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More employers say good grades alone are not enough when hiring

An increasing number of companies are on the hunt for leadership skills and EQ when assessing job candidates, but that doesn't mean that a university degree is no longer important. 

SINGAPORE: More than 22,000 graduates from the three local universities joined the workforce last year, about 7 per cent more than the year before. But while a degree may still be important to clinching the job, experts have said employers are also increasingly looking beyond traditional metrics when hiring fresh graduates.

Take Google, one of the most popular companies among Singapore university graduates, according to a survey done this year by research firm Universum. The company said that when making hiring decisions, it looks beyond grades and experience.

Mr Julian Persaud, managing director of Southeast Asia Google, said: "For many graduates, you can give them a set of instructions and processes and they will do a good job. But if you give them a challenge where they need to make up the rules of engagement, that is really something we look for. The second thing is leadership - would you rise to the front? Leadership also means knowing when to step back and letting other people go forward. The third piece is what we call 'Googliness' - it is essentially culture-fit. The modern workplace is about IQ, but also EQ, skills around collaboration. Those skills are not easily measured in university."

But even as the focus shifts away from the 'paper chase', employers also note that educational qualifications are still an important part of the hiring process and they indicate the baseline competency for many jobs. For example, in sectors such as finance, companies said they still need to ensure that their new hires have received adequate academic training.

Mr James Loo, senior vice-president of the talent acquisition group at DBS Bank, said: "We look at people with the right skill sets. This includes communication skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, dedication to teamwork, as well as being decisive. But in a highly-regulated environment like the banking space, we need to have the necessary qualifications or certifications before we can give financial advice to our clients. So definitely certifications and qualifications are important."

On the other side of the equation, job seekers also have changing expectations for career satisfaction. According to Mr Sheldon Fernandez, managing director (Singapore) at JobsDB.com, 40 per cent of job seekers put salary as a priority when assessing whether to switch jobs, but other factors also come into play, including corporate culture and location.

Based on a survey by JobsDB, 85 per cent of employees are open to moving into new roles in 2014.