What Do Companies Really Want


So you have completed a degree/diploma and are ready to start your career. But is this enough?

According to a survey that Graduate Careers Australia conducted with more than 350 graduate employers from a range of industries, the majority of top 10 skills and attributes sought after are actually soft skills.

Employers’ top 10 skills and attributes

As ranked by employers; ranked by proportion of employers who considered each to be an important selection criterion.

  1. Interpersonal and communication skills (written and oral)
  2. Drive and commitment/industry knowledge
  3. Critical reasoning and analytical skills/technical skills
  4. Calibre of academic results
  5. Cultural alignment/values fit
  6. Work experience
  7. Teamwork skills
  8. Emotional intelligence (including self-awareness, confidence, motivation)
  9. Leadership skill
  10. Activities (including intra and extracurricular)

Only a couple of the skills and attributes listed are closely related to the technical aspects of what you may have learned in your degree/diploma. Instead, companies are focusing on the soft skills such as interpersonal skills and communication skills, cultural alignment/values fit, drive and commitment, critical reasoning and analytical skills, teamwork, leadership and emotional intelligence.

Sure, you may have developed some of these skills during your education or in a part time job but you might not have had the opportunity to practise these in a business environment.

The purpose of a Work Integrated Learning placement is to provide you with an opportunity to apply and develop these skills in a professional workplace therefore increasing your chances of employment in the future. 

The focus of your placement should not be on the technical skills that you will gain because as we can see from the statistics, these are not the most important skills companies are looking for. To help develop the skills that companies are looking for, your placement is designed to focus on the following areas:

  • Business Meetings - Opportunities to observe, participate in and contribute to business meetings
  • Professional Writing - Practise a range of professional writing including emails, agendas, minutes, business letters and reports
  • Workplace Relationships - Establish workplace relationships, formally and informally, through opportunities to build rapport in areas such as teamwork, team lunches, small talk and collegial working relationships
  • Report research findings to your Host Company Mentor or other team members verbally
  • Expand understanding of Host Company legislation through familiarisation with Host Company policies and procedures related to WHS, EEO, harassment and bullying
  • Develop skills and understanding of office culture and professional behaviour through familiarisation with Host Company standards and expectations
  • Professional Communication
  • Build professional business communication skills through appropriate interactions with various stakeholders at the Host Company to develop workplace communication skills, technical skills and knowledge related to the field of study

Picture yourself after your placement finishes: When you are applying for jobs with companies who list some of these soft skills in their job advertisements, you can confidently communicate to them which skills you have and how you have demonstrated them in a professional business environment. 

It’s hard to sometimes shift your thinking when it comes to what companies want because most of us think they are looking for someone who has strong technical skills. If you don’t have any experience it is hard to prove your technical skills and sometimes even if you have them, it’s not enough.

Start thinking about the soft skills they are looking for because you will have many opportunities during your Work Integrated Learning placement to develop and demonstrate these skills.

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