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What do employers look for when they hire?

Career Month is November 1-30, 2021

November 19, 2021 — 

When students ask me what employers look for when they hire, as a career consultant I usually respond by asking what they would look for if they were employers. Taking the time to see things from an employer’s perspective can quickly give students good information. Below are some ways you can put yourself in an employer’s shoes and learn what they are looking for from job applicants.  

Technical skills

Usually, the first point of contact employers have with job applicants is their resume. For all jobs, employers look for a degree and/or technical skills. If you know which jobs you plan to do upon graduation, check out those job postings now to make sure you have the technical skills required. The earlier you start this process the better. Having a good idea of the technical skills required can help you in course selections as well as to seek out paid or unpaid opportunities that develop or hone in on these skills.

Transferable skills

Don’t just focus on your technical skills, though! Most if not all employers want job candidates with strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ) or soft skills also known as transferable skills. Employers want to hire individuals that will fit into their company’s culture and who can adapt to their workplace. Employers state that they can send someone on a course or workshop for technical skills if they have the aptitude to learn, but it is much more difficult to train or develop someone who has low EQ or transferable skills. 

So what exactly is EQ and transferable skills? In Daniel Goldman’s book, Working with Emotional Intelligence (EQ), he outlines Personal Competence – how we manage ourselves – and Social Competence – how we handle relationships. People with strong EQ tend to have an outstanding performance at work. More and more, employers are looking for candidates who have strong personal competence (self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation) along with Social Competence (empathy and social skills).  

Employability skills

The Conference Board of Canada has also researched and gathered transferable skills from employers across Canada and published their set of Employability Skills.  These skills fall into three categories: Fundamental Skills (Communicate, Manage Information, Think and Solve Problems and Use Numbers); Personal Management Skills (Demonstrate Positive Attitudes and Behaviours, Be Responsible, Be Adaptable, Learn Continuously, and Work Safely); and Teamwork Skills (Work with Others, and Participate in Projects and Tasks). 

The degree you earn is still important for the field you seek to work in but pulling out the transferrable skills or EQ stated on the employer’s job posting and demonstrating them in your resume and later in an interview is key. While you can demonstrate many of these skills in the academic environment, students who find volunteer or work experience related to their sought-after employment field are greatly desired by employers and have a cutting edge in the application process.

Access information on volunteer opportunities via the Career Compass or Explore Occupations of the Career Services site.  Both Volunteer and Work Opportunities can be found in Career Connect  and Get Hired. To receive advice directly from employers attend the Employer Advice: Career Café event on November 25th. If you need further assistance, contact Career Services and meet with a consultant.

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