6 Things Employers Look for in New Business Graduates
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6 Things Employers Look for in New Business Graduates

“In the Business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.” – Harold S. Geneen

In a jobs market that is both fast-paced and increasingly international, employers are in need of graduates who possess that little something special. But with so many universities claiming to prioritise the production of ‘work-ready’ graduates, how do we begin the gauge the positive, material impact these institutions deliver to their students?

The results of the sixth annual Global Employability University Survey has attempted to do just that. Designed and commissioned by French human resources consulting agencyEmerging, and carried out by the German market research firm Trendence, the ranking combines votes of 2,200 recruiters and 2,400 managing directors of international companies or subsidiaries across 20 different countries. The recruiters were asked to answer questions about the ideal attributes of graduates and the institutions they attended.

Here are six of the most popular requirements sought by employers across the globe:

1. Company’s Past Experience with an Institution’s Graduates

In the survey, 19 percent of recruiters claimed to favour universities based on past experience with their graduates; that’s the highest proportion of survey respondents within every continent. However, in terms of personal information and attributes, the university from which a candidate has graduated is only the fourth most important piece of information required by recruiters.

Almost a quarter of respondents claim to exclusively employ graduates from a specific group of universities, such as the Russell Group or Ivy League, for example, while 31 percent of companies admitted to having a preferred list of institutions from which they typically recruit.

At 53 percent, the majority of survey respondents agreed with the statement that “only universities able to establish links with companies can promote the employability of their graduates”, highlighting how important it is for students to consider an institution’s links with industry, and how the status of these links could influence their future.

2. International Exposure

At 15 percent, international exposure was the second highest consideration for employers across the globe.

Internationally, between 71 and 81 percent of recruiters believe that higher education is a globalised market; it therefore makes sense that a similar number of employers expect to hire graduates who understand, and can adapt to, this globalised environment.

Clare Powers, a recruiter from global knowledge broker AlphaSights, says that she “cannot emphasise enough the importance of international experience,” and that, “the confidence and self-awareness students gain from putting down roots somewhere new, is an asset for any business.”

3. Area of Degree Specialisation

At 14 percent, expertise in the field of competence they are interested in was the third highest consideration reported by employers.

Anna Vignoles, professor of education at the University of Cambridge, believes there is a gap between employer demand and graduate supply, and that institutions could address this issue by using graduate earnings to identify the fields where more degree courses are needed.

“If students prefer subjects that are not in strong demand in the labour market, you can have a mismatch between what students want to study and what firms need,” she says. “I’m not suggesting that employers dictate what students study at university. I am merely saying that with better knowledge about the demand for graduate skills in the labour market, both students and universities can make informed decisions. Clearly, better communication between employers and universities may also help.”

4. Specific Skills

Do you have the ability to function well as part of a team, but also independently? Can you make strong, informed decisions, and are you good at solving problems? These are the skills most employers are looking for when they consider hiring graduates.

From August through to October, the National Association of Colleges and Employers(NACE), a Bethlehem non-profit organization that links college career placement offices with employers, ran a survey that asked hiring recruiters what skills they would prioritize when recruiting from the class of 2015 at colleges and graduate schools.

Here are the top five skills employers seek, in order of importance:

  1. 1. The ability to work in a team structure
  2. 2. The ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
  3. 3. The ability to communicate verbally with people both inside and outside of the classroom
  4. 4. The ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  5. 5. The ability to obtain and process information

The good news for any recent graduate is that no matter what your specialization; human biology, aeronautics, classical civilization, or international law, your educational experience will already have instilled you with the top five skills on the list.

5. Professional Experience

A candidate’s previous professional experience is also considered a valuable attribute to recruiters across the globe.

“Universities are very good at the technical training,” says Rob Fryer, head of student recruitment at the global firm Deloitte, “but they’re not necessarily training students to apply that within a professional environment.”

When asked what characteristics he values in graduates, Fryer says Deloitte has steered clear of examining “past achievement as a yardstick about what people can do in the future, and started to think about things like resilience, innovation and goal orientation.”

Fryer highlights that, in his opinion, the institutions that provide students with the best graduate outcomes are those that allow companies to run student workshops on how the technical skills they have learned throughout the course can be applied to a business environment.

6. Grades

On average, grades were listed last on the list of priorities among all the surveyed employers, no matter what their continent.

Earlier this year, Ernst & Young, a multinational professional services firm, announced it was to remove degree classification from the entry requirements for its recruitment programmes. The firm claimed there is no evidence to suggest that progress at university is correlated with subsequent success in the workplace.

Maggie Stilwell, the company’s managing partner for talent in the UK and Ireland, claims the firm’s new ‘strengths-based’ selection process is dedicated to future potential, as opposed to things they have achieved in the past.

She says: “Some of our best candidates will be those who are able to demonstrate their intellectual capacity alongside strengths such as relationship-building, flexibility and pride in their work.”

