After a wave of graduation ceremonies, the graduates are celebrating their newly acquired knowledge and achievements. However, employers who are searching for new talent say that a higher education diploma does not guarantee a successful career and reveal what skills they are looking for in potential candidates.
Educational requirements depend on different positions
According to the president of the Lithuanian Employers’ Association (LEA) and a member of the Lithuanian Education Council Danukas Arlauskas, when considering how important is educational background is while searching for a job – there is no single answer because employer expectations differ depending on the area. According to him, while it might be very difficult for an engineer to find a job without a diploma, the situation can be different when it comes to creative industries where formal education may be less important.
„During their studies, people acquire specialized knowledge and competencies, which can be applied in practice later on. So, in an area like engineering, where one often encounters complex issues and a wide range of expertise is required, it is unlikely that you could get a job without, at least, a professional education certificate. On the other hand, having a formal diploma may be of less importance when, for example, we talk about the area of design, where talent and creative abilities are of higher importance since these qualities cannot be taught,“ says D. Arlauskas.
The president of LEA notes, however, that the question of education keeps bringing up public debate because Lithuania does not have a clear understanding among different stakeholders regarding the specific roles professional and higher education play in the employment market.
„A stereotype that it is impossible to build a career without a higher education diploma still prevails in our society. This is why often people give in to the pressure of their family or the general society and apply to higher education institutions for the sole purpose of having an entry in their resume. There would be fewer situations like that if we had a comprehensive agreement between the national representatives of education and business stakeholders regarding the specific functions of professional and higher education in the employment market. Accordingly, such an understanding would take the pressure off of people and would help in clarifying the specific professional requirements of different positions, thus, ending the debate on whether a diploma is a necessary prerequisite or not,“ claims D. Arlauskas.
Businesses are flexible when it comes to the educational background of a candidate
Andzej Rynkevic, the CEO of “Baltic Virtual Assistants“, a company bringing together Lithuanian talents for international projects, notes that a significant proportion of candidates tend to put emphasis on their educational background as a competitive advantage against other candidates. According to A. Rynkevic, educational achievements are, without a doubt, important in the evaluation process, however, the candidate also needs to showcase additional skills and personal qualities.
„We look at the educational background as a starting point and an indicator of certain knowledge in a young professional‘s career. Then, we take into consideration the wider professional profile of the candidate: previous work experience, specific competencies, required for a specific position. When we meet for a job interview, we look at the candidate‘s communication skills and try to figure out one‘s career plans,“ says A. Rynkevic, adding that during the interview he also tries to evaluate how the potential employee would get along with the rest of the company‘s team.
According to the head of “Baltic Virtual Assistants“, when it comes to IT specialists additional criteria is taken into consideration: “IT field is unique in a sense that changes within the field are happening at an unprecedented level, thus, academic institutions are often unable to keep up and integrate new information into their curriculum. Due to this reason, we take into consideration what specific courses, tasks, and projects the candidate has carried out previously. For instance, for the positions of IT system architects or IT security and risk experts, one of our prerequisites is five years of working experience.“
Rynkevic adds that more criteria are imposed for high profile positions, including team leader finance control officers and data protection specialists: “When we look for candidates to take previously mentioned positions, we ask for a strong professional portfolio, therefore, our target group in those instances is highly skilled professionals, who have significant experience in a particular field of work.“
Employers are looking for creative and motivated specialists
Rynkevic says that his company is always on the lookout for new employees and notes that apart from criteria, good specialists also need to have discipline and motivation. According to him, these qualities allow him to make a better assessment if an employee is capable of long-term professional growth.
„There are a lot of talented people in Lithuania, but our practice shows that without extra effort specialists do not excel in the long run. Therefore, during the candidate evaluation process, we try to find people who have the motivation to constantly learn and acquire new skills. Then, during the trial period, we observe if the new employee shows initiative, how the person sets tasks and carries them out, also, how one manages to solve arising issues,“ says A. Rynkevic, adding that in the context of the current pandemic situation, the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances has also become an important criterion.
Arlauskas highlights very similar criteria for potential employees, saying that the employment market dictates the need for motivated people, who have the “outside the box” kind of thinking.
„As time goes by, more and more employers are moving from a control-based management style to a more flexible approach, whereby management sets general goals, leaving the freedom to choose the means of execution to the employee. Anyone can follow instructions, that is why employers are looking for imaginative people with strong critical thinking, who could generate creative solutions,“ says the president of LEA and adds that these qualities are a good indicator if an employee is motivated enough to carry out the tasks set out by the management.
He also notes that an emotional connection with the potential employee is an important criterion in the candidate evaluation process. According to D. Arlauskas, if a position specifically requires a professional with strong communication skills, yet, during a job interview the candidate does not showcase it, then it is highly unlikely that accepting such an employee would bring good results.
Skills are further developed at the workplace
The LEA president brings attention to the fact that skill development is a continuous process, thus, the employers not only expect certain skills from the employees but also implement the necessary conditions for their growth at the company itself.
„Employers fully understand they have to take action to encourage employee growth, as a result, they implement various motivational and educational programs or courses within companies. This, in turn, gives employers the flexibility in choosing potential employees, because they can choose people who may not yet have the full package of necessary skills and qualifications, but nevertheless showcase the potential to acquire them after being employed,“ notes D. Arlauskas.
Rynkevic provides a similar position: „Quite often, we meet candidates that are not even aware of their professional potential. Accordingly, if we see that the person has the motivation to grow in the professional field, we give them the chance to do it at our company by providing all the necessary tools, such as personal development courses, we also encourage them to participate in various specialized courses. Also, our management team creates yearly individual career plans for employees.“
Rynkevic says that such development programs are useful not only for junior professionals but also for high-level experts, who can acquire new knowledge and motivation in the process.