June 02 ,2015 | by Helen Gould

Work experience most valuable criteria to employers, says report

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Leading employers rate work experience as the most valuable asset in graduates, says Universum study.

Work experience is “the most popular qualification among those presented” and is valued more highly than grades achieved or the university attended by graduates. In fact, 58% of employers said work experience and sport impressed them the most, according to new research.

The survey of employers, conducted by Universum - a specialist in employer branding analytics - found that the second-most important aspect was a student’s personality (48% picked this) and only 16% looked for grades from a prestigious university. Merely 15% of respondents favoured a degree from a specific university over anything else.

Survey figures showed that nearly half (44%) of students attending a Russell Group university took part in an internship programme in the UK, and 20% interned abroad.

Internships give graduates a headstart

What we can take from this is that graduates who attend a university with an internship programme gain a headstart on their fellow students, as they gain the real-world, relevant experience that employers are looking for.

The findings also chime with an online survey from London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) from last year, where it emerged that previous work experience was of “critical importance” by employers.

“Previous work experience is an essential competitive edge when it comes to entry-level recruitment,” said the LSBF report.

In the accountancy and financial training industry, there is a growing demand for courses that go further than providing students with just a qualification. The report also found that candidates that lack anything other than basic job skills will struggle to find work. The pressure is on for educational institutions to produce graduates that are armed with experience and knowledge of their chosen industries, who can then be further educated in the work place.

Difference in recruitment processes

There was a difference in recruitment processes between different accountancy firms, especially when comparing the Big Four firms with smaller practices. The Big Four have well-known training and development programmes for their entry-level staff, while smaller firms would look to recruit young graduates or part-qualified accountants and sponsor them through their studies.

“We prefer to recruit entry-level professionals and grow them within the business”, said one of the LSBF survey participants.

Click here to read more of the LSBF report on what financial and accounting employers are looking for.

Helen Gould

Helen is a News Writer for LSBF who writes about education, careers, sustainable business, and women in business.

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