skills to look for when hiring graduates
Kingsley Seale No Comments

Graduates with a specific set of soft skills are often more sought-after candidates than those with academic achievement and technical skills.

These soft skills, which define how graduates interact and work with others, are those that will help them succeed in any role, alongside their specific technical skills, relevant experience, and aptitude.

And changing working models to virtual/hybrid and digitally focused environments have further enhanced the need for these soft skills and core competencies, which is reflected in RMIT’s February 2021 Jobs of The Future report.

Sydney-based recruitment manager at Curtis Partnership, Monique Forsberg advises that while good marks in a relevant degree will be useful in securing an interview, it takes more to impress recruiters and employers enough to get the job.

Communication skills

What Forsberg looks for first in a candidate are interpersonal skills, the foremost of which is communication. Regardless of the industry, company or role, good communication is an essential attribute.

Even in more solitary roles, the ability to work with other people from a wide range of backgrounds is vital for success.

“Skilled communicators make better team members, listen to instructions, ask for help and get their points across effectively,” Forsberg said.

“Good communication is a foundational skill that ladders up to other skills such as interpersonal skills, leadership and teamwork. It’s important to be able to communicate effectively in conversation, in presentations and in email and other written communication.”

Cultural fit is highly valued by employers, but that doesn’t necessarily rule out candidates who come from different backgrounds – as long as they have the interpersonal skills to work well with others, tips Forsberg.

Emotional intelligence

As well as working well with others, candidates need to be able to work well with themselves. Emotional intelligence, or EQ – which can be tested for – is therefore another soft skill that recruiters are looking for in graduates.

“A strong EQ helps candidates navigate complex or difficult social situations and manage relationships in their workplace,” says Forsberg.

She explains that candidates with good emotional intelligence are self-aware and able to self-regulate, pick up on social dynamics and modify their own behaviour to improve the situation, rather than making it worse – something every workplace, particularly high-pressure ones, needs more of.

Teamwork and leadership skills

Teamwork skills are a cumulative effect of the other soft skills already mentioned, and Forsberg emphasises they’re skills that are highly sought-after addition to any workplace. Candidates who can show that they are good team players – able to compromise and collaborate – are in demand with recruiters and employers.

Leadership is also a prized skill across any role, even if it’s not officially a leadership position.

“We look for candidates who are motivated, positive and show initiative, partly so they can lead at lower levels such as within teams, and partly because those candidates are more likely to be promoted internally into management positions,” explains Forsberg.

Adaptive skills

Recruiters are also increasingly seeking graduates who can demonstrate adaptive skills, such as critical thinking, flexibility and initiative in the workplace.

The ability to develop innovative ideas, identify new opportunities, apply skills and knowledge in different contexts, and work independently are more valuable than ever in these volatile times.

“The last two years have tested companies’ abilities to pivot, adjust and make the best of a bad situation,” says Forsberg.

“Candidates who can help them do that successfully will flourish in today’s working world.”

Further reading:

How to hire the perfect team player

Nurturing grads in the new normal

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