Academic brains or entrepreneurial drive?


If any Vistage members are thinking of recruiting graduates then recent research gives much to mull over. Previously, it was often the case that firms wanted to employ the brightest graduates with the best degrees. Over the last few years, increasing number of businesses are looking for candidates who have more to offer than brilliant academic records.

Lord Winston was recently in the headlines after saying that he preferred not to employ graduates with first class degrees. His argument was the he preferred less high-flying graduates on the grounds that they were more likely to have developed other interests and be more rounded as individuals.

Importance of work experience

Lord Winston’s views have been echoed in a survey of UK’s start-ups commissioned by the Internet company Moonfruit. The research was designed to identify the ‘DNA’ of the ideal start-up employee. Of the companies surveyed, 81% said they no longer look specifically for candidates with a strong academic background. A far more valuable commodity is work experience, with 47% citing it as the most important aspect of an ideal candidate while 62% of start-ups ranked entrepreneurialism and creativity as the most important attribute in employees.

Technology skills

The survey also highlighted the increasing demand for technology know-how in today’s job market. According to 62% of UK start-ups, all candidates should be armed with software skills, while nearly a fifth (19%) were looking for individuals who are able to code or program. Over a quarter (26%) of both start-ups and larger organisations said they are looking for candidates with built-in digital marketing skills who can act as online brand ambassadors.

Work ready

“‘Work-ready’ skills, such as a grasp of IT and financial competency, are the lifeblood of the UK start-up scene,” said commented Wendy Tan-White, Moonfruit’s CEO. “These combined with a focus on entrepreneurial characteristics such as smart risk-taking and creativity can really make a person stand out. In the early days of a start-up’s lifespan, it’s essential that staff can turn their hands to a variety of skills – so the ‘DNA’ of an ideal candidate needs to be multi-faceted.”