Kaplan Graduate Recruitment Survey: Employers Want Recruits with Communications Skills over Technical Knowledge

Business Wire


A survey of companies by professional services training company Kaplan has added new evidence to the understanding that employers are less concerned about whether graduate recruits have technical knowledge than softer employability skills and positive attitudes.

The Kaplan study: “Graduate Recruitment, Learning and Development” is based on responses from 198 employers based throughout the UK. The study found that ‘technical knowledge’ ranked 24th in a list of 30 competencies required or desired by employers at the recruitment stage, while employability skills including ‘effective communication’ (ranked #1), ‘being a team player’ (ranked #3), ‘confidence’ (#5), and ‘being analytical’ (#6) were all more important.

However, when asked about what competencies were most important two years after recruitment, employers’ priorities had changed. The four employability skills and attitudes originally ranked highly remained important and continued to rank in the top 10, with ‘effective communication’ still first in importance out of the 30 competencies, ‘team player’ was #4, ‘being analytical’ was #7, and ‘confidence’ ranked #10. However, two years after recruitment, ‘technical knowledge’ had shot up to #2 out of 30.

Kaplan’s head of learning in the UK and author of the study, Stuart Pedley-Smith, said: “On the whole, we found that the employers we surveyed do not recruit graduates for the subject-specific nature of what they learned at university. These employers generally view a university degree as a proxy for having reached a certain level of competence.

“There is a well-known saying within recruitment – ‘recruit for attitude and train for skill.’”

Two years after recruitment, the high importance placed on ‘technical knowledge’ shows clearly that employers consider it their responsibility to train new recruits with the knowledge and technical skills that are needed for their jobs.

Pedley-Smith said: “The employers we talked to and surveyed indicated they needed their graduate recruits to arrive ready with the softer skills of communications and team working -- skills required to be an effective member of a team. And these same employers were happy to train their recruits in business-specific technical knowledge.”

The survey also found that 75% of employers polled found it either moderately or very difficult to find the right graduates. This corresponds to results in the latest AGR survey (Association of Graduate Recruiters) which revealed that in spite of a significant increase in the number of graduate jobs in the UK (17% more graduate jobs available during 2013-14), nearly 25% off those polled had unfilled vacancies. In spite of the increasing number of work opportunities and skills programmes for a widening range of graduate recruits, businesses still say they are not seeing enough candidates with the employability skills they need.


Kaplan is one of the world’s leading providers of lifelong education and training. Programmes include Apprenticeships, vocational training, professional qualifications, online learning and degree programmes.

Laura Crossley
0161 237 3366

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