What employers Want

What does an employer really want from you as an applicant?

One of the most confusing aspects for any job seeker when preparing an application is knowing exactly what skills and attributes an employer is looking for. If you have little or no prior employment experience this can be even more daunting.

We asked more than 350 graduate employers from a range of industries about the most important selection criteria they use when recruiting graduates. Employers were presented with a list of ten common skills and personal attributes and were asked to select their top three (in addition to relevant qualifications, of course!).

The most common quality nominated by employers was interpersonal/communication skills, with nearly 75 per cent of employers rating this as one of their most important selection criteria. Drive, commitment and industry knowledge was the next most frequently identified quality, nominated by nearly half of employers. The third most frequently nominated skill? Analytical/problem solving ability. 

Employers’ top 10 skills and attributes

(as ranked by employers; ranked by proportion of employers who considered each to be an important selection criterion.)

1. Interpersonal and communication skills (written and oral)
2. Drive and commitment/industry knowledge
3. Critical reasoning and analytical skills/technical skills
4. Calibre of academic results
5. Cultural alignment/values fit
6. Work experience
7. Teamwork skills
8. Emotional intelligence (including self-awareness, confidence, motivation)
9. Leadership skill
10. Activities (including intra and extracurricular)

So, what can you take away from this?

First, it’s important to remember that, while some employers may place greater emphasis on one or more of these skills and attributes when recruiting graduates, it doesn’t mean these are the only skills they’re looking for!

Even if you don’t have much professional experience, it doesn’t mean you don’t have these skills.

Think about your part-time job, or an extracurricular activity like a sports club, band or community organisation that you’ve joined. You might be able to draw some parallels between skills and attributes used in these settings and how you could transfer them to your ideal graduate job.

You could also think about other skill areas you’re strong in. All of the skills listed here are important. The skills sought by employers can vary between industries, organisations and even individual recruiters.

Doing some research about the company, speaking with friends who have gone through the process before and even contacting someone from the organisation to discuss their expectations are all great ways to learn which skills and attributes a prospective employer may be seeking.

(This research comes from GCA’s 2010 Graduate Outlook Survey of graduate employers in Australasia. If you are interested in viewing more of the survey findings, visit the Research Reports section of this website or  email research@graduatecareers.edu.au.)