Liberal arts majors, have we got a job for you. Several, actually.
The New York Times wants to know from Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines, world's biggest carrier, about his hiring preferences.
Q. "What are you looking for in job candidates?"
A. "They already have the resume and they already have the experience base. So what you're trying to find out about are the intangibles of leadership, communication style, and the ability to...really adopt to change...I like to ask people what they've read, what are the last three or four books they've read, and what did they enjoy about those..."
Q. "What are you listening for as somebody describes their family, where they're from, etc.?"
A. "You're looking for a really strong set of values. You're looking for a really good work ethic. Really good communications skills. More and more, the ability to speak well and write is important. You know, writing is not something that is taught as strongly as it should be in the educational curriculum. So you're looking for communication skills..."
Q. "Is there any change in the kind of qualities you're looking for compared with five,10 years ago?"
A. "I think this communication point is getting more and more important. People really have to be able to handle the written and spoken word. And when I say the written word, I don't mean PowerPoints. I don't think PowerPoints help people think as clearly as they should because you don't have to put a complete thought in place. You can just put a phrase with a bullet in front of it. And it doesn't have a subject, a verb and an object, so you aren't expressing clear thoughts. And a lot of what we do in communication, when you write e-mail, you need to express yourself very clearly so people understand whether we're going to L.A. today or we're going to Boston today..."
Q. "Any good management or leadership books that you've read?"
A. "I think good history books are the best books on management. And particularly autobiographies and biographies. Right now, I'm reading Theodore Rex. [Edmund Morris' 2001 biography of Theodore Roosevelt.]"
We're not saying skip Finance 101, just make sure your school's version of it demands lots of essay writing. And you might want to consider a heavy load of literature and history electives.
When Matt Barrett was running Bank of Montreal, posting 10 consecutive years of higher revenues and profits before heading off to run Barclays PLC, he stated an emphatic hiring preference for Chaucer majors over business grads.