Sunday, 10 October 2010

What they say they want... and what they actually mean!

There are some standard competencies and skills that most companies say the want in their graduates. This is for all the obvious reasons why those skills are needed for the job, but also for reasons that they might not explicitly call-out to you - e.g. because of some of the less interesting elements of the job, because of the challenges you might face, because of the parts of the job that are not enjoyable.

I hope that by hearing what they are "really" asking for in part, when they ask for these skills/qualities, it will help you formulate your answers better, and help you think about what else the job might involve.

- Are you someone who realises that change is continuous in most companies and being able to roll-with-it and not complain when it happens to you - e.g. you get a new manager / move teams / move offices / move roles?
- You are going to have to do some of the less-fun stuff in the beginning. That's the reality of joining the lower echelons of a company. Will you accept that, make a name for yourself as being great at it, and get something better, or will you be 'difficult and demanding' of more from the start.
- We might hire you for one thing, and in a year ask you to do something different. Are you going to be open to that?
- Sometimes you will work hard at something and do a great job on it only for it not to be used / be changed completely. Are you going to be ok with that and realise that is part of working life and a corporate environment, or is that going to make you really demotivated?
- Sometimes (or a lot!) you will have to work late and miss a big night out / weekend away / dinner with friends. You'll become the person who pulls out last minute and messes up the table bookings / plans. Will you cope with this? Will your friends/family? - and if not, how will you cope?
- You might have to do lots of traveling, which will be fun and glamorous and exciting. It will also cause you to miss parties, birthdays and big events. Are you ready for that?

Problem Solving / Analytical Ability
- Can you use data to tell a story and come up with ideas and recommendations based on the data?
- Can you work on your own without too much supervision?
- Can you think outside of the data or information that you are given to assess if anything is missing that might help provide the solution?
- Can you make sure the problem gets solved quicker next time arises, or even better, make sure it doesn't arise again?
- Do you know how to teach yourself new skills? This could be using online forums, help functionality in applications, books or tutorials, web research, but you must be able to teach yourself quickly - or J.I.T. training/learning ('just in time' - as in 'when you need it') as its called.

Communication skills
- Can we put you in front of clients and be certain that you wont say anything silly?* (see below for examples I've witnessed)
- Do you understand what it is to write good emails?
- Do you understanding email etiquette? (e.g. lots of grads resort to cc-ing someone's manager on an email if they can't get an answer on something - this is a big mistake to make as a grad!)

* "I'm just a graduate so I'm just here to observe and learn"
* "I don’t really know much because I've just started, so I'll have to ask my manager"

Hope that helps a bit. Remember ALL jobs have good points and bad points. Make sure you consider both when you are thinking about what you want to do.

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