Read on to learn more about some of the best international universities that provide their students with outstanding graduate prospects…

Abertay is a modern University with a long, proud history of academic excellence. The University is situated in Dundee, an outstanding place to live and study as it offers an affordable lifestyle, and it’s Scotland’s sunniest city. Dundee Business School at Abertay University offers students from all over the world an exciting range of up-to-date postgraduate programmes. These innovative courses ranging from International Finance and Accounting to Oil & Gas Accounting and Management develop students’ capabilities both in and outside of the computer labs, seminar rooms and lecture halls, to experience, to understand and to rise to the challenges of business in the global, 21st century economy. The teaching philosophy behind all course delivery is one of a business-student-university partnership

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has over 50 years’ experience in providing comprehensive, creative and inspiring education. HKBU is committed to providing Whole Person Education that inculcates intellectual, cultural, social and sporting skills outside the classroom in addition to training the minds within. Located at the crossroads between the emerging countries of Asia and the West, The School of Business is ideally situated to confront the changes impacting our world, be it the economic resurgence of China, the deepening impact of globalization or the need for new ethical standards in the age of sustainability. The School provides a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across major business disciplines, with the aim to educate students that not only excel in their professions, but in every aspect of their lives.

Curtin University is Western Australia’s largest and most culturally diverse university, home to Australia’s third largest international student population. This cultural diversity adds a rich and valuable dimension to the University’s ethos, preparing all graduates to live and work successfully in an increasingly globalised world. The Business School at Curtin University (CBS) is one of the top ten business schools in Australia. With around 70 business leaders who use their knowledge and experience to shape course content, CBS is dedicated to providing courses that blend business knowledge and professional skill to ensure all its graduates are prepared for rewarding careers.

QUT is a highly successful Australian University with an applied emphasis in courses and research. Located in Brisbane, Queensland, QUT is a diverse university with a strong international outlook. With 45,000 students, including 6,000 from overseas, QUT is positioned to flourish into one of Australia’s leading Universities. The Graduate School of Business at QUT provides high-impact workshops, courses and services that accelerate business careers. Specialising in multidisciplinary education programs designed to develop and transform leadership and decision-making skills in the real world of complex, ambiguous and emergent environments.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is a contemporary university in New Zealand, focused on providing outstanding student opportunities and learning experiences. More than 26,000 students are enrolled at the University, whose exceptional graduate success is driven by powerful research and industry connectivity. AUT’s Business School provides a world-class education in a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, preparing students for business practice or research careers. All programmes are focused on rigorous, relevant and engaging learning, encouraging students to become competent critical thinkers who are ready to thrive in the fast-paced modern world.

Pic: Auckland University of Technology

Monash University was established in 1958 in Melbourne, Australia. Monash University Malaysia is home to 5,000 students, and is located 18km from central Kuala Lumpur. The institution offers a huge variety of courses across a number of disciplines, including double-degrees, part-time study, off-campus learning and alternative pathways. Monash Business School  is recognised across the world as a school of influence, with the skill and knowledge to navigate the complexities of today’s global economy. The School operates internationally and leverages its scale and diversity to match the world’s most serious challenges.

Established as the second university in the country in 1969, Universiti Sains Malaysia offers courses ranging from the natural sciences, applied sciences, medical and health sciences, pharmaceutical sciences to building science and technology, social sciences, humanities and education. USM also has17 dedicated research centres for a range of specialisations. The Graduate School of Business at USM strives to nurture competent and holistic business leaders equipped with the relevant skills and initiative needed to make a difference and to lead change in dynamic and competitive environments. This is achieved through a combination of globalised and integrated curricula and applied collaborative research.

Singapore Management University is internationally renowned for its world-class research and distinguished teaching. Established in 2000, SMU’s mission was to generate leading-edge research with a global impact, and deliver broad-based, creative and entrepreneurial leaders for the knowledge-based economy. The Lee Kong Chian School of Business at SMU is a dynamic Asian Business School with about 3,000 students and over one hundred full-time faculty members with postgraduate degrees from prestigious institutions. The School offers undergraduate, master’s and doctorate programmes and is affiliated with a number of research centres, such as the Centre for Marketing Excellence.

Hong Kong Polytechnic was the first publicly funded, post-secondary technical institution in Hong Kong. It is a leading University that excels in professional education, applied research and partnership for the betterment of Hong Kong, the nation and the world. TheFaculty of Business at Hong Kong Polytechnic aims to discover, design and deliver innovation-driven Education and Scholarship of international standing that has an impact on students, organizations and the understanding of business issues. The Faculty enables students to make an effective contribution to the organizations in which they work, as well as society as a whole.

Seoul National University honours the ideals of liberal education and aims to teach students a lifelong love of learning that forms the basis of their continuous personal growth. At the same time, it is committed to preparing students to work and live in an increasingly competitive environment. The School of Business at SNU provides a conducive environment for students to become global business leaders. Students are exposed to a variety of fields and are able to push boundaries of their imagination in order to progress the field into the future.