The top qualities to seek in graduates

When your organisation needs an injection of fresh talent, hiring a graduate could prove to be a smart move.

The rise of specific graduate talent assessment programs, for example, is testament to the increasing focus businesses are placing on hiring those just leaving university. If done right, the recruitment and selection of graduates can bring a superb blend of enthusiasm and competence to your organisation.

Recruiting graduates does present a number of unique considerations. However, the selection criteria you use is likely to be different to the selection criteria you use for other candidates. For instance, with most graduates having limited work experience compared to others in the job market, how can you accurately gauge their ability and likelihood of success in the role?

It all boils down to knowing which specific 'soft' traits to look for – in addition, of course, to their technical skills. Keeping an eye out for the following characteristics could help point you to the right choice:

5 things to look for in a graduate

1. Leadership

One of the most important things to remember when hiring a graduate is you should approach the decision as a long-term investment rather than a quick fix.

If a prospect looks appealing enough for you to recruit, you'd want them to grow and develop at your business – with the potential scope for them to progress into a frontline leadership role.

It's therefore wise to look for signs of high potential leadership in graduates. Look at the different positions they have held at university, other social circles and with previous employers – do they appear to have a knack for leading others?

2. Teamwork

Too often we see individuals who are brilliant at tackling a problem on their own, but fail miserably when they try to make a concerted effort with others.

Being able to successfully collaborate with a range of colleagues remains one of the most crucial work skills. Look out for signs that they have worked well as part of a team in the past, whether it is for a university project or in a workplace setting.

3. Problem solving

One of the benefits of hiring a graduate is the innovative new ways of thinking they can bring to your organisation.

Do they know how to approach a problem from a variety of angles, applying different methods and accurately deciding on the best course of action to take?

4. Communication

Effective communication – including written, oral and face to face – continues to be one of the most valued workplace traits.

It can be worth assessing how candidates interact with a range of individuals before making the hiring decision. Personality assessments can also gauge their emotional intelligence and how well they'll get on with others.

5. Ambition

If your company has lofty ambitions, so should its employees.

Always look for candidates with a real sense of purpose and a clear idea of where they want to be in five or ten years time. If their long-term goals seem to align with your organisation's, you might be onto a winner!

Think soft skills don't matter? Think again

Many companies are still too fixated on focusing sorely on the hard, technical skills required for the role. While certainly important, it's crucial to remember they aren't the be-all and end-all – in fact, soft skills and personality traits can have much more sway in how successful an employee will be.

The peterberry_author's Graduate Research report asked a sample of recruiters about the most important characteristics they seek in new graduates. Only one of the top five responses – “ability” – related to the technical skills and qualifications required for the job.

The rest of the list was made up of “positive attitude”, “willingness to learn quickly”, “achievement orientation” and “social competence” – all key characteristics found in the most successful graduates.