June 15, 2021
Training and Development 10 February 2020
7 Abilities to Look for When Hiring Graduates
Diana Adjadj

Every year hundreds of thousands of university alumni leave their campuses and join the workforce. Fresh out of their regalia, they search for jobs armed with their degrees and enthusiasm. Employers, especially in larger companies, are eager to receive these graduates into their ranks. Younger employees accept fewer benefits, lower wages, and have fewer obligations. All companies and organizations could benefit from new blood, couldn't they? 

Graduates make great candidates as they are generally well-educated and happy to learn. They are newly independent and are looking to work hard and make money. Going to a University will have taught them a lot, so they’ll have some decent experience to bring to the table. Moreover, they'll have lots of new ideas that they're happy to share with their coworkers. These same graduates are usually enthusiastic and can breathe life back into businesses.

However, recent studies show that company satisfaction with graduates has decreased over time. Many companies feel that university graduates aren't well-prepared and fail to meet their expectations. Oftentimes, candidates are lacking in technical skills or soft skills required to qualify them for long-term employment with the company. If time is money, then hiring unfit candidates seems to be a waste of both. 

Below you have seven skills that employers are actively seeking out in university grads.

Creative Problem Solving

As markets change and the business landscape shifts, employers need workers who can help them evolve. Creativity is essential to keeping companies afloat in this tech-dominated world. That's why CEO Michael Litt of Vidyard prefers to hire graduates from liberal arts backgrounds. 

I believes that liberal arts educations give employees critical thinking skills that make them indispensable. While technical degrees give graduates know-how when confronted with problems, they aren't as able to think on their feet.

Although, that doesn't mean that you have to give up hope on graduates in math and science. Hiring managers can measure creative problem-solving in many ways. In fact, you can divide it into several sub-skills which employers can directly discuss with possible candidates. The first is to see how easily they can analyze and identify a goal. Then, find out how much research they are willing to conduct to gather data on an issue.

Be sure to ask if they have completed any projects where they have had to brainstorm problems, devise solutions and put those solutions into place.  All of these skills add up to the fundamentals of creative problem-solving. If your job candidate can spot a problem, analyze it, and then fix it then they may be a keeper.

If they have not yet completed any projects, you can have the candidates complete a project on ProSky. Projects are 3-5 week commitments designed by your company to help solve a specific problem and accomplish something for the company.  They can consist of whatever you want them to and be designed how you want them to. 

You are given the chance to engage these graduates who are applying by introducing them to hands-on projects, allowing them to see the process of their future job, and allowing you to see if they have the skills necessary to do it well.


A well-oiled machine is the sum of various moving parts. Most businesses and organizations are the same, with lots of smaller departments and people that help them succeed. Although businesses can have a reputation for being cutthroat, good business is a byproduct of teamwork

Hiring people who know how to work together is essential for any company, big or small. In fact, having a great team can be the factor that pushes your business into high gear. University graduates are used to working in teams, as they were regularly assigned group projects at school. Matt Erhard, the Managing Partner of Summit Search Group, looks for the following when considering candidates:

I look for experience working in a team environment, whether that’s through volunteer and extracurricular activities or past employment. This includes ability to cooperate/collaborate, level of workplace independence, how they respond to constructive criticism, etc. Leadership experience is definitely a plus, especially if the candidate has little to no relevant work experience.

Working on projects in school doesn't always mean that they all excel at working in teams. On the contrary, some candidates don't work well in groups at all. It's up to the hiring manager to find out what kind of person the graduate candidate is. An easy, albeit simplistic, way to find out is by having them describe a recent and successful team project they worked on.

On the other hand, to get a real idea of a candidate's teamwork skills you can give them a task to complete in a group interview. The task can be tailored to your company's field to maximize its relevance. While the candidates work together, pay attention to their speaking and listening skills, flexibility and willingness to take responsibility. The results of this trial phase will tell you if these candidates are team players or not. Especially in bigger companies, the way a candidate performs can make or break their interview.

