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Employers and their search for graduate superstars

November 7, 2017 by Chris Ruffler

Employers and their search for graduate superstars

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) Conference in Sydney. The event brought together employers, university professionals and various service providers from around the country to learn, develop and network.

When you are filling out your application forms, completing psychometric tests, attending assessment centres or even starting your vacation or graduate job, do you ever stop to consider who are the people that compile the questions, check the responses, and ensure that they get the right person into the role? Well, at this event, they were all right there in one big room.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Having worked in the industry with graduate employers for many years I’ve witnessed a variety of developments over time. Technology has changed the way recruitment takes place, different innovations have appeared (and some have already gone), there have been industry booms and their inevitable busts, while some professions being recruited for didn’t even exist when I started working in the field.

But some things haven’t changed.

No matter the year, many employers will tell the same story – out of the hundreds of candidates they’ve screened, out of the thousands of graduates that entered the employment market, they struggled to find people that fitted the bill. And when they did? They fought amongst themselves to woo one of those small pool of graduate superstars to their job ahead of anyone else’s.

We mentioned just last week the importance of soft skills in graduate applications. One workshop at the conference asked the audience what were the top qualities they looked for in candidates, with interesting results.

Spoiler alert – we weren’t lying.

What employers actually want
In a recent survey, employers reported no issue finding grads that were problem solvers, good collaborators, were receptive to feedback, conscientious and organised. Why is that? You could argue that these are skills that most students will develop just by completing their studies.

That group project you toiled through for two months and submitted just before the deadline? It will pretty much tick every box for showcasing the skills above.

The traits that employers struggle to find though? People who show resilience, leadership qualities, who are impactful communicators, innovators, with a sound commercial knowledge.

I comforted myself that these missing qualities couldn’t possibly apply to any Curtin University graduates, so they must be referring to graduates from other universities! Especially with the ample amount of extra-curricular activities available – specifically designed to develop these exact skills that are apparently missing in so many candidates.

If you have made or can make time to further develop your softer skills you too will probably count yourself as one of those lucky graduate superstars who will be fought over by the organisations you actually want to work for. If you haven’t, now is the perfect time to start thinking about it!

Starting points towards doing extra
At Curtin there is something on offer to fit every student including John Curtin Leadership Academy, Curtin Leaders Program, the Curtin Employability Award, Curtin Volunteers, and Next Step Mentoring. Also playing a role in a student club, assisting a not-for-profit relating to your values, or joining a professional association as a student member can help separate you from the crowd.

If you have no idea how to add value to your degree speak to staff from your careers team on how to effectively sell yourself and the skills that you have, and perfect your interview technique using the wealth of resources on offer to you.

Become a graduate superstar, not an also-ran.

You’re inspired now, aren’t you?

Finishing your studies this year? Don’t panic! We’ve put together a series of free employability workshops during November and December to help you harness your skills and prepare you for the professional world. Graduate Gateway covers online and face-to-face networking and job search skills; resumes, cover letters, selection criteria and interviews; and leadership skills.

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