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Insight: Graduate recruiters rank soft skills above technical ability

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Soft skills such as communication and confidence are more important to graduate employers than technical knowledge, according to a new report.

The survey by training company Kaplan found that employers recruiting graduates value softer employability skills, including being a team player and being analytical, more than technical abilities.

In fact, technical knowledge ranked 24th in a list of 30 competencies desired by employers at the recruitment stage, while effective communication came top of the list.

The ability to be a team player ranked third, confidence ranked fifth, followed by analytical skills in sixth place.

However, the findings also revealed that, two years after recruitment, technical knowledge shoots right up to second place in the rankings.

Kaplan said this clearly shows that employers are prepared to train new recruits with the knowledge and technical skills needed for the role.

“On the whole, we found that the employers we surveyed do not recruit graduates for the subject-specific nature of what they learned at university,” said Stuart Pedley-Smith, Kaplan’s head of learning and author of the study.

“These employers generally view a university degree as a proxy for having reached a certain level of competence.”

The survey also revealed that 75% of employers were having difficulties finding the right graduates, which is consistent with the results of the latest Association of Graduate Recruiters survey, which found that while there were 17% more graduate jobs available during 2013-14, nearly 25% off those surveyed had unfilled vacancies.

Kaplan warned that although there are a growing number of work opportunities and skills programmes for graduate recruits, businesses still say they are not seeing enough candidates with the employability skills they need.

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Lucie Mitchell

Editor, HRzone.co.uk

Read more from Lucie Mitchell
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