Employers are all against you aren’t they?
There’s a lot out there about what employers want from young graduates or new employees. So that you don’t have to spend hours trawling through everything that’s out there, we’ve picked the best research for you and have come up with a proven list of what they look for in a new employee.
The Sydney Morning Herald last year discussed the top 10 things employers were hunting for amongst the swathes of university graduates. They based these on the testimony of both those judging the Top 100 Future Graduates competition, as well as previous winners. The competition includes written applications, video and panel interviews and online psychometric testing. This is in addition to academic results, work history, skills and experience (volunteering, sports, music & travel).
This research resulted in the following nine tips for applying to those ruthlessly competitive graduate schemes and internships:
1. Know thy enemy
Although it is hopefully inaccurate to consider the interviewer the enemy, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do as much digging as you can. Learn some tidbits about them, some common points of interest which you might be able to weave into the interview responses.
But more importantly than learning about the interviewers is to study up about the firm, what they do, their ethos, why YOU want to work there and what are THEY looking for?
Make sure your answers show why you want them and why they need you…
2. Finessing your forms
You there, the person putting ‘see CV’ in response to questions. What if the application is being sent to one person to read, who will deem you worthy or not before your resume is even picked up? You have just successfully shot yourself in the foot with a bullet labelled ‘reject’, congratulations. Please try again soon.
Employers typically only test 20 applicants for each role. So you have to make sure your application can stand alone, unsupported, for long enough to get you through to round two. Imagine you’re in the ring and you throw no punches in the first round, claiming you’re saving it for later…You’re going to be down and out in moments. Make sure you land the first barrage.
3. Juggling jobs
As unfair as it might seem, employers expect graduates to be able to hold down a part time job while studying to show that they’re well balanced and diligent, and therefore may see high grades but no experience as a warning sign. So get a weekend job, and think about how to word your experiences to give maximum impact. Paper round? Try optimising your logistics strategy. Waiter? You’re just working on your client relation skills.
4. There’s no i in team, but there is in leadership
Employers will look for how candidates have used their extracurricular activities (from squash to soup kitchens) to demonstrate their leadership skills, group cohesion abilities and giving or acting on constructive criticism. So go join a sports club, theatre group or charity. It will feed into a number of the other points as we go.
5. Balance your resume like you balance your diet
With the overflow of so many recent graduates, it’s clearly no longer sufficient just to base decisions on academic results. So in addition to your 2:1 or above, employers will expect a well balanced resume with part-time or volunteer work, some travel and perhaps some sport.
6. What gets you going?
Recruiters want to understand the basis of your motivation, what areas you might be naturally talented in and which you wish to develop through the role. So spend a bit of time thinking about which these are for you.
7. The big scores
The flip side of that expectation to fit in a part time job is that recruiters expect it to have no detrimental effect on your studies, otherwise it is irresponsible. So don’t spread yourself too thin, leave yourself time for your studies and some downtime for your psychological and physical health, you won’t be writing an essay if you burn out from fatigue.
8. The Practice Effect
I’m sure your teacher told you when you were younger that seeing the test early was cheating, but then when you got older you got practice tests and past papers. Imagine that the psychometric evaluations are just like exams, they are very much something you can practice for.
So get as many bites at the apple as you can through practice tests for each element: literacy, numeracy and pattern recognition.
Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail…
9. Going beyond the hoops
As much as they want to see you jump through the right hoops, the company, with a few exceptions i’m sure, doesn’t want to hire a robot. They want to see that, on top of academic excellence, you can show innovative concepts and passion for the industry you’re going into.
So what do these super-students say?
“Taking advantage of opportunities to take on leadership roles, varied internships and international travel gives you unique perspectives and experiences that sets you apart from the competition and translates well into the industry”
– Krystle Jayne, Bachelor of Information Technology, UTS, Sydney
Turning to The Guardian, In their analyses they provide a welcome injection of humour, and perhaps a less welcome but nonetheless useful set of statistics. Basing their top ten things the corporate big wigs look for in their minions on statistical research, they attempt to translate the often confusing gibberish of job specs into something a tad more palatable. Although some of them may not be as common for graduate and entry level roles (we’re looking at you track record) it’s important to keep them all in mind during your career!
So although some ‘out there’ (read: hipster startups) may be looking for rockstars,
jedis and wizards, most of the top companies appear to be looking for a rap-sheet of buzzwords. They therefore noted how many job adverts they appear in alongside the average salary for these roles. That way you can see exactly how much adding them to your CV might be worth.
So in the immortal words of that Canadian philosopher Drake, we’re going to start from the bottom, with passionate, the often misused, nearly always cliché buzzword from the early noughties. Appearing on 47,971 adverts, but landing lowest with an average salary of £28,762, it has been suggested passionate is used for those roles where passion for the sector is relied on more than financial motivations, therefore may be common in low paid roles such as early startups. To show this off make sure its clear you’re not just here for the salary, and are interested in the sector.
Next is one of the faster growing buzzwords, also strongly associated with startups but with a tad better pay, at £29,007 average over 56,551 adverts: flexible. Now this is not in the sense that you are constantly topping your yogilates class, but that you are willing to do tasks that may go outside of your main skill set. Additional responsibilities may be taxing but they’re a more and more common occurrence with increasing levels of understaffing, and being able to show that you have dealt with it in the past.
Commitment steps up next, showing the fire you have for the role, that you’re thinking about it as the first step of your progression WITHIN the company. Many people, me included, have been tripped up by ever mentioning ‘the next step’ and talking about anyone else, they will respond like a spurned lover, they might be mature and polite about it but you’re dead to them. This term is often put into job specs which are intended to be long term career-building positions, so treat them properly. It will also net you £30,709 and appear in 49,686 adverts. It goes hand in hand with the the ever popular motivated, often now pseudonymed as ‘self starter’, and it is intended to weed out the less motivated applicants. To avoid being tripped up by this, make sure to show your initiative in an appropriate way for the company and that you won’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool for the next few months but will hit the ground running instead, enough idioms? I think so. It pops up in 65,011 adverts and cashes in £30,905.
The next contender is a bit of a prickly customer: Communication Skills, which should be in itself easy to understand, is in fact the most fickle. It may refer specifically to communication in a direct sense, through powerful keynotes with impactful accompanying speeches, however it may also be more loosely referring to showing emotional intelligence in your handling of other people. You can demonstrate this through discussing different audiences you are used to communicating with. Breadth shows experience. In the process you can grab yourself around £31,923 when it appears in 68,064.
Innovative sounds like a fun one, but is often a false friend. Most of the time employers really don’t want you to be a radical free thinker with life-changing ideas. What they mean is they want a problem solver who can come up with inventive ways to get good ROI which you will be able to put into practice. Suggest times you’ve fought your way through a difficult challenge, be that disagreements with your dissertation supervisor, or ‘challenging’ customers in the restaurant, make sure you don’t make one up though because it will come up at interview. If you manage that you can grab a nice £37,680, but only in 36,581 ads.
THE BIG ONE – what is your track record?! This is associated with the highest average salary at a saliva-inducing £39,156, but limiting itself to just 40,071 ads. Why is it so worthy? Because it implies recruiters are getting the polished version of you. A number of previous roles have given you experience and skills which this employer therefore doesn’t have to provide you with. If you are saying you match up to this requirement you will be expected to prove it, and if you don’t, sayonara.
Speaking of which, I think I’ve babbled at you for long enough. I hope that you’ve gained some helpful hints and tips for your own applications. Let us know what else you’d like to know about and maybe your issue could have its own blog piece in the future.
All the best,