JOB SEARCH / JAN. 18, 2015
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Survey: What Recruiters Are Really Looking For in Their Graduates

Graduate recruitment is a tricky business. Recruiters are trying to assess the raw potential in a group of untested individuals, who may have little or no relevant experience for the roles they are considering. To make this even more difficult, recruiters in the graduate market are not really recruiting for the role in hand, but seeking individuals with the potential to become leaders in the business world, meaning that they are seeking people who can deliver today, but more importantly, can grow into bigger roles tomorrow.

The complexity of this feat means that graduate recruiters are, in fact, not looking for exactly what you might expect them to be.

survey by Kaplan of graduate recruiters, showed the skills and behaviours that most businesses surveyed were looking for. And, what is perhaps more surprising, is the list of qualities that emerged as the least sought after at this early stage in the career of new grads.

#1. Effective Communication

Of the recruiters surveyed, 73% said that effective communication was important in the graduates that they took on. An ability to communicate effectively is key to a positive attitude overall; and one thing that graduate recruiters all do is recruit for attitude and then train for the specific skills required in the job.

#2. Numeracy

The report found that 64% of those questioned listed numeracy as a key skill. This is a difficult area for businesses to teach or compensate for if their employees struggle - and as such it is not surprising that this ranked highly. Although the survey included accountancy firms among those surveyed, which may heighten the importance of this ability - it might be time to get practising your mental maths nonetheless.

#3. Team Players

61% of employers looked for a graduate who showed signs of being a great team player. Again, this is a quality that cannot be forced, or taught particularly effectively, and so employers look for this natural ability to get on with others as an indicator of future potential.

The surprising list of things recruiters don’t want

As interesting as the list of qualities sought is, the behaviours and skills which fell to the bottom of the ’desirable’ list tells a story of its own. From decisiveness, which was listed as important by only 19%, leadership at 23%, assertiveness hitting 24%, critical thinking 27% and technical knowledge which got to the heady heights of 29%, there are some behaviours among this selection that would have traditionally been considered vital.

Whilst nobody is saying that decisiveness and leadership are not important, it is an interesting indicator of the shifting recruitment landscape, that these fall so significantly lower than communication and team working skills. The days of recruiters looking for individual stand-out performers who would hit the top but trample others along the way are long gone, with recruiting teams realising that the best overall outcome is achieved by finding graduates with a balance of soft and hard skills, and the crucial business ability to communicate and get on with others, and work well in a variety of situations.

It should be food for thought for graduates and final year students looking for places on the hotly contested grad schemes - spending time on your application and then demonstrating your abilities in communication and teamwork may well get you further than trying to show dog-with-a-bone determination to succeed at all costs. 

Image: Graduation via Flickr

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