CEO Checklist: What I’d Look for in a Company if I Graduated Tomorrow

The three key traits recent grads should look for in employers.

It’s a tough landscape these days, for employers and employees alike. Companies face pressure to maintain financial success while integrating new technologies into their business models. Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and are competing for limited jobs available.

If I were looking to restart my career today, I’d certainly be interested in companies who are pushing the limits of innovation. But I’d quickly rule out any organizations which didn’t value soft skills. Think about it: what is a company other than a collection of people? Technology has the potential to make a company good — but it’s the people who will make it great. In your job search, consider focusing on companies which prioritize diversity, value soft skills and have an authentic corporate culture.

Seek out businesses who believe in diversity

If you believe that we’re stronger when we share our differences, look for workplaces that live and breathe diversity. When interviewing, ask about employee resource groups, benefits for working parents and the company’s diversity and inclusion policies. Are there women on the board or in c-suite roles? Are there homogenous voices in meetings, or does the workplace reflect our pluralistic, multicultural and multi-perspective society?

Diversity is not an exercise in numbers, though. Research shows that a diverse workforce means higher employee satisfaction and stronger business results. Ultimately, companies which respect and allow for a range of voices and experiences will offer more employees more opportunities to shine.

Bring your “soft skills” to the table

Yes, technical expertise is a must. Digital fluency is a necessity for almost all professional roles. However, look for companies that not only value technical skills, but who also prioritize collaboration, teamwork, and critical thinking. I don’t like the term “soft skills,” though. These are essential skills which will stand the test of time and endure as key business attributes.

Review your resume and consider ways in which you’ve brought these essential skills to work situations. Be prepared to discuss how you professionally and confidently solved a difficult business challenge, showing critical thinking and teamwork under pressure. How have you collaborated with teams across departments, offices and geographies? Show that you straddle modern technological expertise and classic business leadership and you’ll make a strong impression.

Peek under the hood of corporate culture

Corporate culture often refers to perks or fringe benefits, from unlimited vacation days to morale-boosting activities. But real corporate culture is how a business responds to and engages with its employees during moments of crisis.

If I were interviewing, I’d ask about the organization’s point of view on failure. Research conducted by Georgetown University, in partnership with Tupperware Brands, showed that companies can boost workers’ confidence by giving “permission to fail.” Essentially, this means communicating to employees that failure is a byproduct of hard work and effort, not incompetence. Failure is not a disaster — it’s a learning opportunity. If workers know they can take more risks, they become more confident and are more innovative and productive at work. Companies which embrace failure will have a corporate culture which rewards enthusiasm and risk-taking. And this pays off too — data suggests that confident workers generate 22% higher sales than their colleagues.

I believe that if you can begin your career with an employer who believes in diversity, developing soft skills and enhancing corporate culture, you’ll set yourself up for an enriching and rewarding professional life. These are the real workplace benefits you should look for at not only the start of your career but throughout your professional life.

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