Skills to look for in a young employee Fr James Grant Foundation Youth Unemployment

Hiring Youth? Look For These Skills

They may not have a lengthy list of previous employment, or a resume packed full of referees, but according to a report entitled “Fundamental principles for youth employment” there are 21 employability skills to look for when seeking job-ready youth.

Broadly covering the three areas of cognitive skills, communication skills and personal behaviours, these 21 key attributes are “universal to all employers regardless of entry level or position”, and equal to or even more important than education or past employment.

Here’s an insight into the employability skills to look for when seeking a young employee.

Employability skills

Also known as soft skills, employability skills extend far beyond education, background and training. These are the skills that allow an employee to learn from their surroundings, adapt to change and work as part of a team.

Although employability skills do increase over the course of a person’s career, many can be found in young job candidates starting out their employment journey and afford employers the opportunity to tap into emerging talent.

Cognitive skills

Cognitive skills are not just about the marks a job candidate acquired at school, but more generally reflect a candidate’s ability to think on their feet. Encompassing problem solving, reasoning and the ability to make decisions, these skills indicate how adaptable and innovative a prospective employee may be in the workforce. According to the report they include:

  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Reasoning
  • Decision making
  • Opportunity awareness
  • Digital literacy
  • Innovation
  • Learning

Cognitive-style interview questions

Tell me about a problem that you’ve solved in a unique or unusual way. What was the outcome? Were you happy with the result?

What is an example of a difficult decision you have had to make? How did you come to a decision? What was the result?


Regardless of whether the industry is hospitality or construction, all workplaces require a level of communication that is not necessarily about language skills but rather a willingness to learn and function as part of a team.

Skills in this section include:

  • Listening to understand
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Collaboration and team work
  • Comprehension
  • Sociability

Communication-style interview questions

Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn’t like you. How did you handle it?

Tell me about a time in which you had to use your communication skills to get an important point across?

Personal behaviours

Personal behaviours offer employers an insight into how reliable an employee will be as part of their team. Will they take responsibility for their own actions? Will they effectively utilise their time, or on the flip-side will they require micromanaging? Skills in this sector include:

  • Responsibility
  • Time management
  • Self-awareness
  • Confidence
  • Self-management
  • Honesty/integrity
  • Tolerance
  • Initiative

Personal behaviour-style interview questions

Describe a situation in which you saw a problem as an opportunity. What did you do? What was the result?

Tell me about a project or event you organised and the challenges you face? How did you overcome those challenges? What was the result?

Become involved

The Father James Grant Foundation partners with corporate entities and organisations to offer on-the-job training and mentoring for young people looking to enter the workforce.

We tailor each program to the business involved; working with business to impart the skills they require and instill the employee ethos they seek.

If you are a business looking to participate, there are two ways to become involved: you can assist through workplace training or mentoring, or alternatively, assist the program through sponsorship.

Either way, the businesses involved are helping to change Australia’s employment landscape at a time when the youth jobless rate is at its highest in years.

Learn more about our programs or contact us directly to become involved.

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