I am often asked my parents and students what are the top things that employers look for in someone they are going to recruit. Whilst having qualifications is important, the trouble is that so many more students are completing university degrees when compared to the past.
In 1990, 77,163 completed their degree in a UK university. A decade later in 2000 this had risen to 243,248 – that is a rise of over 315%. By 2010 the numbers had risen again to 330, 720 (that is a rise of 428% since 1990). It has got to the stage now that almost 50% of all adults have a university degree in the UK. In 2012 about 27.2% of the public had degrees – this has almost doubled in seven years.
Now whilst this might sound better for social mobility, it has given employers more of a headache - in the sense that it is much more difficult to assess the suitability of someone for a particular job when so many adults in their twenties have degrees. It means that employees have now to look beyond someone’s qualifications and explore other key qualities a candidate has beyond his qualifications.
When asked, the general consensus amongst businesses is that they now have a new set of criteria in which they measure whether a candidate is right for a particular job. These can be narrowed down to ten qualities:
1. Communication skills: These are abilities you use when giving and receiving different kinds of information. Some examples include communicating ideas, feelings or what's happening around you. Communication skills involve listening, speaking, observing and empathising. In business these have to be done effectively across all key mediums – from e-mails, phone calls and communicating with clients. This includes the importance of body language. However, remember, as the Buddha once stated:
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
2. Honesty: This is when you speak the truth and act truthfully. Many children think honesty means you "don't tell a lie"-- and that is definitely part of being honest. But honesty means more than not lying. A more complete definition of honesty shows that an honest person doesn't do things that are morally wrong. Employees value honesty. Everyone makes mistakes. However, if you do, do not try and cover it up or blame someone else. Admit your mistakes and your willingness to make this part of your educational journey. Just make sure that you are not the type of person who does not learn from their mistakes and continue to make the same mistake. Michele Obama once stated:
“We learned about honesty and integrity - that the truth matters... that you don't take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules... and success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and square.”
3. Technical competency: This refers to a skill or area of knowledge used in the occupations of a specific industry. For example, a hotel concierge's knowledge of local events, venues, and services is a technical competency in the hospitality industry. If you have been hired for a particular job you would be expected to either have those key skills or improve your skills along the way. Edwin Earl Catmull, a retired American computer scientist and former president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, once said:
“Technical understanding should be a core competency of any company.”
4. A good work ethic: A good work ethic is a set of moral principles an employee uses in his or her job and it encompasses many of these traits: reliability/dependability, dedication, productivity, cooperation, character, integrity, sense of responsibility, emphasis on quality, discipline, teamwork, professionalism, respectfulness, determination etc. Amy Lynn Chua, an American lawyer, academic and writer once claimed:
“Real self-esteem has to be earned. I also believe in virtuous circles, like, nothing is fun until you are good at it. It is great if you can instil in children the ability to not give up, to have a work ethic.”
5. Flexibility: This is a personality trait that describes the extent to which a person can cope with changes in circumstances and think about problems and tasks in novel, creative ways. This trait is used when stressors or unexpected events occur, requiring a person to change their stance, outlook, or commitment. In other words, many employees are looking for people who have the ability to adapt in ever changing business circumstances and are not fixed on one way of solving problems. As Marc Beinoff, an American Internet entrepreneur with a net worth of $6.9 billion, once stated:
“You must always be able to predict what's next and then have the flexibility to evolve.”
6. Determination and Persistence: To succeed in life you need both qualities. Throughout their time in business employees will always be given challenges and targets to meet; hopefully, whilst they may be challenging, they should be achievable. Determination is focus on these challenges or targets. Persistence is the continuation of action around these challenges and targets. Both are required for success. Determination brings the clarity of “I have decided,” while persistence describes the action necessary and then helps you carry it forward. As Calvin Coolidge (the American president from 1923-1929) once said:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
7. Ability to Work in harmony with co-workers: Harmony is the sound of things that go together well — people singing in harmony are in tune with each other... It's necessary for roommates to be able to live in harmony in a small space, or they're in for a wake-up call. In music, harmony is a pleasing combination and progression of chords. It has been suggested that to have harmony in your place of work one needs to abide by the following seven rules: “Say thank you. ... Notice the little things. ... Avoid idle gossip. ... Maintain an open-door policy. ... Create a team environment. ... Offer to help. ... and socialize outside of work.” It was the Noble prize-winning physicist, Albert Einstein, who once said:
"There's been a quantum leap technologically in our age, but unless there's another quantum leap in human relations, unless we learn to live in a new way towards one another, there will be a catastrophe."
8. Eager and willing to add to their knowledge base and skills: In our high tech and constantly changing world, desire and willingness to learn is a crucial skill for surviving, improving and achieving any kind of success your career or business. It expresses the human desire to be always ready to learn new things and to continuously improve oneself. Willingness to learn is defined as a desire, wish or readiness to acquire new knowledge and develop. It means that a person does not want to stand in one place, wishes to be more qualified and keep up with the modern trends and tendencies. It refers to both professional competence and general education. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, once stated that:
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
9. Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving is important both to individuals and organisations because it enables us to exert control over our environment. ... Problem-solving gives us a mechanism for identifying these things, figuring out why they are broken and determining a course of action to fix them. Identifying a problem is often the kernel for a new business or product idea – and, as such, problem solving is an essential ingredient of entrepreneurialism. It is also a key component of good leadership. Betty Williams, winner of the Noble peace prize in 1976, once said that:
“There's no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.”
10. Loyalty: This means faithfulness to commitments or obligations; faithful adherence to your employer. Here there should be mutual trust. They need someone who has the best interest of the company at heart – someone who could be trusted to be a good ambassador to the company when facing the public. As the famous Hollywood movie mogul, Samuel Goldwyn, once stated:
“I'll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.”
So, remember, it is not all about qualifications today. It is about honing in on all the qualities I mentioned above. If you have received a good education at school (I am not just talking about academic) and at home, I am hoping that many of these qualities have already been instilled in you. Just make sure that your future employer can see these qualities both during your interview and afterwards when you have got the job.
If you have questions regarding the UK education system , tuition or wish to have guidance on the admissions process for schools, please do reach out to our Education Team at Sophia.