noted that lack of professionalism also affects new hires' promotability.
All respondents said the definition of professionalism should not be altered and expected new hires to conform to standards expected of all employees.
Source: Polk-Lepson Research Group. (January 2012). Professionalism in the workplace study. Retrieved from http://www.ycp.edu/media/yorkwebsite/cpe/2012-Professionalism-in-the-Workplace-Study.pdf