It’s been a rocky couple of years for university students graduating into a politically uncertain climate. As an ex-corporate graduate recruiter, I’ve seen my fair share of good, and not so good, candidates from all sorts of degree disciplines. Some of the most common questions I get asked by student and graduate job seekers are “What exactly are you looking for in your hires?” and “How can my degree relate to that?”. While there are many different things that employers look for across different industries that I have worked in, here are three vital skills that graduate recruits need to demonstrate in 2018 and beyond.
Motivation for the industry
It’s crucial for prospective hires to have a keen interest in the area they are seeking to go into. As a fresh graduate, employers recognise that there is lots to learn and much that can be taught. Without a fundamental interest and intellectual curiosity for the area which they have applied, it can be tricky to convince an employer that you have what it takes to go far. Commitment is important, and there are lots of ways students can show this, even if they are applying to an industry they haven’t studied at university. Get involved in university societies and networks that mirror your interests. Many finance, law and business societies are not just aimed at students studying those subjects. There may also be guest lectures, talks, and student competitions in areas that interest you that are great to develop your knowledge and motivation in certain areas. Try and expose yourself to your industry of choice as much as you can, and reflect on what personally interests you about it.
Most graduate programmes invest a fair amount of resource into their hires, hoping they soon deliver that value back into this business. Commercial success is important for organisations, and having a business mind and general commercial awareness contribute to an organisation’s success. Students from a non-business background may worry they are at a disadvantage with this area, but I have not found that to be the case. Commerciality can be developed throughout university by engaging in relevant conversations and activities. You could run the finances for a university society, or follow your industry’s financial news through blogs and social media. Exploring the commercial elements within your chosen industry will help refine your interest and will come in handy in interviews to demonstrate your interest in the subject.
Over the past few years, resilience has emerged as an increasingly important quality for graduate recruits to have. Joining the world of work can be tough and a bit of a culture shock for many students experiencing the business world for the first time. It has never been more important for new hires to bounce back quickly from challenges, and learn from mistakes quickly. Knowing how you solve problems and deal with adversity is a great quality, and can mean students are better equipped at handling what comes their way in a corporate setting. Students can reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, and how they have approached problems in the past. They should also try pushing their comfort zone with new experiences while studying, while always reflecting on what they are learning and what skills they are gaining.
Hannah Salton worked in corporate HR & recruitment for 8 years, most recently looking after graduate recruitment for global law firm Allen & Overy. In 2017 she transitioned to become a career coach and consultant, delivering bespoke career coaching programmes for graduates looking to develop the skills and awareness needed to secure their dream job.