If you’re looking to fill any entry level roles anytime soon, you’d be foolish to ignore soft skills.
While technical knowledge is hugely important when hiring any employee to ensure that they hit the ground running, these skills can be difficult to find in applicants for entry-level roles.
Interestingly, surveys suggest that employers rank technical skills as the 24th most important skill of a new starter, despite it being considered the 2nd most important skill after two years.
Why? Well, as an employer you should understand that by hiring the right young people with the right general skills, it’s your business that contributes the technical skills training that will make them future stars. So when you’re looking for raw potential, what is it that you should be looking for?
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A big employer gripe when looking for young recruits is the time it takes to train graduates, and understandably it’s crucial that you don’t have to go over the same thing four or five times before it sticks.
As a result, you want to make sure that any entry-level employee you hire has great attention to detail. Knowing that they won’t have too much existing knowledge, you need to make sure they’re a sponge for anything that you teach them.
How do you find this out? For starters, a wide variety of interests and skills will show that they’re quick and keen to learn new things. Have they taken the time to teach themselves a skill? This can show that they’re able to adapt and learn independently.
In an interview, you want to look for someone who is clearly listening to your questions, and able to take on information that you’re giving them before repurposing that information into an impressive answer.
One of the biggest conceptions about young people is that they struggle with picking up the phone and talking actually talking. In fact, in the same study as above it was shown to be staff’s third biggest problem with graduates.
Having grown up in the time of instant messaging, texting, and social media, young people grew up being able to draft everything they communicate, which is why that small, oddly shaped black box on their desk might seem so frightening.
Especially if you’re hiring for a business development or account manager role, make sure you include a phone test as part of the interview. The double nerves of an interview situation along with having to make a phone call will be difficult, so cut your interviewee some slack. Having said that, you need to know if they’re going to freeze up and whether they come across as confident and composed when they do have to ring people up.
No business wants to hold the hands of their new recruits forever, and in the first few months there needs to be a careful mixture of ensuring they receive the right training while moving towards adding value to the company as soon as possible.
Consequently, you’re going to want to prioritise hiring people who can stand on their own two feet, work independently and deal with problems head on. Of course, you don’t want entry level people blazing a trail forward before they understand the company and role fully, but you do want to hire people knowing they’re at least capable of viewing obstacles objectively and arriving at a solution
The best way to work out how people face a problem is to give them one. Be careful though – many people will simply pose a serious problem as part of the regular interview. In real life, you would always have some time to prepare, so give them 15 minutes, enough information and the ability to research.
If you want to work out how they work under the pressure of a strange question or a curveball, that’s a different thing entirely. This is more about gaining a realistic understanding of how they would actually approach a problem if they land the role.
This is one skill that you’ll hear over and over, but’s it tops the lists for a reason. It’s so central to any work culture nowadays, as we work in increasingly collaborative environments, where business focus on using everyone’s skills in the best way to benefit the company. What’s more, our offices are increasingly separated, as more people work remotely and more companies outsource various tasks and roles.
Assessing your new hire’s communication skills can be difficult, as it’s much more based on your instinct than any kind of quantifiable metrics. Having said that, factors such as how clearly they lay out their CV, how they communicate with you in the lead up to the interview and how well they listen to questions will all give you a good idea of how they operate. After all, listening is the real key to effective communication.
It’s rare to find an entry level role nowadays that doesn’t list commercial awareness as a key personality trait. In many ways, this is to allay employer’s fears over hiring someone with little or no experience.
While people with commercial awareness may not necessarily have actual work experience, they do tend to have the ability to understand the business goals intuitively, as well as the surrounding factors that might affect your company and the wider marketplace.
Include questions about industry news, ask them what publications they read or listen to, and get them to explain what your company does. For real bonus points, ask them about challenges that are facing your business or the industry, as this will show both awareness of the current situation as well as an ability to form opinions about what that situation means.
Not only will these answers tell you about their commercial awareness, but will display their dedication to, and passion for both the industry and your company too.
Matt Arnerich is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Take a look at their website if you’re interested in hiring a graduate, or looking for internships and graduate jobs in London and beyond. For more graduate careers advice, check out their brand new blog!