Imagine that you are a recent graduate who has been shortlisted for a job. You are asked to come in for an interview and there is one other person being considered for the position. Both you and the other candidate have the same qualifications and similar background. You both have no work experience. What attributes or skills do you possess which will improve your chances of getting the job? What sets you apart from the other person? Think about it for a minute!
In my experience, the person who is likely to get the job will be the one best able to communicate his or her qualifications and skills to the employer. In this article we examine the five employability skills which employers look for in a graduates. Employability skills, sometimes called core skills, soft-skills or transferable skills, are needed in nearly every job. I believe that communication is the most important of these skills especially when job hunting. Other employability skills include, Teamwork, Integrity, Initiative and Willingness to learn, as well as IT Skills.
Being able to communicate your skills clearly and effectively will give you the advantage over other candidates when applying for a job.
Communication is the ability to convey information clearly and effectively, both written, verbal and non-verbal. Examples of written communication include your CV (or resume), a completed application form, cover letter and email correspondence, which you make to the employer. Verbal communication takes place on the telephone, on Skype or face-to-face, as in a job interview. Non-verbal cues are the ways you present yourself, apart from your words, evident during the interview, in your timekeeping, dress, hand movement, body posture and eye contact. A good communicator is also a good listener! Your communication skills will be the big difference between your success and failure when applying for the job.
Is my CV well-structured and checked for spelling and grammatical errors?
- My cover letter is in the correct format and has it been checked for spelling and grammatical errors?
- I rehearsed answering various job interview questions with another person?
Teamwork (do you get along with others?)
Can you work in a team? Do you get along with your co-workers, subordinates and superiors? Team players are perceived to be more effective because they can work with other employees towards achieving company goals. Highlight your social skills in your CV by listing and describing your participation in sports, volunteer organizations, committee’s, clubs and societies, etc. Your involvement and participation in group activities and teams will be an advantage when applying or a job. This tells the employer that you can get along with others and that you contribute to society. All jobs require some level of communication and interaction with co-workers. If you are not involved, get involved! In a job interview you may be asked: “Give an example of a successful project you were involved in. What was your role and what was your role in contributing towards its success?” Could you answer this question?
- I am involved in group activities or team sports and this is written on my CV?
Integrity - Are you responsible and reliable?
Employers want to have confidence in their employees, and be rest assured that the candidate they are employing will act ethically and professionally when representing their company. Choose your references carefully and add these to your CV. If possible, get letters of reference for part-time work or projects that you have been involved in. Your references reflect who you associate with, so choose people who know you but who have good character. Prep your references in advance so that they give a good account of you if asked to do so. In addition, rehearse interview questions you may be asked related to your integrity, for example, “Tell me about a situation in which you blew it … What did you do to correct the situation?” or “Tell me about a time when you took responsibility for an error you made”, or “What responsibilities do you want in your next job and what kinds of results do you expect to achieve?”
I have good quality references listed on my CV.
- I have permission from my references to use their names.
- I have a letter of reference from someone.
- My CV has examples of roles or positions of responsibility I have held previously.
Do you take initiative? (Are your willing to learn?)
Initiative is the ability to work without being told what to do. People with initiative demonstrate they can think for themselves and take action when necessary. They are willing to try new things and learn for themselves how to do things. People who take initiative can self-manage, which is a highly prized attribute in an organization. In an interview you may be asked: “Give an example of a situation in which you took a risk. How did it turn out?” In answering this type of question, show the employer that you have the ability to be a self-starter. Employers want employees who make things happen even if they make a few mistakes along the way.
- I have studied short courses in my own time
- I have contacted family and friends who can help me with finding employment
- I am willing to try new things, I will have the courage to take initiative when required.
- Hint: Follow-up with the employer after the interview is complete to ask for feedback, even if you didn’t get the job.
Whilst most employability skills are soft skills (people related), IT skills, or computer skills are known as hard skills. Having well developed IT skills will give you the edge when applying for a job especially if both candidates are graduates with little work experience. All candidates in the job market today, with few exceptions, are expected to be fully computer literate on Microsoft Office (Microsoft Word, Excel, and presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint). Additional end user IT skills are almost always considered a plus so highlight additional IT skills which you may have. In a job interview you may be asked, “What computer skills do you have and what programs are you comfortable using?" Good answers may be:
- I am proficient with Microsoft Office suite including, Word, Excel, and Power Point. I am learning to use Microsoft Office Project and have used this already in group projects at University”.
- I'm very comfortable using computers and I learn new programmes very quickly (if this is true). I have taught myself to use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop packages. I used these skills to do layout for the student magazine”.
- I'm also familiar with photo and video editing software. I have used Apple iMovie to edit short promotional videos, which we put on YouTube and linked to our College Facebook page.
Not everyone needs to be a programmer but every job requires some IT experience. When preparing for a job interview, check if the company you are applying to, uses specific software for client management, accounting or human resource management. Get familiar with this software and you might sign up for a free online class to learn the software. This will look good on your CV. During the interview, you can explain that you are currently learning the software. This will give you the added bonus of showing your dedication to the company and the job.
My IT skills are listed on my CV.
- I have brushed up on programmes I think that I need to know (do an online course and get help from friends or family).
Ask yourself, what character traits you possess and are most proud of? What do you believe in? How do these set you apart from other people? These are the things, which cannot be bought in any education manual. These are things you believe in and are therefore part of your personality. Remember to be true to who you are as it is important to be honest about yourself. If you relate to the culture of the company it will bring greater job satisfaction in the long run. Other skills such as social skills and leadership can be developed over time, get involved in community or part time work to help develop these skills. Communication skills can be learned by everyone - how to write a CV, communicate on a telephone and present yourself in a job interview. The same goes for IT Skills, these can be learned and developed over time. Your ability to communicate your strengths clearly and effectively will give you an advantage over other candidates, when applying for a job. Present yourself in the best light possible in all means of communication with the organization.