Employers look for these 5 graduate attributes when hiring future leaders

Employers look for these 5 graduate attributes when hiring future leaders

South Africa has some inspiring youth leaders who have paved the way for us to follow. Someone like, Eddie Ndopu, who is a human rights activist and he is the first person with a disability to travel into outer space and the beautiful, and longest standing Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi. Nkosi Johnson is another example, who at the age of 8 has already helped to change the public’s perception of HIV and AIDS. 

These leaders all possess a unique set of skills or attributes that enable them to thrive and to step out in their areas of influence. Eddie’s determination, Zozi’s confidence and Nkosi’s courage made it possible for them to be the leaders they are.

These leadership qualities are also sought after in business and at RecruitAGraduate, we know that employers look for graduates who have the potential to become future leaders. The Chartered Management Institute’s 21st Century Leaders report finds that 62% of employers say that they look for graduates who have leadership and practical management skills. As the future leaders of the country, graduates are assets to any organisation. 

The good news is that everyone possesses some leadership attributes. For example, leaders aren’t always the naturally louder people who thrive in the spotlight, leaders are introverts too. Many young people who are looking for their first or second jobs are already inspirational leaders in the workplace, where they studied or in other community circles. We hope this article, and the skills we highlight below, will help you to identify and communicate your unique set of leadership attributes to potential employers.

Tip: Be sure to highlight any of these attributes on your CV, in your cover letter and be mindful of them when you’re in a job interview. It is not boasting if you are honest about your experience and your desire to lead. Employers want to know where your professional value lies so that they are confident to include you in their final selection.

Read more about how to succeed in your first job

Interpersonal and people management skills

A good leader knows how to manage and relate with people in a professional capacity, which is a valuable trait to have in a company. People management skills are a set of soft skills, like good communication, empathy, patience and active listening that are unique to each individual. These skills are transferable, which means that they are not confined to one particular career path or industry, they are valuable across the board. 

The way to communicate these skills to an employer is to put them in your CV but also in your cover letter. Have an example ready of where you managed or interacted with people in a leadership capacity. When you are offered a job interview, prepare to share this example with the interviewer. 

Proactivity and takes responsibility 

Taking responsibility is a true mark of leadership. Employers will always look for the candidates who are proactive and will take responsibility in the workplace. A candidate who takes responsibility is able to help an organisation reach the long-term strategic goals they have set out. Which means that employees who take responsibility and grab hold of the job at hand will help to grow the business.  Leaders are able to take ownership of their role, and in turn add value to the team, company and to their supervisors. 

Tip: In your cover letter, include an example of when you demonstrated leadership abilities by taking responsibility. Maybe you raised your hand to volunteer for something that no one else wanted to do, or perhaps you took initiative to coordinate something to reach a greater goal. Make note of these examples and you will intrigue a potential employer. 

Read Job interviews: how to make a great first impression

Critical thinking and problem solving

According to the GetSmarter 360 Degree Framework, it’s predicted that analytical skills will become a core competency and a necessary skill to have in the workplace.  Critical thinking, analytical thinking and an ability to solve problems are generally inherent in a graduate leader. These skills are important in the workplace. For a company to progress and succeed in a world of digitization, the ability to break down complex problems, analyse them and then form a judgement or solution to resolve them is essential. 

This is also something that we cannot teach artificial intelligence to do - thus making these skills extremely employable. If you’re a leader, then you will already have grown a measure of these skills through your leadership experience. 

We recommend you highlight an example of when you used your critical thinking and problem solving skills to the benefit of a company or greater team goal, in your cover letter. Simply describe the situation and then include how you were able to solve a problem or come up with a solution that impacted the success of the project.  

Ethical and honest

To be a good leader in any capacity, you need to ensure that honesty and ethics are at the centre of your approach. This is the fourth key attribute we see in graduate leaders that makes them more employable. In a world where there can be a lot of grey area, having a candidate who knows the difference between right and wrong, and who will be transparent and honest is a resource that very few employers will ignore.

One way you can show interviewers that you possess this attribute is to simply be yourself when you're in an interview. Authenticity speaks louder than perfectly rehearsed answers.

A good collaborator

Leaders are usually able to collaborate well within a team framework. Employers are not looking for those who will go against the grain when it comes to working with others on various projects. Collaboration is key to getting anything productive done in a team or work environment. Most graduate leaders will be familiar with teamwork, and will generally nurture their ability to work together with others for a set goal or purpose. 

To articulate this skill in your cover letter, you may want to include examples of where you were a leader or on a team of others looking to achieve something Were you the leader of your debate team at University? Did you lead holiday clubs with kids, or were you a prefect in high school or captain of the hockey team? All of these and more will show a potential employer that you are a good collaborator.

Graduates are the leaders of the future

One of our favourite attributes about graduates is that they are able to envision a better South African future. They inherently believe that good can come out of every situation and they are willing to do the work to achieve significant growth and positive change in South Africa, and the world. 

Ready to apply for the job of your dreams? Register on our recruitment website and fill in your detailed CV. When applying for positions, you will be given the opportunity to compose your perfect motivational cover letter for prospective employers.


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