In this article I want to explore the need for graduate employers and educators to collaborate successfully to ensure that the talent emerging into the job market understand the competencies employers are seeking, the competencies they possess themselves and crucially how they can demonstrate those competencies when it matters in selection environments from CV writing to interviews and Assessment Centres.
I have worked in employability in education for 10 years, as a recruitment consultant for graduate recruiters and prior to that as corporate recruiter, so I believe I have an informed view on this topic.
Whether global projects with multinationals like AXA or focused recruitment local work; the common themes are the gap between the competencies that employers want and a lack of awareness of those competencies from candidates. Even when the candidates understand the competencies required there is an absence of understanding of whether they have them and how to display them. So how do we close this gap and create understanding?
The answer is for employers to work with educators to create a vocabulary around competencies that is underpinned by practical, fun and realistic experiences where that vocabulary is used, understood and applied.
We run workshops at the University of Gloucestershire tackling this very issue. One student selected to talk through his competencies with the group began by stating that he did not have any that employers would be interested in as he had just bar work experience and was the 2nd XV rugby captain....
After 10 minutes of exploring what competencies he possessed we constructed a list of 10 that I reassured him many graduate recruiters would want; recruitment, budget management, conflict resolution, logistical organisation, strategic awareness, collaboration with stakeholders, leadership, communication, planning and team motivation. He was stunned and reassured that he had things to talk about he had not considered worthy of mentioning because of their context.
Building on this we have delivered events that focus on improving student awareness from Year 10 to final year of University. We look at personal brand, communication styles, performing under pressure (presentations and interviews) and have delivered a new ‘deconstructed’ Assessment Centre day where students not only gain great experience, they emerged understanding what we were looking for and how they had demonstrated those things; thanks to comprehensive feedback.
Understanding your USP’s and how the world experiences you is crucial to grasping what competencies you possess, owning them and talking authentically about them. Millennials are brand lucid and once they understand that they too are a brand and their own marketing department when it comes to career, competencies soon come into focus. We ask; How does your brand stand out from the competition? and competencies alongside behaviours, beliefs and attitudes are the answer.
Another innovation where the University has used us is the concept of speed networking for students embarking on their graduate job search, linking them with graduate employers with vacancies. It is not earth shatteringly in itself but what they asked us to do before the event was progressive.
We looked at confident communication, networking skills and crucially we looked at how to lucidly demonstrate competencies in the five minute informal conversations. It was an evolution of the elevator pitch using the vocabulary of competencies backed up by tangible evidence. Claiming a competency is great but being able to talk about a time when it was demonstrated and also understanding the bottom line was impacted is gold dust and exactly what any recruiter wants to hear.
As graduate employers and recruitment consultants we must take responsibility alongside our education partners to take the mystery out of competencies and how they are detected and measured in a recruitment context. We must get out there into the education community and give the talent of the future every chance to explore, understand and confidently talk about their competencies sharing a common vocabulary from recruitment through into employment.
Published in the Institute of Student Employers Magazine 2018
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