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What is it that employers value?

Posted by Tom Walker in

Most students spend their lives investing time and effort pouring over books so they can attain the grades required to persuade a company that they are the safest bet when it comes to hiring the next year's fresh faces. Students toil over which extra-curricular activities earn them the most kudos to give them a fighting chance when up against the hordes of candidates, each with their sights on the same prize; but what are the golden qualities that companies seek and how best can you prove you have them?

From a corporate's perspective employment is one of the riskiest activities they will undertake. Searching for the candidate that meets their criteria from an intellectual, work ethic and office-culture perspective is like trying to find that one monkey in a thousand that will actually write a William Shakespeare novel on purpose. Each candidate a company interviews professes that they are the keenest smart guy out there, but unfortunately for that company, most claims ring hollow and more often than not, the candidate is merely average.

A willingness to work hard and have proof that this is a character trait is key. Companies want to know that they are getting the most for their money; after all, they have limited resources and don't want to waste it. A strong work ethic is actually more prized than being top of the class. There are many students who are naturally gifted in the intellect-department but who shy away when it comes to elbow grease. Unfortunately, proving on paper that you work hard is not simple, as each candidate will be embellishing the scale of his or her achievements and commitments. That, unfortunately is a fact of life, and largely unavoidable at that; there will always be 'noise' in the process. All a candidate can do is ensure they are succinct when highlighting their previous and current long-term projects and employments.

The ability to pick things up quickly and use intuition is another characteristic of a strong candidate. For a company, the ideal scenario is that a new hire seamlessly slots into their newly acquired role without any internal disruption. Employers are, however, realistic about employment and typically invest time in the new recruit to ensure they come 'up-to-speed' as quickly as possible, so as to minimise disruption. Having an eager new-starter that listens, takes notes and asks relevant questions is therefore clearly a boon to the company. Students who are attentive in interviews and ask intelligent questions are more likely to convince the employer. Having said that, many employers now rely on competency tests as a proxy measure of this.

Finally, ensuring that a team works as a well-oiled machine is crucial to getting the most out of a company's workforce and maximising staff retention. A candidate not only needs to have social skills but also needs to be compatible with a company's culture. An affable candidate always helps tick boxes in this space, but it is also the applicant's responsibility to do their research and ensure that they apply for roles in companies that have a culture that is aligned to their persona.

Image courtesy of Flazingo, Creative Commons