Fresh college graduates face the daunting task of launching their professional careers at the time of the new normal. The pandemic has affected economies around the world and the United States was not spared.
A 6.5% growth in the second quarter of 2021 raised hopes that the U.S. is on track for a post-pandemic economic recovery. Slowly but surely, businesses will be rising from the hardships caused by intermittent lockdowns all over the world.
But just when HR departments and recruiters were anticipating busier days ahead as thousands of job openings hit the market, businesses were hit with another problem.
The New Reality At The Time Of The New Normal
More American workers are quitting their jobs at a time when the economy is on a cusp of a boom. The number of resignations are hitting record highs – at levels unseen the past 20 years.
Apparently, as the pandemic triggered an emergency shift toward work-from-home arrangements, many people realized they prefer to dedicate more time with family and an office job won’t cut it.
As the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. In this case, there are an estimated 9.3 million open doors for fresh college graduates to walk through.
What Skills Are Recruiters Looking For In Fresh College Graduates?
Despite the demand for new talent to make up for the resignations, getting hired is never automatic for fresh college graduates. Recruiters still want to find the best candidates to fill in key positions in the company.
You still need to qualify for the job by having the skills recruiters are looking for in fresh college graduates.
1. Technology Savvy
Before the pandemic, we were already headed toward a technology-intensive global economy.
Concepts such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Virtual Reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and Augmented Reality (AR) were increasingly discussed and gradually implemented in many businesses.
Digital technology will continue to evolve and introduce new innovations designed to improve efficiency and productivity as integrating remote workforces remain the norm in the age of the new normal.
When the world went on lockdown mode, many businesses were scampering to familiarize themselves with telecommuting and teleconferencing tools such as ZOOM, WebEx, MS Teams, and Google Meet.
Likewise, companies are investing in developing technology that’s proprietary to the business. These are software programs, hardware, and networking systems that are designed specifically to run the processes of the company.
Recruiters will be looking for fresh college graduates who are proficient in technology. They must be comfortable managing work through the use of software programs and only a slight learning curve to deal with.
Leadership used to be a skill that was identified only with those in the mid-management level position to the top officers in the company. Today, recruiters are constantly on the lookout for talent with the potential to become potential leaders within the organization.
In business, success is never guaranteed. There are always hindrances or obstacles toward accomplishing business goals. A company wants to hire people who aren’t afraid of facing these obstacles. They view problems as challenges that need to be overcome.
Leaders are people who aren’t averse to making mistakes or experiencing failure. They know failure is part of the journey to success.
Employees who have the potential to become leaders in the organization are those who don’t procrastinate and continue to push forward despite the odds.
They’ll do what is demanded of them but at the same time, they won’t hesitate to share their thoughts and ideas with top management simply because they want the organization to succeed.
3. Adaptive Mindset
In a global economy, the repercussions of an event aren’t isolated to one part of the world. It will have cascading effects across regions. For example, world-changing events such as 9/11, the 2003 Crash of the Equities Markets, the Eurozone Crisis of 2009, and the pandemic have affected the economy of every nation.
For this reason, a rigid and inflexible mindset will not thrive in a global economy. Recruiters want to hire people who have an adaptive mindset. They recognize that the world has turned VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous – and understand that circumstances can change without warning.
Having an adaptive mindset helps them foresee and anticipate these changes so they can prepare alternative courses of action in the event current strategies fall short in delivering results.
Recruiters prefer to hire people who are open-minded and willing to accept new ideas, concepts, and processes. This is an important component for ensuring a productive and progressive organizational culture.
4. Cultural Awareness and Diversity
Talent is never a monopoly of a region. You can find talent across time zones. The most successful companies have long recognized this. As an example, businesses continue to outsource work to other countries not just to cut costs but to capitalize on talent as well.
Inevitably, whether you work in a brick-and-mortar office or from a remote location, you will find yourself working with people from different ethnicities. The challenge businesses frequently grapple with is navigating incidents that encroach on cultural inappropriateness.
Oftentimes, the situation is unintended. It’s normal for people to be simply unaware of cultural differences.
Try to educate yourself on the cultural practices and traditions of other nationalities. If you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to take the conservative or less risky approach or to simply ask.
For example, many Asian countries observe religious holidays and don’t work. However, there are different religious denominations and therefore, the practices will vary.
So if you find yourself collaborating with people from another nationality who don’t show up for work on a particular date, don’t assume they’re lazy or sick. They could just be practicing their faith.
5. Fast But Firm Decision-making
In business, time is money. Every second that passes by where a decision isn’t made increases the cost of opportunity.
While you’re vacillating on whether to take action or not, another party – your competitor has – and your opportunity to generate sales, get hired, or land an account has just come and gone.
Recruiters want to hire people who have the ability to make quick decisions but are firm about them. They can do this because they have the fourth sought-after skill on this list – adaptive mindset.
Quick decision-makers are able to balance the value of time and the probability of risk. They are willing to execute and implement decisions because they’ve already come up with alternative courses of action in case the desired outcome of the decision isn’t achieved.
