Personality v qualification

The global economic crisis has left an unwelcome mark on the so-called “lost generation” of professionals. Graduate employment prospects in many affected countries are the bleakest they have ever been. That said, it is fast becoming clear that in this competitive job market you need more than a solid degree.

In conjunction with the European Business Awards, we recently surveyed 500 business leaders from 32 European countries. Their comments reflected that when hiring, they rate characteristics like confidence, enthusiasm and an entrepreneurial spirit far higher than a strong academic degree or business acumen. Over 80 percent of those surveyed said personality traits are more important than tangible and testable skills.

Many firms are moving away from traditional interviews and toward all-encompassing assessment days, where candidates are assessed not only on their expertise and knowledge but also, and just as importantly, on their personality fit within an organisation’s culture. For example, our UK member firm, RSM Tenon, reports that when hiring entry level trainees, they, of course, look for quality degrees, “but equally important is ambition, determination to succeed and commercial awareness.” Similarly, our Irish member firm, RSM Farrell Grant Sparks, notes that “while strong academic credentials are important, we look for motivated and ambitious graduates who can demonstrate an interest in accountancy, an ability to relate to clients, commercial awareness and a commitment to teamwork.”

With these criteria being used to inform hiring decisions, we can look forward to working with a generation of young professionals whose wider range of skills, rather than qualifications alone, will help boost business growth at a time when it is desperately needed.


Jean M Stephens
Chief Executive Officer