GUEST BLOG: What soft skills do employers in digital look for?

Thomas O’Rourke is the owner of Decking Hero, an online DIY affiliate website. After graduating from the University of Leeds in 2010, he has accumulated over 6 years of experience in digital marketing, having previously worked as the Head of Account Management for a leading UK digital agency.

It can be tough getting your first gig in digital. Many employers want candidates who already have the skills or experience they’re looking for. However, it’s not impossible to find a job when you might not have any solid experience – most digital agencies recognise that it’s simply not practical to expect every candidate to have a raft of experience.

So what are the main personal qualities that employers look for in graduates?

Adapting to Change

The first thing that anyone who works in digital will tell you is that nothing ever stays the same. Google might change its algorithm, Facebook might change its advertising guidelines, a new tool might be released that changes everything (and so on and so on…). The ground is always moving and you need to have the character to be able to move with the change – rather than fight against it. Employers know that the candidates most suited to the digital arena are those who adapt well to this.

It’s for this reason that we used to question candidates in interviews on their attitude to change. One of our favourite questions was always: “Do you prefer a structured routine or one which changes frequently?”. You should know that interviewers in digital are looking for candidates who love change – not just those who cope with it but those who thrive off it! Try and tailor your interview prep to account for this.

Enthusiasm

There is a popular saying in employment – “hire for attitude, train for skill”. This is just as relevant in the digital industry as it is any other. There’s actually a huge skills shortage in digital at the moment and many agencies have made the mistake of hiring someone who they knew had a poor attitude (but a high skill-set) with the hope of re-engineering their attitude. Unfortunately, this very rarely works out.

For this reason, many employers in digital will look for candidates with the right attitude and take them on, even if they might not have the necessary skills. In the long-term it’s much easier (and less costly) for them to hire a candidate and train them for an extended period. The alternative is an employee who could be potentially destructive to client relationships and the working atmosphere.

This is something that you should really look to use to your advantage during your job search. Make sure employers know how enthusiastic you are about the industry and about their business. Do your research on prospective employers before your interviews. Demonstrate how eager you are to learn and just how much getting the role would mean to you.

Organisation

Organisation is key in most roles but it’s a skill that is absolutely fundamental in digital. Most digital agencies work in teams with a project manager to centralise and coordinate the activities for each client. In some agencies each employee might be asked to juggle 10 or more clients – which means a huge list of tasks and deadlines to coordinate. Your team will be relying on you to get the job done and meet your deadlines.

So how can you use this to help you get the job you’re after? Remember to really focus on this skill as part of your application. If you have specific techniques for organisation (diary, calendar, weekly planning etc.) then reference these in your covering letter and prepare to mention them in your interviews. If you aren’t very organised at present – do something about it! It’s a great habit to get into that will benefit you immensely in both your personal and professional life.

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Don’t forget the STEM Fair on Wednesday 19 October, 11am – 3pm in Physics & Exhibition Centre. For details of exhibiting companies, visit the fair page.

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