Literacy and Numeracy

Truthfully, this is the reason why employers want university graduates. Excellent reading skills aren't just necessary for one's studies; they are also required for good business! 

Think about the number of emails, reports, and memos employees deal with on a daily basis. With all of that critical information going around, it's vital that employees be able to interpret and react correctly. Ergo, good reading and writing skills increase functionality and versatility.

Equally important, candidates need to be good with numbers. Calculating expenses, understanding graphs, and giving correct change to customers all require good math. Regardless of your business sector, employees will need to be able to perform some kind of arithmetic. Ensuring that employees possess decent numeracy is a large part of determining their suitability. The absence of these skills could mean you have made a poor investment.

Hiring managers should be prepared to evaluate these critical areas. One popular way to measure these skills is with a general aptitude test. Although some might find it unnecessary, as they show up with their university degrees, others don't mind at all. Betty Rodriguez, Senior Workplace Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com says,

If a role requires strong writing or analytical skills, we include a take-home assignment in the hiring process. Our assessments always include thorough instructions for the candidate to follow, allowing us to measure both the quality of the work and the candidate’s work style. They may have asked questions along the way which we welcome. Alternatively, they may have missed a key step due to not following the instructions which could indicate a lack of attention to detail.

Consider the fact that graduates are still accustomed to taking exams. A simple test to check reading, writing, and mathematics skills before an interview could save your company a lot of grief.

Organization and Time Management

Knowledge and skills are essential to ensuring that a job gets done well. However, graduates should also be able to show that they can be efficient with their top-notch skills. Being a talented genius is not so helpful if you can't meet deadlines. At the end of the day, what employers want is results. While there isn't a straightforward formula for getting results, there are two important factors to consider.

Organization and time management are two of the most important behavioral skills necessary for delivering results. Employees need to be able to complete tasks well within the given timeframe. Being organized will also help when the workflow is interrupted by urgent deadlines. Excellent time management will ensure that those deadlines are met every time without too much fuss. Scheduling and planning can also help reduce stress and improve productivity in the workplace which is a serious plus for demanding jobs.

While these skills can be hard to identify in the hiring process, hiring managers can help. In job postings, job descriptions and interviews you have the opportunity to push for these skills. Be sure to explain any time-keeping protocols and the importance of deadlines. Pay attention to how candidates react to your company culture. Don't be afraid to ask them hypothetical questions about their organization or time management skills.


The way a person holds themselves can affect their success in the workplace. Eager beaver and go-getter aren't ubiquitous terms in the business world for no reason. C-level executives soared to new heights by showing initiative and pursuing their goals. It's that same gusto that employers want in their company to help them thrive. Holding out for a graduate who exhibits the perfect balance of confidence can have a huge pay off for companies.

A confident candidate knows how to speak positively, displays mindfulness and helps others. While physical markers like standing tall can help show confidence, it's these other things that your business will really benefit from. Confidence in the workplace can be infectious, other employees will follow suit when they notice this commendable behavior. Of course, confidence should never be confused with competitiveness or cockiness.

The best leaders are confident. Leadership is often the difference between success and failure. Keep an eye out for confident candidates by listening to how they describe their achievements. Take note of how these individuals perceive and carry themselves. Confidence paves the way for many great things like professionalism, enthusiasm and interpersonal skills.

Emotional Intelligence

At the end of the day, businesses and organizations are about people. How we handle and treat these people can affect a business's success immensely. Hiring emotionally intelligent individuals with excellent interpersonal skills is becoming more and more necessary. 

Emotional intelligence signifies how people recognize and understand emotions in themselves, as well as, in others. In the workplace, emotional intelligence or EQ can affect all kinds of relationships and interactions. Matthew Ross, the Co-owner and COO of Slumberyard says,

I think soft skills like attitude and emotional intelligence are more important than actual technical skills when hiring new employees. For my business, I'd rather have someone who fits with our company culture and is more in tune with other people's behavior than someone who does not fully understand emotions and causes problems with co-workers. In short, I can teach an employee certain technical skills but that's not the case when it comes to emotional intelligence and fit.  

