By Daniel Hunter

Tomorrow’s employers no longer value a strong academic background, according to a survey published by Moonfruit, one of the UK’s leading internet companies.

The research, commissioned to identify the ‘DNA’ of the ideal start-up employee, found that 81% of the nation’s start-ups 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, a trend reflected by 55% of larger companies.

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.

“Whilst UK start-ups aren’t necessarily going to the lengths of contestants in Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice, these findings demonstrate that skilled and entrepreneurial candidates are getting ahead of their academic counter-parts in today’s tough job market,” commented Wendy Tan-White, Moonfruit’s CEO.

“‘Work-ready’ skills such as a grasp of IT and financial competency are the lifeblood of the UK start-up scene. 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.”

Amidst a slow graduate jobs market, where only 23% of start-ups are recruiting in some form, candidates must ensure their online reputation is squeaky clean. Keeping a close eye on your ‘digital footprint’ is of paramount importance, with employers more likely than ever to be combing social networks such as Facebook to find out more.

In fact, businesses favour Facebook as a source of information over LinkedIn, with only 23% consulting the professional network. This suggests that employers prefer the complete and honest view of a candidate offered by Facebook, as opposed to the curated information displayed on a LinkedIn profile.

With only 3% of start-ups running grad recruitment/training, candidates in 2013 must go the extra mile to impress companies. However, a balance must be struck between inventive and potentially ‘gimickey’ applications. Stunts such as hiring a billboard flopped with 88% rejecting that method as too contrived. Instead, convincingly eye-catching methods include digital/interactive CVs (56%) and the personal website/blog, which 45% ranked as a sound modern application profile.

“The candidates that will stand out from the crowd are those who are able to present themselves inventively and appealingly online, on both web and social, as recruiters take to the digital realm to identify and hire the very best talent,” added Wendy Tan White.

“This study reiterates the emerging demand for programming and coding skills in the UK — an area close to my heart as I take part in the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK’ events taking place this summer — helping to ready the next generation of digital natives for the working world and promoting the appeal of technology careers to youngsters in the UK.”

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