Opinion: Employers want guts and graft over grades

A few months ago, I wrote an article detailing my thoughts on the importance of one’s degree when seeking employment.

In the months following the article, numerous people have asked me: what are employers actually looking for?

Unfortunately there is no set answer to this question, but there are a few constants that will impress any employer, whatever the role.

See also: Read more of Josh Dowbiggin’s columns

Be a grafter

In many ways, hard work and determination are the top traits that employers will be looking for. If you can show that you will always go above and beyond the norm in the workplace, you are sure to impress.

Being a grafter isn’t just about long hours or physical work. It is crucial that you have the right approach to work and show a willingness to learn.

No one can be perfect at everything, but showing an interest and being keen to expand your knowledge and skills set is a big win for you and your employer. Anything can be taught, but only to someone who wants to learn.

You might argue that it is hard to demonstrate these skills in an interview situation, but if your CV and references are full of examples to show that a bit of hard graft is in your nature, that won’t be missed by the employer.

Stand out from the crowd

It is also really important that any application you present doesn’t just get lost in the paper pile. When employers or recruiters are reading through CVs, they haven’t got all day, so it helps if your application stands out, and quickly.

Make sure your CV is bright and bold. If you can get their attention quickly, they will read into the detail. If you don’t, they might just fling it back on the pile.

The next step in standing out from the crowd is in the content of your application. As harsh as it may sound, being chairman of your local YFC club might not always be enough.

Make sure you are seen to be seeking every opportunity to experience different things outside your comfort zone.

This could be travel, building your own small business or starting a new initiative in your local community.

Show that you are comfortable in positions of leadership or responsibility. If they detect a “don’t ask, don’t get” attitude, it’ll be hard not to be impressed.

Communicate the right way

For some employers, being a good communicator is essential, and they will be assessing your qualities in this area from the get go.

Someone who is confident no matter who they are speaking to, approachable to all and knows how to listen is appreciated in any business.

At the same time, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance – a line I have previously been accused of crossing. This can be a hard one to get right, but I find the key is knowing your audience.

Don’t be afraid to be open and honest with people, but also appreciate the views of others in the workplace. It is important that you recognise who you are speaking to, especially with superiors, so make sure you have your say while also giving time for others to have theirs.

If you can nail these three opportunities to shine through in your application and interview, you will already be one step ahead of the pack.