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Graduate recruitment trends for Ireland and Northern Ireland

The latest data (2011) on how graduate employers choose successful candidates: the minimum entry requirements and the most important competences.

Employers always want to recruit the best graduates, and most will have a clear idea what that means for their particular organisation. Many recruiters set minimum entry standards for their graduate roles, and will generally have a number of criteria that candidates must fulfil in order to progress to first interview stage.

Employers want a blend of academic achievement relevant to the role and the appropriate skill set to ensure successful integration into their role and the company.

According to the gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey 2011, our annual survey of Irish graduate recruiters, more than half of graduate recruiters in Ireland and Northern Ireland specify that applicants must demonstrate certain competences and an increasing number of companies now require a 2.1 degree or above.

Minimum entry criteria

These are the minimum criteria expected by companies who took part in our survey:

  • Must demonstrate certain competences 54.2 per cent
  • Must have or expect a 2.1 or above 51.4 per cent
  • Must have studied specific degree courses 40.3 per cent
  • Must have had relevant work experience 20.8 per cent
  • Must pass psychometric or other in-house testing 19.4 per cent
  • Must have or expect a 2.2 or above 15.3 per cent
  • Must have a certain level of CAO points 8.3 per cent
  • Must have studied at particular universities/colleges 8.3 per cent.

Competences

Employers do not just look for high academic achievers, but also for candidates ‘who can demonstrate specific competences’. So what do they mean by ‘competences’? These are the skills that are specific to working (rather than academic) life. They can be broken down into soft skills (personal qualities such as communication and team working), hard skills (those that can be taught, such as writing), and knowledge-based skills (eg business, science).

Soft skills

Soft skills are often the area where employers feel that graduates are lacking. An amazing 56 per cent of employers observe a lack of communication skills in new recruits, and 27 per cent highlight an inability to work independently.

Companies were also asked which activities they feel have the greatest impact on improving graduates’ soft skills. The overwhelming answer was to complete an internship or industrial placement. Over 81 per cent of respondents believe that is a very effective way to develop core soft skills. The method thought to be the least effective to develop these skills is extensive international travel – something to be aware of if you are planning gap year travel.

Shortfall in soft skills

The soft skills where recruiters saw the biggest shortfall were:

  • Communication 56.9 per cent
  • Managing their own learning 29.2 per cent
  • Independent working 27.7 per cent
  • Problem solving 26.2 per cent
  • Confidence 24.6 per cent
  • Motivation 23.1 per cent
  • Analytical skills 18.5 per cent
  • Flexibility 15.4 per cent
  • Teamworking skills 15.4 per cent
  • Diligence 12.3 per cent

Hard skills

When it comes to basic ‘hard skills’, writing skills are the number one area in need of improvement, with over 44 per cent of employers stating a shortfall in this area.

When it comes to specific knowledge areas, organisations feel there is the greatest lack of knowledge in maths and in business and management. Fewer organisations felt there was a problem with knowledge of science and engineering, perhaps because in this area tend to have a vocational qualification.

Shortfall in hard skills

The hard skills where recruiters saw the biggest shortfall were:

  • Writing skills 44.3 per cent
  • Administration and organisation 31.1 per cent
  • Fluency in a foreign language 31.1 per cent
  • Leadership skills 29.5 per cent
  • Project management 18 per cent
  • Numeracy skills 13.1 per cent
  • Basic computer skills (eg MS Office) 9.8 per cent

Shortfall in knowledge areas

The knowledge areas where recruiters saw the biggest shortfall were:

  • Mathematics 33.3 per cent
  • Business & management 27.3 per cent
  • IT/technology 24.2 per cent
  • Science 21.2 per cent
  • Engineering 9.1 per cent