What do employers look for in new hires?

What do employers look for in new hires?

Finishing your degree might feel like conquering Everest, but as soon as you finish everyone tells you that you’ve only reached Base Camp. Finding meaningful work in a competitive world is a whole new challenge – but we promise, you’re up to it.

Graduating from university, no matter what discipline you’ve chosen, has given you an array of transferable skills that are highly sought after by recruiters. It’s important that you make some smart decisions and leverage those skills as you search for employment.

According to findings published by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA), in 2015 nearly 70 per cent of graduates were in full time work within four months of completing their degree. Another 20 per cent had part time work.

The GCA survey found that up to half of the graduates with full time employment in 2014-2015 found their job through either a job search on the internet, connections to family and friends or visiting university career centres.

You can make powerful connections

For Jane Shelly,* Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant at Ernst and Young, networking is key. ‘It’s absolutely the way to get your foot in the door. It’s how you find out about opportunities.’

University Career Centres are great places to build that network, and where recruiters like Jane facilitate regular information sessions. ‘I’ve been able to develop relationships with students, so that when they do submit an application I know who they are and I’m keeping an eye out for their application,’ she says.

Nici Henningsen, State Manager at the Communications Council, a professional body representing the advertising industry, agrees. It’s vital ‘to build your network, attend industry events and sign up to industry newsletters,’ she says.

New teaching graduates should also keep an eye out for networking opportunities to help land that first job. TeachIn, a UK-based teaching placement service that recruits Australian teachers, offers services including networking events, CV advice and interview coaching.

But for Jane, leaving the job search until after your degree is too late.

‘Students really need to start thinking about their career from their first semester of their first year of university.’

She urges students to take advantage of career opportunities, whenever they arise.

‘We have some early identification programs that are designed to introduce students to the business world early in their degree and put them on a bit of a pathway that leads them into an internship and then a graduate program,’ she says.

How to make a great impression

Whether your path follows an internship or graduate program, or you find a great job advertised online, it’s important to make a great impression to get on the recruiter’s shortlist. But will your skills and attributes be what they are looking for?

For Gemma Yates, the Group Overseas Manager of TeachIn, the key is industry experience. For most teaching candidates, that means the teaching placements undertaken as part of a degree are essential for industry experience – and references.

Jane Shelly also looks for a broad range of experience in candidates. From extra-curricular activities such as sport and theatre, to getting involved in student politics, volunteering, travelling and previous employment. ‘All of these things demonstrate that they are capable of balancing multiple things at once, and have a lot of various experiences they can bring to the role.’

Nici Henningsen says ‘passion and knowledge are imperative’ for a career in advertising. She looks for candidates with a ‘willingness to want to get into the industry,’ and a ‘knowledge of the industry and its players and key trends.’

‘Be curious, arrive with questions,’ she suggests.

‘As prospective candidates, they should be able to define their own career and understand how they will achieve this and why. This is important to be able to decipher the committed from the uncertain. Careers in commercial creativity are highly contested, so if you don’t have a clear articulation of the why, you may be overlooked.’

Of course, getting an interview is just the first step. Impressing the panel of interviewers is something else. ‘Punctuality and enthusiasm’ top the list for Gemma. Nici agrees – she says candidates have to ‘set themselves up for success’ with punctuality and a neat and tidy dress code. But more importantly, she urges, be prepared.

It’s all in the preparation

‘Be armed with knowledge of the employer; the brands they work on and recent wins,’ she says. ‘Show evidence of industry and business knowledge. Read the business sections of the paper. Know client and agency business.’

Jane agrees. ‘Business acumen is really important. Not only being able to intelligently talk about what’s happening in the world at the moment, but also having the ability to relate that to the role they’re applying to.’

Jane suggests that interview candidates prepare some answers to behavioural-based questions using the STAR formula (Situation, Task, Action and Result). ‘It’s a good way to structure your response.’

A little research and enthusiasm can help you achieve your goals. As Heningson says, ‘passion, a willingness to learn, and the right attitude’ will set you up for future success.

‘Listen. Do. Be one step ahead. Show up ready to make a difference, and always have and own a point of view. Be authentic. Be true to your own brand. Know who you are and what you won’t compromise.’

Equip yourself with the skills and knowledge employers are looking for. Learn more about Career Ready Advantage.

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