If you’re averse to risk, you’ll end up doing a lot of fence-sitting. And in business, if you’re not going forward and just staying still – you’re moving backward.
Speaking of collaboration…
One of the main reasons why companies have shifted their focus on building teams based on cultural fit is to create effective collaboration among individuals.
You can have a team composed of the most talented people in terms of experience, academic achievements, industry awards, and levels of expertise, but if they don’t get along, the team won’t produce the expected results.
Imagine a rowing team where the athletes don’t row at the same cadence or have some participants putting in more effort than others. That boat will be going around in circles instead of a straight line.
The key component to establishing strong collaboration is having excellent interpersonal skills. When recruiters look for someone with excellent interpersonal skills, he’s not just assessing the ability to communicate.
The recruiter is also looking for the ability of the person to willingly engage another person on the team; to reach out and establish rapport. He’s open to the idea of interacting with others.
How will the recruiter test if this skill is present or not with the job candidate?
You might find yourself grouped with the other applicants or with a team of veterans. An HR Officer will ask the group to perform a task. From there, you will be in a fishbowl.
The HR Officer and perhaps an embedded veteran will monitor and evaluate how you interacted or collaborated with others in the group.
7. Business Acumen
Business Acumen is a skill that’s widely overlooked by many fresh college graduates. The university teaches you the fundamentals of business; theories, principles, and concepts that are used by companies to develop strategies to achieve business goals.
But learning theory is different from understanding how these concepts are applied in the real world.
Put simply, Business Acumen is understanding how business works.
- What are the current trends in the industry?
- What are the pressing issues and concerns faced by businesses today?
- Are there laws that inhibit how businesses perform?
- How are the equities markets performing?
- What are the current economic indicators?
- Are there political issues that could affect the growth of the economy?
An inquisitive mind is a prerequisite to developing Business Acumen. When you find the answers to these questions, you begin to formulate scenarios as to how a company – the one you’re applying for – creates strategies that protect its interests.
The recruiter might ask you questions about prevailing issues in the industry and how these impact the company. The idea is to assess your potential and gauge your level of interest in nurturing a career in the industry.
8. Time Management
A study has shown that in an 8-hour workday, the average office worker is productive for only 2 hours and 53 minutes.
That’s a productivity rating of only 36%!
What non-work activities are office workers distracted with?
- Scouring the internet for news.
- Visiting their personal social media accounts.
- Water cooler chatter with office workers.
- Looking for new work opportunities.
These distractions are present even if you work from home. You might think “I only spend 5 minutes on Facebook.” Let’s assume you’re being truthful about the time you spend on Facebook, but you’ve been paid for those 5 minutes.
Secondly, the time spent on other distractions will all add up to your total unproductive hours per day.
Can you imagine if you were productive by another 50% or by 2 more hours? Now, if everyone in the office improved their productivity by 50% – the company would be more successful and profitable.
Effective time management is a skill that helps the company become more efficient and productive.
9. Creative Problem Solving
Employees might be faced with a problem that leaves them stumped. The seconds become minutes that add up to hours of unproductive work. Worse, if the problem isn’t resolved, it could have a cascading effect across the company.
Sometimes the answer isn’t found in your college textbook or the training manual. You’ll have to flex your creative muscles and conceptualize the best possible solutions.
Recruiters love candidates who exhibit the ability to “think outside the box”. Creative problem-solving means finding answers when it seems that you’ve arrived at a dead-end. You’re able to pick out features from different theories and personal experiences and develop creative solutions.
Another word for creative problem solving is resourcefulness. These are the types of people who won’t throw in the towel because they believe every problem has a solution – you just have to know where to look.
Gone are the days where supervisors micromanage their employees. Micromanaging is not only a time-waster but it also hinders the progress of the employee.
Recruiters prioritize candidates who can work on their own and be entrusted to manage their tasks without the need for much supervision. These are the types of personnel who embrace responsibility and understand the importance of completing their assigned duties.
Fresh college graduates might be micromanaged by their supervisors for the first few weeks. But once the supervisor is convinced that the newbie is consistently delivering results and maintaining the quality of work, they will gladly remove the training wheels.
Hiring people who can self-manage allows the company to optimize its available man-hours and accomplish more goals every day.
As you’ve read from our list, recruiters aren’t only looking for candidates with the requisite technical skills. They are also looking for candidates who are made of the “right stuff”- the personality/behavioral attributes that make you who you are.
Technical skills are referred to as Hard Skills. The personality attributes are called Soft Skills.
In our list, only Technology Savvy, Interpersonal (Effective Communication), and Business Acumen are hard skills. The rest are widely considered by recruiters as soft skills.
Of course, the nature of your job will require you to possess the necessary hard skills to manage the duties and responsibilities that are specific to your profession.
However, recruiters over the last few years have shifted their focus toward identifying people who aren’t just talented but have the right attributes to fit into their organizational culture.
It’s no longer just about what you know but who you are.
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