Qualities that could impress your future job
The Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Mr Ravi Peiris, says "today's employers expect more than certificates from young job seekers. The EFC, which is Sri Lanka's trade union of employer's, represents 552 employers in manufacturing, services, associations, clubs, schools and government enterprises. The EFC is also affiliated to all business chambers in Sri Lanka that are made up of different types of businesses all over the country".
Question: Are academic qualifications adequate to compete in the local labour market?
Mr Peiris: Qualifications are important, but they are not enough anymore. In fact, in Sri Lanka, there is a culture of collecting qualifications and young people come for job interviews armed with a pile of certificates. Because of the competition in the job market young people are collecting qualifications. But there have been instances where highly qualified youngsters have turned out to be misfits at the job, and could not perform well under work conditions.
The private sector must also share the blame for this situation because they have also emphasised too much on qualifications. Some time ago a degree was well recognized. But now, companies may ask for an MBA just as an entry level qualification.
But while the relevant qualifications for a particular job are always important, employers these days expect young people to have a number of soft skills, in addition to their qualifications.
Question: What soft skills do employers expect from young people looking for jobs?
Mr Peiris: The most important soft skills are to do with your attitude and your adaptability. Once you join an organisation you are expected to be a team player and this means you have to be able to work with other people. Employers also look for analytical skills, your ability to think on your feet and networking skills.
Question: Does the local private sector prefer foreign qualifications to local qualifications?
Mr Peiris: No, I do not think so. But certainly the foreign exposure carries weight. Young people who have studied abroad, or have some foreign exposure, can, in some cases, express themselves better and can be more innovative.
Question: Why are thousands of graduates from local universities without employment?
Mr Peiris: That is not because the private sector is actively discriminating against local qualifications. That is because the qualifications they possess do not match with the requirements of the labour market. They also lack job related skills which are extremely important.
Question: Are applicants to the private sector expected to be computer literate?
Mr Peiris: Yes. Some years ago this was not a requirement, but now, young people are expected to know the basics about computer use, like how to send an email and to use a word document.
Question: How important is English?
Mr Peiris: It is very, very important. In today's business environment you must be able to communicate in English, both verbally and in writing. Unfortunately English standards have gone down in Sri Lanka. But for any job, in any company, you must be able to speak and write clearly in English.
Question: How should a prospective job seeker face an interview?
Mr Peiris: They must dress appropriately and be able to respond to questions, even in English. Men are expected to dress formally in a tie and covered shoes. However, if what you normally wear is the national suit (white sarong and white long shirt) this should also be alright. Women should also dress formally. I do not think companies these days will penalise anyone for not wearing a sari, but I feel a sari will not be a disadvantage.