Diana Clement

Your Money and careers writer for the NZ Herald

What employers want in an employee

More than ever job seekers need a finely honed set of skills to compete in the 2013 job market.

In 2013's tight job market employers are demanding creative, adaptable and innovative talent. Photo / Supplied
In 2013's tight job market employers are demanding creative, adaptable and innovative talent. Photo / Supplied

No longer is a polished CV enough. Whatever the industry potential recruits need to be able to demonstrate their hard skills and to give evidence of soft skills such as adaptability, integrity, learning agility and resilience.

Felicity Evans, general manager of Human Resources at the ANZ says recruits have four hurdles to cross if they want to be one of the one in 300 working New Zealanders employed by the bank.

The very first hurdle whether you want a role in leadership or to work in the call centre, is to show integrity and honesty, says Evans. "That is critical. In banks it is all about trust. Being cavalier about this is not tolerable."

The next three hurdles for all employees from teller to senior management, says Evans are:
* Resilience and adaptability
* Learning agility and
* Customer service focus

Although not new, there has been a heightened demand for the first two attributes since the global financial crisis.

"Because organisations and countries are changing very quickly (we need) change readiness. We want people who thrive on change and are looking for challenges," she says.

Secondly having what HR people call "learning agility" is vital for bank workers. The roles bank employees may have landed 10 years ago look completely different now, says Evans. "They should be thinking: 'I constantly need to learn and want to learn as well'."

The result, says Evans is evidenced through engagement rates, which have been rising steadily at the ANZ and are now above 70%. "People are happier when they are feeling more positive about where they are working."

Apart from small pockets of staff shortages, such as in risk, the ANZ typically has more applicants than jobs available, she says.

The bank has a number of behavioural questions in its recruitment process. In addition, applicants who are successful, says Evans, are those who can demonstrate the attributes the bank is after. "They need to be able to demonstrate examples. Tell me when you have been in a leadership situation that required you to change or to drive a team through change."

One issue that women in particular need to beware of if applying to the ANZ for a role, says Evans, is the "nice girl mentality". This is where women fail to land jobs or get promotions because they are too nice. Evans recommend women who fall into this category read the book: Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel.

All candidates should be very aware of the important of a good credit record and online presence. Too many young people are creating an online presence that could damage their job hunting in the future. What's more employers such as ANZ will often credit and police check employees.

Like the ANZ, what makes the perfect Downer employee is having a flexible attitude and being adaptable, says Chris Meade, executive general manager. That's the same whether it's a stop go person or someone with a PhD applying for a technical role. "We don't employ just for the job. The person needs to have potential. We employ for the future job and for the ability to learn."

Thanks to the low unemployment rate five years ago Downer couldn't be as choosy as it is now. As the job market picked up a subtle change in emphasis of what Downer looks for in an employee started occurring.

These days Meade says she looks for potential recruits who have moved around different roles in the industry or organisation because it shows adaptability. "They have shown that they have increased their skills. They have moved and grown."

Simply having a good CV isn't enough. To ensure the candidates are more than just talk Downer uses behavioural questions in its recruitment process to identify the candidates with flexibility and adaptability. "We have very robust screening and reference checking."

Beyond that a job seeker who can show concrete examples of how they have grown their career and who have a plan for their own development put themselves ahead of the competition.

New employees at Downer are more likely to have specific qualifications than in the past, says Meade. For example a health and safety employee might have a Zero Harm qualification that didn't exist a number of years ago.

Meade says potential recruits need to use their networks as well as going through more traditional recruitment paths. "If an employee puts someone up (for a position) we have a really good look at them."

Research is also showing a shift in emphasis in the skill set required for leaders, says Christien Winter, director of recruiter Sheffield.

Winter cites the 2011 Global Leadership Forecast research by Development Dimensions International, which identifies the driving and managing change as the number one priority for leaders over the next three years. The report captures the views of more than 12,000 leaders globally

"The vast majority of organisations surveyed are in the process of changing their business models and services, going global, or looking for ways to be more competitive," says Winter.

The other skillset coming under greater attention in 2013 will be the ability to coach and develop others, she says - an area that Kiwis are typically week at.

Telecom's head of recruitment HR systems & services Antony Hall says one word over and over again when it comes to future employees: "competitiveness". "As an employer we have to look for quite a different type of person than we did five years ago," he says.

"The Telco industry is arguably the most rapidly changing industry worldwide," says Hall. That includes technological and regulatory change as well as an ever increasing competition.

He adds: "Telecom is a retailer in a very competitive environment. As well as hard technology skills all employees need to be very customer centric." Whether they're in finance or front line sales, all staff members need a sales mentality and to look for opportunities to "out compete our competitors."

At every level agility and leadership skills are important, says Hall, as are people with the ability to take calculated risks. Increasingly Telecom is focusing on employing digital natives who have grown up with technology and "just get it", says Hall.

Potential recruits also need to keep their LinkedIn and other social media profiles up to date. Hall says Telecom is headhunting talent directly and "LinkedIn is becoming the single source of truth."

- NZ Herald

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