What Employers Really Look For When Hiring a College Graduate in 2009
Even though we are in a recession; the war for talent still exists. Now more than ever employers are looking even more closely for individuals who can “contribute to the organizations bottom line.” Very simply, employers are looking for candidates who have the right degree and skill-sets necessary for success in the position they are trying to fill. This may appear to be an obvious statement; but, many college graduates don’t take this basic message to heart. The completion of a degree does not guarantee a job. Employers want to know what you will do for them.
The 2008 survey conducted by collegegrad.com indicated that 44% of the responding employers ranked the graduates major as the top priority, interviewing skills placed second, a graduates internship and experience ranked third, and 10% of respondents cited the college the student graduated from came in fourth as a priority in their hiring consideration process.According to the National Association of Colleges and Businesses 2009 job survey, the top 5 personal qualities/skills employers seek, are: communication skills (verbal and written), a strong work ethic, teamwork skills (works well with others), initiative and analytical skills in that order.
The above is useful information to consider when preparing to look for a job; however, to compete most effectively, candidates need to know more, and do more, with the information so they can set themselves apart from others in today’s competitive job market. And…in addition to the above, there are other important considerations organizations look for when considering candidates for a position.
When you get by the obvious, right major, relevant skill set and the ability to interview and possibly the completion of a well directed internship, the “attitude” of the candidate becomes one of the major factors in the hiring process. In fact, the majority of employers in good organizations have adopted the mantra “hire attitude, train skill.” They have come to realize over time that smart people can learn new skills, but individuals with a poor attitude most often cannot be change, nor does the organization want to invest the time, money and effort to change a person’s attitude. The message about a great attitude is not being imparted strongly to very many graduates. One of the major keys to employment is a great, genuine and positive attitude!
Secondly, your demonstrated work ethic is critical to your potential employer. What will you do in your new job that will fill the employer’s needs? What have you learned in college, internships, part time jobs, volunteer work or life experiences that will enable you to apply and take advantage of opportunities in their organization?
Most college graduates are “theory smart.” They know what the book says and have proven their ability to pass curriculum requirements, the big question the employer is concerned about is “can you apply in the real world what you have learned.” Can you write a report which clearly communicates and has impact? Can you effectively communicate within a team setting to help bring a project to a successful conclusion? Do you have a “get it done in a cost effective manner” attitude? Being able to demonstrate how you will apply the theory you have learned in school to real situations in the workplace, will give you a leg up on the competition.
Third, can you demonstrate leadership skills in the workplace? Leadership shows a willingness to take an active interest in something or someone to the next level. As a college graduate, most often you will quickly be expected to take on the responsibility of a leadership role in your career. This can be in the form of project management or a team leadership role. If you are a leader verses a follower, and can provide leadership examples, employers will be more likely to hire you. Your leadership abilities are also a good indication to the hiring organization that you are a self-starter and a take charge person.
The over-riding message expressed by employers in all segments of the for-profit and non-profit organizations is this… Employers are looking for people who can do the job. Employers want people who have the necessary academic, technical and interpersonal skills and competencies required for the position for which they are being considered. One last quality hiring employers like to see is the knowledge the applicant has of their organization. Research the company as deeply as possible so you demonstrate in your resume, cover letter and interview your knowledge of their operation. The extent of your “company knowledge” will enable you to ask pointed and clear questions and demonstrate your sincere interest in their organization. If you take a serious interest in them, they might just return the same to you.