Ask an expert: How employers can identify future leaders

Employers should look for four key competencies in this year’s pool of new graduates.

A new generation is entering the workforce as students graduate from university and others look for summer jobs and internships. Here are four key competencies employers should look for in finding the keepers in this year’s pool.

The capacity to think conceptually about the big picture. Look for candidates who understand the organization’s strategic objectives and who can see how the skills they bring could help achieve those objectives. They should demonstrate a curiosity about the organization and show a willingness to understand how the organization works, how it delivers value and serves its stakeholders. Employers should look for evidence that candidates already think like executive business owners.

Learning agility. Look for evidence that candidates are learning everything they can to increase their knowledge and skills and that they are willing to take on challenging assignments that stretch them to the very edge of their capabilities. They need to demonstrate that they are not afraid of learning new things, can go outside their comfort zone and have wide-ranging interests. They need to enjoy learning.

Resilience. Growth by nature involves taking risks and sometimes making mistakes. Look for candidates who are able to not only learn from past mistakes, but who can also bounce back and stay focused on moving forward. Resilient people know how to assess the risks as they take on new opportunities and challenges, but they also know how to turn adversity into an advantage and move on.

Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has become more critical than ever in the success of business leaders today. When choosing from this year’s graduates, consider the following: how well do they create and manage their relationships with colleagues and supervisors? Can they empathize with others? Can they listen and not interrupt others? Do they demonstrate the ability to build trust with others?

Rick Lash is national practice leader of leadership and talent for Hay Group, a management consulting firm.