Top 5 Qualities Employers Seek in Fresh Graduates

Posted by Andrew C Abraham on

The landscape of graduate recruitment has changed. We’re surpassing the era where employers would hire candidates based solely on experience, skills or grades and transpiring into a period where many of the softer human qualities are desired in fresh talent. This portends a more equitable recruitment sphere and breeds a new millennial that is not only intellectually capable of the business world but also emotionally ready.

In a recent survey conducted by the NUS Careers Centre, that polled the results of 118 different companies, Communication, Passion, Analytical Thinking, Interpersonal Skills and a Desire to Learn were ranked foremost as the top five qualities essential for new graduates. The study was conducted in light of the Graduate Global Talent Development Programme (GGTP) – a new initiative by NUS to cultivate global-minded graduates. In (brackets) is the percentage of employers that ranked it in their top 5.

1. Communication (59%) – Often misconstrued as meaning the ability to speak (especially publicly), communication is a two-way street. It involves the ability to convey your message to another party, while also being able to listen and take feedback. An individual that can speak without qualms in the presence of an audience but has challenges understanding what his audience is interested in, might be a great orator but not a great communicator. Someone well versed in communication must be able to communicate cross-culturally; should be comfortable speaking with different age groups; heed advice and then adapt their message accordingly.

2. Passion (55%) – I’ve spoken about the importance of this ingredient before in a recent post so I won’t regurgitate all of it. But it’s fascinating to know that employers are interested in identifying this in candidates also. Passionate people are more likely to develop a passion in their future employers and passionately evangelise the company to others. The best publicity for any new product is word of mouth; and when that message is delivered by a passionate and trusted peer, it is all the more powerful. Passion also fortifies commitment and employers desire committed talent.

3. Analytical Thinking (47%) – Thankfully, university is good preparation for this acquired skill. Regardless of whether you’re studying Engineering, Law or History, your coursework often requires you to think critically and/or laterally when solving problems. One of the fundamental outcomes of analytical thinking is to understand that a situation may possess several different solutions. In the workforce, graduates will be challenged constantly in their knowledge and understanding and interactions with other people. Therefore, talent able to analyse situations and offer a fresh perspective on the issue are highly sought after.

4. Interpersonal Skills (45%) – Frankly I’m a little surprised that this attribute was not favoured by more employers; but it still ranks in the Top 5. I’ve also noticed marginal differences in the emphasis placed on this skill in different regions. Through my HR experience in Europe and Australia, there is definitely more precedence placed on possessing effective interpersonal skills than I’ve noticed here in Asia. When we break practically all job scopes down however, an acute ability to interact with people well separates the high achievers from the low. The rewards of strong interpersonal skills might be more obvious in sales, management and consulting careers, but play a vital part in roles such as programming and design – after all techies need to elicit information when gathering requirements for technological solutions.

5. Desire to Learn (42%) – I’m really pleased that this was recognised as one of the most important qualities for evaluating fresh graduates. A desire to learn challenges the existing mentality that certain skills need to be attained before employment and hones in on the potential that a candidate can offer instead. In my previous company, this was a characteristic we placed a lot of prominence on. Understandably talent will graduate with varying degrees of skills and knowledge; often as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Rather than allowing this to limit their potential, a desire to learn compensates for a lack of hard skills and reinstates the notion that new graduates all commence with a clean slate. Some of the most unlikely people, afflicted by a dearth of skills have gone on to build very successful careers. Employers that stand true to recruiting talent based on this quality attest to the importance of potentials over credentials!

Source: NUS Careers Centre

Source: NUS Careers Centre



Well there it is, the Top 5 qualities sought after when evaluating fresh graduates. This by no means is an exhaustive list and other attributes such as being a team player and a solid degree also ranked very highly. Please click on the embedded image to view the full criteria for this survey.

If you are graduating soon, then demonstrating you possess these qualities will launch you into favourable contention for the careers on offer.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion if you’re a recruiter or graduating student so please share your thoughts. Thanks.



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