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Top Soft Skills Employers Value in Fresh Graduates

Soft skills are required in any role. Fresh graduates, these are the important areas you want to win at when applying for your first full-time job. We share the top soft skills employers value in candidates like you.

Top soft skills employers value in fresh graduates

Fresh graduates are assessed differently from their matured counterparts, for an obvious reason – they may not have the ideal work experience for the job but have the potential. Recruiters analyse graduates’ indirect experiences that can value-add to their organisations. “One of the main things that help here is looking at what they have done outside their studies,” shared Michael Gomez, Head of Career Office, ESSEC Business School, in an earlier interview. “Involvement in leadership roles is also a huge selling-point for fresh graduates who have not had relevant work experience.”

Such experiences develop cross-industry technical skills, such as software literacy (i.e. Microsoft, Adobe etc.). What graduates can draw from these are the soft skills highly sought after in any role. In fact, for Michael and many other local recruiters, soft skills are more valuable than specialised capabilities.

What are examples of soft skills?

Soft skills are the non-technical skills that illustrate how you work. They manifest in the way you communicate with others, address challenges and manage your role. Some soft skills employers look out for include:

  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Strong work ethic
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Willingness to learn
  • Analytical skills
  • Team player
  • Quick problem-solving skills

What soft skills do employers really value?

If you’re fresh graduate preparing for an interview or working on your  , it will be good to note the top soft skills employers value in their candidates.

1. Strong work ethic

Candidates should, first and foremost, convince employers that they have a strong work ethic. This does not have to relate to the job functions but rather the behavioural traits conducive to the role. A combination of many soft skills, good work ethics include being dependable, professional and able to cooperate with people.

  • Sharing how you managed a large assignment at school or an internship. Describe the steps you took, challenges you overcame (i.e. uncooperative team members, lack of resources etc.) and how you addressed them.

2. Effective interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are at the heart of effective teamwork – we need them to communicate and interact with people. Underpinned by strong listening and communication skills, they guide, among other things, the way we relay instructions, listen to and provide feedback, manage difficult people and understand their concerns, and translate complex information into simple terms. They are applied anywhere as long as people are involved. It is, in fact, an essential trait that employers cannot compromise on.

This also renders a level of emotional intelligence. You need to be aware of your feelings and those of others, and communicate with empathy.

You can display this trait by:

  • Thinking about the time you had to listen and communicate to one or more individuals to complete a task – one-to-one or classroom teaching, discussion with teachers, coursemates, internship supervisors or other pertinent stakeholders on notable projects, frontline retail or healthcare service etc.
  • Discussing how you networked with organisations to get leads for freelance assignments.

3. Willingness to learn

If you are a fresh graduate, you are applying to a job so that you can learn the ropes of a career you are envisioning for yourself. This means you must be willing to learn. You have to accept the possibility of making mistakes or being told your work is not up to standard. Disappointment and frustration about your capabilities are inevitable feelings – you need to show your resilience and commitment to keep learning regardless. This points to a growth mindset. Turning a failure to an opportunity for growth is the attitude organisations need their employees to master.

You can display this trait by:

  • Explaining how you took constructive criticism of your peers, teachers or internship supervisors and turned a .
  • Discussing how you successfully trained yourself in a particular job function from scratch during your internship.

Link to “How to positively answer weakness questions during an interview” article when live.

4. Analytical and critical thinking skills

Employers want people who can think on their feet, make good decisions and solve problems effectively. These require strong analytical and critical thinking skills. Whether it is a difficult teammate or a challenging project, finding a solution by breaking down complex scenarios into step-by-step manageable components is the craft employers seek. Fresh graduates like yourself would already have some experience applying such skills to address problems in the course of school and part-time work.

You can display this trait by:

  • Sharing how you managed your thesis paper and the difficulties over the academic year (i.e. complex theories, insufficient interviews with research group etc.).
  • Recalling a time you were assigned a project you had no experience for during an internship and the steps you took to complete it.

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