What are STEM employers looking for in 2022?

Last February, we hosted a Meetup on employability skills with STEM Industry experts from Diageo, IBM and, SSEN Transmission. We talked about the top employability skills in the job market, how to best stand out, the dos and don’ts of CV building, and how to effectively demonstrate transferrable skills when applying for jobs.

What was particularly interesting during this session was to see that even if each employer is looking for something different (that aligns with their value and corporate culture) there are many commonalities from one employer to another, across sectors and seniority levels.

If you have missed it, we’ve gathered for you some of the key takeaways shared by our STEM Industry experts!

Advice #1: Make it easy for the recruiter

When building your CV or submitting a job application, try to put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. They have hundreds of CVs to review so your CV needs to be clear, readable, concise and provide them with everything they need to know – without having to search for more information online.

The most relevant information should be on the first page of your CV, so recruiters don’t have to look for it when reading your CV. Order is key – and the main rule for order in your CV should be RELEVANCE.

When adding your past experiences: ensure you mention the company name of your previous employer(s) but also the sector or what they do. The recruiter may not know your previous employer especially if you are changing careers, industry or if you have been working overseas.

When mentioning your academic or training courses, you may want to provide an overview of the modules you undertook or the content that was covered during these courses. It can help the employer understand better your background, learnings, and skills. This way, they will be able to better assess how you can use this knowledge in the position and identify relevant opportunities for you within their organisation. If you have recently followed an upskilling or reskilling course, the same principle applies as it will help the recruiter understands what new skills you have acquired or refreshed.

Finally, when sending your CV employers recommend using a PDF format (unless stated otherwise). This way, the formatting, layout, and design won’t change. This will look more professional and give a good first impression when they open your CV for the first time. And always include your first and last name in the document title to make it easy for the recruiter to find it amongst the pile of applicants.

Advice #2: Be specific

A common mistake by applicants is to use general statements or buzzwords in their applications and not provide enough evidence that they can do the job. An application or CV should always include WHAT you can do but also HOW you can do it. You need to be very specific and use concrete and tangible examples to get your point across. And again, try to remember that what may seem obvious to you is not for an external reader who knows very little about you.

Easier said than done though! We know how overwhelming the CV and application process can be at times. Luckily, there is some methodology that you can use to make the process easier and best position yourself. You may have heard of the CAR approach to CV building? CAR stands for ‘Context, Actions, Results’ – some use a similar approach called STAR ‘Situation, Task, Activity, Result’. The CAR or STAR approaches not only help structure your thoughts, but also make your example(s) very clear to an external audience and highlight your achievements. This is a very important aspect of any application so when reviewing your CV double-check that you have included your experience, skills, and achievements.

If you struggle knowing what to highlight or pick the most relevant examples, you may want to go back to the job description. There is very valuable information usually provided by the employer in the job description – the main tasks and responsibilities for the role, the requirements for the job and sometimes information about the company’s values and culture. All these points are key when building your application. This also implies that you must CUSTOMISE and TAILOR your application to each job and company. This is critical to stand out and send a signal to the employer that you have done your research and that you are highly motivated and interested in this specific opportunity. To emphasise this point, even more, you can provide a cover letter on the side which has several benefits:

  • it helps the recruiter understand why they should consider you
  • it highlights what motivates you in the job and company
  • it allows you to stand out and show that you are unique
  • it showcases your communications and writing skills

Advice #3: Tell your story

All three employers during the session have highlighted the importance of sharing who you are in your application and what makes you unique. There are different ways to do this and a few examples were given by our industry experts during Equate Meetup.

Focusing on your achievements instead of what your team or company did. Even if the example you are using involves other team members, they want to hear from you as an individual. Try to highlight your contribution to the project and how you have approached the situation, challenge and what solutions you have suggested. If the example you have in mind involves a project that did not go as planned, do not dismiss it straight away. Employers rightly pointed out that failure or challenges are part of who we are and make who we are too as we learn from these experiences. Mention your failures but highlight how you’ve approached them and how they helped you grow! This is as valuable as mentioning your successes because it tells a bit more about you, your mindset, and what you value.

Another good piece of advice is not to dismiss examples from your life experiences. We often put pressure on ourselves that we need to find the best work example to show we can do the job. But the reality is that employers are more and more looking for transferrable skills that can be used across industries, levels and at various stages of your professional career. As a result, using any volunteering or personal experiences can be a great way to show your uniqueness in an application. This can be very helpful if you are a student and do not have a lot of professional experience yet, or if you are a career changer or women returner. And if there is one thing that we have collectively learnt during the pandemic, it is that the lines between professional and personal life are more blurred these days. People do bring their whole self to work and so your application is an opportunity to tell your story and show how you can add value as an individual, not just as an employee.

And to leave you with a final thought from our industry experts:

  • Debbie from SSEN Transmission: ‘Employers are looking for people who can add value. They want to know what makes you different – we are all unique and special!’
  • Kelly from IBM: ‘Employers look at potential abilities based on skills you picked up from all areas of your life’
  • Alice from Diageo: ‘Always accept the help recruiters offer you during the application process – recruiters are your friends!’

About our speakers

Debbie McMillan, Resourcing Consultant at SSEN Transmission: With over 10 years’ experience in the Recruitment Industry, Debbie has worked for recruitment agencies, with job boards and in internal recruitment across a wide variety of industry sectors both nationally and internationally. Since February 2020 she has managed recruitment within SSEN Transmission during their continued period of significant growth. To contact Debbie: Debbie.McMillan@sse.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/debbie-mcmillan-63a9a8100/

Kelly Markwick, IBM Foundation Manager at IBM: Kelly is an Early Professionals Manager at IBM. She is responsible for the pastoral care, motivation, and retention of her unit of Apprentices, Interns and Graduates. She provides career development support, reward and recognition, performance management, and delivers training and development. Kelly studied Business Studies at Bournemouth University and during her year in industry worked at IBM between 2007 – 2008. She returned to IBM in 2009 as a Sales Graduate and has since worked in Recruitment and Talent Marketing roles, before joining her current team in April 2021. To contact Kelly: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-markwick-47898222/

Alice Schirone, Talent Engagement Specialist at Diageo: Alice has HR and Recruitment background across Italy, Ireland, and Scotland. She initially joined Diageo as HR Advisor in Budapest. She now looks after Diageo Manufacturing recruitment for the Europe Spirits category (and loves having and impact on some of her personal favourite drinks, like Tanqueray and Smirnoff!). To contact Alice: Alice.Schirone@diageo.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/alice-schirone/