There are plenty of benefits to having high EQs in your company. Employees with good EQ are shown to be better at interpersonal functioning and managing stress. In the long run, this can lead to better decision making. Employees that have high emotional intelligence are also much more empathetic, which can make them great leaders. Not to mention, they will be able to listen, reflect upon and respond to constructive criticism better than others. 

Although measuring EQ can be difficult in hiring situations, it is still possible! In his experience recruiting recent college graduates, Matthew says it is crucial to ask the right questions during the interview process that force candidates to use examples and anecdotes. Definitive examples and concrete evidence are useful for vetting college graduates to see if they are a good fit. 

Emotional intelligence, like confidence, can be learned. Employers that pick up on emotional intelligence should rest assured knowing that it is possible to cultivate, as well. Plenty of businesses today incorporate seminars on emotional intelligence into their training. All you need is to water the seed of empathy to have the flower of emotional intelligence bloom.


Employees who know how to ‘recycle' themselves are priceless. As the business world of today is always changing; being able to go with the flow is a basic expectation. For younger employees, like graduates, this might seem like a given. However, it is vital to actively measure this skill before taking a new candidate on. Rigid mindsets can not only cause problems in the workplace; they can cost you money.

Being out of your comfort zone and still finding success is the mark of a great employee. Businesses of today require adaptability not only to fit into the company culture but also to succeed in unexpected situations. If a job candidate is inflexible and refuses to change, then they may not be suited to the job. This inflexibility speaks volumes about them, how they work, and how they may not fit into the company culture. Employees need to understand that they are not the vessel, they are the contents that reshape the vessel.

In the hiring process, evaluating the past experience and using scenarios can determine adaptability. For scenarios, the more random, the better as that makes them harder to prepare for. For leadership roles, hiring managers should inquire about any challenges the graduate has faced. If candidates show they are resourceful in the face of adversity, that's an excellent sign. Find out how candidates respond under pressure.

Businesses such as TrustMyPaper have made a name for themselves due to their very rigid recruiting process. The company concentrates on hiring young writers that are highly adjustable to various writing styles. This, in effect, causes the company to invest in extra budgeting for the hiring process, which is part of their recruiting strategy. 


As if the hiring process wasn't complicated enough, there are seven more things to keep an eye out for. Granted, searching for these skills will ensure that the candidate you've picked is the right one. Hiring managers fear not; there are lots of tools you can put to use. 

Consider carefully crafting the job description. A well-written description will attract fantastic candidates from the onset. Good job descriptions are clear and inviting. Next, decide where to share your brilliantly written job description. Research job boards and find the one that is the best match for your company.

Human resources techniques can help simplify your process and improve your recruiting ability. When used properly, these same techniques can make your hiring process more effective and decrease turnover. You can also incorporate some pre-interview screening techniques to narrow down your candidates. Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding.com shares his method:

One way we evaluate candidates is by giving them actual projects to work on. We will hire people on a short-term contract basis to complete tasks that are similar to what we would hire them for. With these projects, we expect to see great attitude, communicate and ability to hit deadlines. Nearly everything else is flexible.

The interview itself is also important. Adequately prepare for interviews and continually work on your interviewing skills. In the interview, keep an eye out for those seven key abilities and take plenty of notes. When it's all said and done, you will have plenty of information to make your decision. Make sure that the graduate you choose ticks all the boxes before welcoming them onboard.

With ProSky you can have One-click job-postings to see candidates automatically fill your pipeline. Evaluate for real skill-sets and culture fit through interactive challenges and video interviews. Seamlessly move the candidates through each stage. Meet with our specialists and get a demo of ProSky's platform to help you find and retain the right graduate. 

Diana Adjadj is a writer and editor who has a Master's degree in Marketing. She combines her passion for writing with her interest in research and creates thought-provoking content in various fields. Diana also runs her own 3to5Marketing blog. What inspires her the most in her writing is traveling and meeting new people.