4 crucial skills to look for in early career talent

4 Crucial Skills to Look for in Early Career Talent

Hiring high-quality talent matters for roles at every level of seniority. However, employers often aren’t paying enough attention to what skills and other factors are predictive of a good hiring decision. In other cases, employers are paying attention, but they’re focusing on the wrong selection criteria. 

In the hiring process, it’s all too common for organizations to focus not on skills themselves but proxies for skills or abilities they believe will help them select the right candidate. Examples of ineffective selection criteria might include: 

  • A college degree as a stand in for intellectual ability or persistence
  • High scores on standardized tests
  • Job tenure/experience
  • Performing well in peer groups that look like the candidate (e.g.,same gender or same race) 

These factors simply are not predictors of future performance. Hiring early career or entry level talent is all about looking at the future. 

Define the talent skills that matter to your organization

If you want to take a skills-first approach to hiring for early-stage talent, the first step is defining what skills are most valuable to your organization. Look at your business strategy, speak with line managers in the trenches, and analyze your key performance indicators. Are there areas of your business that are growing more quickly than others? Where are you chronically understaffed? Which skills are most important to actually performing well in a role? 

The answers to these questions will vary depending on industry and geographic factors of course, but we at YUPRO Placement are seeing several skills employers should be considering for almost every entry level or early-career role. Let’s take a look!

1. Receiving and applying feedback 

There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate. Even if there were, things change! The skills and behaviors that made someone a perfect fit eight months ago might not matter now as your business evolves. That’s why the ability to take feedback and change behaviors accordingly is incredibly important. If a candidate demonstrates this ability, they are more likely to be able to switch industries, specialties, and support major changes in your strategy. For example, if a new hire moved from a customer service background to a software development role, they might prioritize responding to email too much over other more important tasks for their new role. A coachable employee would be able to take feedback from their manager and reprioritize their work accordingly. 

Asking specific, behavioral questions about when candidates got feedback from someone and implemented it successfully is one way to identify this skill in candidates.

2. Problem solving

What do you do when the going gets tough? The ability to be part of the solution and overcome obstacles is dramatically underrated by employers. Problem solvers can succeed in everything from sales to customer service to coding because of their ability to diagnose, identify solutions and solve problems. 

Selecting for the ability to problem solve may also diversify your hiring slates. More often than not those who have learned to overcome or live with other obstacles in their lives such as physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and economic disadvantages have a strong ability to find creative solutions to thrive in a variety of environments that prove to be helpful in the workplace. For example, there is a growing body of research around dyslexic students that strongly suggests that they grow up to be highly effective problem solvers. 

3. Communicating and following-through

We want to make a careful distinction between this skill and the ever popular “excellent verbal and written communication skills” we typically see in job descriptions. Most employers don’t define what they mean by communication skills except some vague notion that the successful candidate will sound like they went to a four-year institution. When we talk about communication and follow through, we mean that someone can communicate clearly and politely with stakeholders and then follow-up accordingly to make sure projects keep moving forward. 

This skill is very important to performing well in almost any professional setting and a college degree is not predictive of a candidate’s communication skills. A good indication of communication and follow-through skills may look like a timely and well-written thank you email or professional voicemail message after the interview. 

4. Growth mindset 

While this might not technically be considered a skill per se, it is perhaps one of the greatest assets a candidate can have. Skills shortages are only going to persist for the foreseeable future and the fact that the relevance of skills is constantly changing compounds this challenge. The only way out of this cycle is to hire people with a “growth mindset” who are constantly learning and experimenting with new skills, and can provide examples of how they are a continuous learner. 

People with a growth mindset don’t wait for their employers to teach them new skills. They actively seek new knowledge because they don’t see education as a one and done activity, but a continuous journey. 

A word of warning however, candidates with a growth mindset are attracted to environments where they can flourish. They will flock to employers that create space and opportunities for them to learn all the time. For some employers out there, this means making pretty drastic changes to their environments to improve their employee experience, and their learning and development strategy.  

Focus on skills that matter for early career talent and beyond

The combination of skills that make someone successful in a role will vary by industry and a number of other factors. However, we believe the skills described above are only going to increase in importance as the technological and economic landscape continues to change. The real question is, will your hiring practices adapt to reflect a change to skills-based hiring?

If you’re interested in learning more about skills-first hiring or similar topics, reach out today and let’s have a  conversation.

The information in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. YUPRO Placement is not a law firm and does not provide legal services. The information in this blog post is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. If you have any legal questions, you should consult with an attorney.

The views expressed in this post are the opinions of YUPRO Placement and are not necessarily the opinions of any other person or entity. YUPRO Placement does not make any representations or warranties about the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information in this post. YUPRO Placement reserves the right to change or update the information in this post at any time without notice. For detailed advice or guidance on specific matters, please consult with a qualified attorney.

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