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What European employers want from future employees

The European Commission has released the results of a new Eurobarometer survey focused on employers’ perceptions of graduate employability. This “flash” survey—administered between 30 August and 7 September 2010 to chief human resource officers or chief executive officers in 7 036 companies in all 27 EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland, Croatia and Turkey—has yielded an intriguing set of findings about the specific skills required for current and future graduates’ employment. The ability to work well in teams and to adapt to new situations are overwhelmingly perceived as important skills for future employees in certain public, private and industrial sectors. Foreign language skills are also perceived as important among a significant proportion of the respondents although interestingly, language skills seem to be significantly more valued in the private than the public sector.

Another characteristic valued by many European employers is work experience. International dimensions of graduates’ profiles are also of some importance—around 29% “strongly agreed” or “rather agreed” that an internship abroad is an important element when considering an employee’s qualifications. Just under a quarter of employers surveyed (24%) also attributed the importance to a prospective employee having study abroad. In addition, a significant percentage of the surveyed employers (41%) claimed that they have been and remain eager to recruit graduates from other countries in order to hire the most talented people from a wider pool of applicants. 

When asked for the qualification that best corresponds to the required skills, around 55% of respondents indicated that the bachelor’s degree is the best match. Another 35% regarded a master’s degree as the most appropriate preparation, and only 3% considered a PhD as the qualification most needed by graduates in order to ensure proper preparation for employment in specific companies or organisations.  It is worth mentioning that the vast majority of the survey’s interviewees (9 out of 10) were familiar with the differences between bachelor’s and master’s levels of education.

Whilst there can never been any guarantees of employment, young European graduates’ job prospects do not appear to be undermined if they are experienced, adaptable, team-oriented, multi-lingual and willing to be mobile.

European Commission Education and Training