Wondering what employers look for in fresh graduates? Keen to learn how to stand out from the rest? We spoke to several industry leaders who have employed SUTD graduates to find out what are the key attributes they look out for.
Our panel (clockwise from top left):
- Gillian Gomes, Outreach & Engagement Lead, Young Talent Programme Office at GovTech Singapore
- Eric Ho, Team Lead, Talent Acquisition, Group Human Resources at DBS Bank Ltd
- Agatha Soh, Regional Head of People at Shopee
- Jimmy Ong, Technology Consulting Partner & APAC Blockchain Leader at Ernst & Young Advisory
- Ng San Son, Director at DP Architects Pte Ltd
- Sky You, Talent Hunter at Thoughtworks
- Yong Kin Fuai, Senior Member of Technical Staff, and Chu Xiao Jian (not pictured), Manager at Advanced Micro Devices (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Soft Skills Rule
As a fresh graduate, you may tend to focus more on the technical knowledge acquired during your university journey – the hard skills – while soft skills like adaptability, teamwork, and problem-solving might be neglected. However, when meeting a candidate, everyone on our panel looks out for soft skills such as resourcefulness, critical thinking, diversity in perspective, and the ability to embrace risk and experimentation. Of all the soft skills, they emphasised the following as the most important:
- Passion and curiosity
Both are necessary ingredients for continued development and learning.
Agatha: “Shopee values candidates who are both passionate and keen to learn. The e-commerce industry has always been fast-moving and ever-changing. As digital adoption accelerates, it is key to be resourceful and adaptable to constant changes in this dynamic tech space.”
Sky: “It’s not essential to master everything in sight, but students should be curious about how new technologies work and can be applied.”
Kin Fuai: “I look for self-driven individuals – meaning the willingness to solve a problem by oneself without specific instructions – which I find often arises from an interest in the job itself.”
- Alignment with organisational values
Naturally, employers want people who identify with the company ethos they’ve worked hard to build. Spend some time learning about the organisations you’re applying for to understand if you’re a good fit.
Gillian: “When recruiting, we also prioritise how candidates will fit into our organisation’s culture. Our Agile, Bold, and Collaborative values unite GovTechies from different teams in delivering business outcomes – hence, we look for graduates who embody our A-B-C values.”
Eric: “People who join us will resonate with some of the defining characteristics of DBS – wanting to make a positive impact, to enrich lives and transform businesses by creating amazing solutions and experiences that will make a lasting difference.”
- Teamwork and collaboration
Because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, breakthroughs are achieved when people with different strengths and expertise come together to work as a team.
Eric: “We need people who are prepared to work collaboratively across teams.”
Jimmy: “Being able to work across multi-disciplinary teams to deliver an outcome is crucial, as a good answer rarely resides in just one person.”
Agatha: “With collaboration and teamwork making up a huge part of our culture, we look out for talent with good interpersonal and communication skills. Being able to communicate effectively is important, given our cross-functional and cross-regional collaborations.”
Hard Skills Are Still a Must
All that’s not to say that technical capability is not important. These do vary across industries and job roles – do a little research beforehand to understand if you have what it takes. Having the hard skills that are relevant to the job you’re after is a non-negotiable prerequisite.
San Son: “Technical savviness, in terms of computing, scripting, parametric and all things digital.”
Agatha: “We look for talent who are equipped with both good technical and soft skills. In the technical aspect, candidates must have the necessary skills to excel at the role they have expressed interest in. For example, having coding skills can help the Regional Operations teams to automate processes. SUTD alumni and current Shopee employee, Li Yahan, was tasked to work on the Workforce Management Model Study across various markets, where she was able to apply the Python and SQL skills that she picked up in school to optimise customer service processes across several markets.”
Sky: “We look for graduates who care about producing high-quality code, understand the importance of building the right things in the right way, and are curious about the latest “technologies.”
Become More Employable
Your time in school may be over for now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to make yourself more attractive to employers. Here are some tips:
- Internship experience
Think of internships as not only a taste of corporate life but also an invaluable opportunity to pick up on-the-job experience and soft skills.
Agatha: “Internship experiences are important in providing the technical exposure and developing the soft skills needed when they enter the workforce after graduation. Many of our interns have also converted to a full time role after their graduation.”
Jimmy: “Internship is an excellent means for students to not only get practical in-depth experience but immerse in the culture at EY.”
Xiao Jian: “Internships can show if candidates are good team players or leaders, and overseas internships can also give students a better chance at securing a job.”
- Start individual pet projects
An entrepreneurial spark or personal passion is a sign that you have the drive and are a go-getter. Plus, the job-hunting season is a great time to work on that side-hustle!
Gillian: “Besides internships, it is also helpful to embark on personal pet projects – remember to share your GitHub profile with us!”
- Upskill yourself with other enrichment courses
Learning doesn’t end just because school has. Now’s a great time to sign up for courses to plug your own knowledge gaps or pursue a long-held interest. Remember, employers are looking for passion and curiosity!
Agatha: “At Shopee, our people are the foundation of our progress. We believe in cultivating a strong company culture of learning and supporting employees to continually upskill themselves through training and career rotations.”
- Keep updated with the industry
Technology is constantly developing, so make sure you’re clued in to the latest developments in your industry. Not only does this ensure you stay relevant, but it makes for good interview preparation too.
Sky: “Exploratory learning is important – students need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the world of technology.”
Xiao Jian: “Product technologies are changing at an unprecedented pace, which requires individuals to keep up with learning new things fast.”
How Do SUTD Students Stand Out?
Agatha: “SUTD students are equipped with relevant technical and soft skills – often picked up outside textbooks and obtained over time through industrial placement experiences – that are suitable for many functions in Shopee.”
Eric: “I am always impressed by the real-world experience SUTD graduates have, enriched by the 16-week internship programme… SUTD prepares its students beyond classroom learning, nurturing technically grounded leaders and innovators to serve societal needs.”
Jimmy: “Students from SUTD possess a collaborative and positive mindset and are excellent team players. They are technically grounded and, at the same time, bring practical insights to the engagements they are attached to.”
San Son: “SUTD has a distinctive curriculum and academic approach that is heavily swayed by today’s design devices. This departs from more established architectural teachings by focusing on cross-disciplinary engineering, giving SUTD alumni a differentiated perspective.”
Sky: “Students from SUTD have impressed us with their passion for constantly learning and improving themselves, their drive to succeed and pursue excellence, and their ability to be flexible and adaptable to ever-changing business problems.”
Kin Fuai: “SUTD students on average are good at communication, collaboration and presentation, likely because the curriculum involves a lot of group projects. This is an important edge because these soft skills require a lot of practice.”
The importance of honing one’s soft skills on top of technical capabilities is a holistic approach embraced by SUTD and designed within the interdisciplinary curriculum, so it’s no surprise that 95.9% of our graduates are hired within 6 months of completing their final examinations*.
Today, SUTD has 1200 leading industry partners who believe our graduates have an edge in complex problem solving, interdisciplinary systems thinking, along with a blend of soft skills and holistic perspectives.
Find out more about the academic structure that gives SUTD graduates an employable edge here.
*Source: 2020 Graduate Employment Survey conducted by NTU, NUS, SMU, SUSS and SUTD
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