Posted February 21, 2013 by

Recruiter’s Advice: 5 Things Employers Look for in Entry-Level Job Candidates

Dunya Carter

Dunya Carter

A fresh graduate is always intimidated when going in for his or her first real job interview, and many feel that no matter what they apply for they are woefully unprepared and unqualified – especially in this economy, when even jobs advertised as entry level are apparently seeking years of experience. But regardless of how many flourishes are requested in the help wanted ad, many employers are really looking for a few basic things for entry level positions, and all of them are more than attainable for the new worker.

1. Passion and Drive

It is easy for the job applicant to forget that as stressful as it is going out for a job, the recruiter also has a tough time trying to determine which potential new hire would have not only the skills to do the job requested, but also might be likely to stay with the company for an extended period of time. Hiring and training is an expensive process, and the hiring manager does not want to do it again in six months if they can help it.

One of the best indicators of a long-term employee is if the applicant seems to be truly invested in the work they’re doing, the industry they’re in, and the company they’re applying to work for. Learn about the company before going to your interview, and brush up on current news and happenings in the industry. If you can, have a story ready about why you picked the major you did in college and what excites you about the work. Be enthusiastic!

2. Knowledge of the Basics

While most companies expect to do some amount of training for any entry level position, they still expect to have a firm foundation to build upon. Most of the time this will come from your education or any relevant experience you might have gotten; if you graduated with a diploma, you probably have at least enough skills to be trainable. Some companies will issue tests of basic skills like writing and math, so be sure to treat them with the proper respect. Always brush up on the core essentials of the job before meeting with the interviewer.

3. Communication Skills

Communication skills are so important, and mentioned so frequently in a business context, that the phrase has nearly lost all meaning. But it is a trope for a reason: the ability to communicate with your coworkers on the job, and especially with the interviewer during the application process, is a huge factor in overall success.

For an entry level position, focus on being professional. Communication isn’t all verbal: dressing professionally communicates seriousness, writing professionally communicates thoughtfulness, and composing yourself professionally during the interview (addressing superiors properly, shaking hands, and speaking respectfully) can make or break a first impression. Speak slowly and train yourself to avoid phrases like “you know” and “like.”

4. Social Skills

Every workplace is different, and not everyone will mesh well in every environment. Interviewers are constantly assessing applicants’ potential to work well with whatever, including personal interests, teamwork, and overall mood. Make sure not to bring up – or at worst, downplay – clashes with bosses or coworkers in past positions, as the interviewer may think that perhaps you were the problem and not want to take the risk bringing you into the fold.

One way to use this to your advantage is to question the hiring manager about company culture yourself. Other than learning whether you might fit in well, the interviewer sees that fitting in is at least a concern of yours – and the desire to fit in often has a huge impact on whether one actually does.

5. Experience

Ah, experience. The bane of all entry level workers is the butt of many jokes: you can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience if no one will give you a job. The best way to conquer this particular hurdle is an internship in the industry; hopefully you managed to do one in college or just after graduation, as many employers seek to hire full-time employees straight out of their own internship programs.

Limitations on time, money, and other factors do not always make internships possible, however. In that case, think outside the box with how what experience you do have might be relevant to the job. A former part-time job at Starbucks might not at a glance apply to a professional office job, but it can easily be spun to show significant experience working as part of a team, interfacing with customers on a daily basis, and responsibility in handling and counting cash.

Dunya Carter is a Brisbane-based marketing professional specialising in HR. She works as a consultant for Ochre Recruitment, one of the most dedicated medical recruitment agencies in Australia. In her free time Dunya enjoys volunteering at a local NGO, reading fiction and non-fiction books and writing articles on topics ranging from career development to marketing.

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