Why It’s Important To Be Likeable: What Employers Are Really Looking For


As a student, it may seem that all of our efforts are geared toward one goal: impressing recruiters.

But as we know all too well, that can be a tricky task. Just when we think we have mastered this craft, we discover another area where we fall short. Or at least it feels that way sometimes.

The results of the 2012  Global Employability Survey, conducted by the French HR consulting firm Emerging, may come as a bit of a surprise. Prepare yourselves.

According to this study, recruiters place the most emphasis on the soft skills of a potential hire and very little attention is paid to practical knowledge.

The study polled 2,500 recruiters in 20 different countries and explores what exactly is expected of young professionals on a global scale.

When asked which country bred the best all-around candidates, recruiters ranked the UK first, followed by the U.S. and Germany. Canada ranked fifth worldwide, coming in before France, Australia and Switzerland.

In terms of universities, the top ranked schools were not surprisingly located in the U.S. and UK, with Harvard coming in at the top of the list and our very own University of Toronto listed in the top 25.

Some of the results of this study are pretty dismal, though. The survey indicated that the know-how and personality skills of graduates around the world are barely above average, with hands-on skills being the area that needs the most improvement, followed by social skills and teamwork ability.

The study also indicates that recruiters are not principally concerned with students’ grades.

This criticism is not shocking. Especially for university students, our knowledge is mostly a result of our time spent in the classroom. Recruiters identified internships in companies during studies as the most effective way a university can help students improve and adapt their skills, while theoretical courses came in last place on the list.

Undoubtedly these findings have us asking ourselves: Why do we even bother pursuing post-secondary studies?

But let’s keep in mind that this study is only based on the appeal of young graduates. Not being a college or university graduate at all would eliminate you from the equation completely. So we can rest easy. Recruiters focus less on the details of our formal education because it is considered a prerequisite in today’s career marketplace.

The most noteworthy conclusion that can be made regarding the responses of the survey is that your personality is the number one consideration of recruiters.

In their view, it is your social soft skills that truly lead to success within the company. Soft skills have always been known to have an impact on employablity, but personality as the most important factor identified by HR professionals worldwide means that perhaps we should spend a little bit more time brushing up on our jokes and a little less time with our heads buried in textbooks.

This global inclination toward strong soft skills is consistent with the demands of Canadian employers. In some ways this is a nice reminder that being a pleasant human being still has its perks.  In the next 30 years, there will be more people graduating from post-secondary education worldwide than ever before. Now more than ever, we need to embody the full package if we’re looking to land a job offer.

Photo credit: Mike Dougherty