The big question every job-seeking graduate wants to know the answer to is this: What are employers really looking for, and how can I ensure I am that person?
Well, research has been carried out into ‘high-impact hire’ – that is, traits that are highly sought by employers; the ones that make a real difference to an organisation. These personal traits make employees stand out – they shine at what they do and this is apparent at any stage of their career and at any level. So what are these traits or characteristics? Let’s see if we can categorise them.
Some graduates begin their working lives in start-up organisations where they find they’re the first person to ever fulfil a particular role. The role they’ve been given simply didn’t exist before! So how do they go about fulfilling their new tasks in a satisfactory manner and at a fast pace? Where do they begin? First of all, they take a deep breath and decide not to panic! Then they have to tell themselves that they have all the common sense, imagination and initiative they need to succeed. They also have the perseverance.
But, in a job interview, how do you convey to a prospective employer that you have this level of determination and flexibility? Ultimately, you need to prove that you have ‘sticking power’. Try to recall an occasion when you faced a seemingly insurmountable problem but you persevered until a solution was reached. This may have been learning a new skill, for example a language, or this may have been trawling your way through hours of tedious research to find a conclusion. If you can prove that you are the sort of person who won’t give up, even when tasks become mundane, pressured or difficult, you’ll make a lasting impression.
What does assimilation mean and what does it mean to a potential employer? If you can assimilate information, you can absorb it and understand it fully. Not only that, you can foresee its implications and you can integrate what you learn into your practice.
From an employer’s point of view, you may need to prove that you’ll be meticulous in the way you analyse data, or that you’ll be able to reach decisions based on evidence taken from many sources. Of course, sometimes there are no right or wrong answers when we evaluate data; it’s the process itself that is significant. But employers will want to see that you can analyse information methodically and carefully, understand its implications and draw your own conclusions.
This ability is tested quite easily and you may find your interview consists of a timed test or some logical problems to solve. But if you can also give your interviewer examples of occasions when you had to spend time sifting through data to reach a conclusion, and explain how this process and your findings affected your thinking, then this will be seen as another big positive. Your examples could be anything from refining your revision technique to researching an essay or carrying out a survey.
Organisations will want to know if their potential employees have made a measurable difference in their previous roles. Did they have an impact or a positive effect on the firm they worked for previously? For example, did they generate revenue or sales that were quantifiable?
Of course, this is a difficult question to be asked if you’re being interviewed for your first post! So, instead, the employer may ask you about the people you admire so that you can describe these qualities in someone else. Did the person you admire – in the world of business, sport or politics, for example – have a real effect? What did they achieve and how did they go about this?
It’s important to remember that in order to have an effect in an organisation you need to be clear about the goals of that organisation and your role within it. You need to be on track. So your future employer will want to hear about times when you’ve set goals and worked to reach them – times when you’ve thought deeply about what was required of you and considered ways in which you could achieve your aims. This could be training for a team race, raising funds for a charity or organising an event. Did you understand what was needed of you? Did you set a goal and did you make a difference?
There are 4 additional high-impact traits employers look for in a graduate which you can read about in Part 2 – coming soon!