Your degree may be the last thing that gets you a job

Jul 29 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Who cares if you came top of the year in your degree? Not employers that's for sure – they're more interested in whether you can actually get on with those around you, listen, learn and communicate.

A study by GRADdirect, part of HR consultancy Reed Consulting, into what organisations look for from their graduates has found there is a broad consensus among employers about what are the most sought after attributes.

Communication and the ability to work in teams were seen as critical personal attributes by more than six out of 10 recruiters.

And characteristics related to "emotional intelligence", such as the ability to appreciate others' perspectives, were also rated highly, cited as highly important by more than four out of 10 organisations.

Certainly a good degree grade was welcome but, when it came to intellectual ability, what recruiters wanted most of all were transferable skills, such as the ability to grasp complex information or to see problems from different angles.

A graduate's actual academic ability, unless it was for a job that was directly relevant to their degree, was rated much less highly, cited as very important by slightly more than a quarter of recruiters.

Nearly three quarters of recruiters looked for graduates where it was clear their motivations and goals matched those of the organisation they were applying to.

Nick Griffin, Reed Consulting's head of graduate services, said: "The graduate recruitment process is a huge undertaking and investment for any organisation. With an estimated 185,000 people set to leave college and university this summer, recruiters are faced with the challenge to hire the best graduates who will also have the potential to be future business leaders.

"In today's competitive climate and in the face of the escalating war for talent, recruiters have to work harder and smarter to find their ideal candidate," he added.

The study follows research by the UK's Guardian newspaper adding more weight to the growing body of evidence that the current generation of graduates – the so-called Generation Y – look for more than a high salary, job security and career development prospects when applying for jobs.

Flexible working options, attractive employee benefits and a high-profile corporate social responsibility programmes were all other key factors, argued the Grad Facts research earlier this month.

The "ethical behaviour" of an organisation, such as its attitude to the environment how it treated its employees, were also rated as important by graduates.

The survey also suggested there was little evidence, yet, that graduates are worried that the economic downturn is going to make it harder for them to find jobs.

Four out of 10 graduates polled said they were planning to take time out to travel after graduating rather than hunt for a job immediately, up from 31 per cent in the same poll last year.

The UK Association of Graduate Recruiters, in its annual jobs' poll earlier this month, also concluded that the upper second degree was becoming less of a "gold standard" selection tool for employers.

It reported an 11.7 per cent rise in graduate vacancies this compared with last, even against the backdrop of the downturn, but modest growth in salaries, of just 1.8 per cent.

The average starting salary for a UK graduate was now £24,500, and more than 30 graduates were on average applying for each graduate-level vacancy, it added.