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Qualities to look for when hiring leaders of tomorrow

04 / 11 / 2019Fiona Doherty

With Eddie Jones almost pulling off the seemingly impossible as coach of the England men’s rugby team, making it to the final of the Rugby World Cup, we thought we’d look at how employers can optimise their chances of hiring their own equivalent winning coaches, captains, or innovative leaders of tomorrow. With players as young as 21-year-old flanker Tom Curry and 23-year-old flanker Sam Underhill leading the charge both on and off the field (both landing in the top 20 of the individual total tackles charts), it is clear that there are young world cup level leaders out there to be hired.

Here are the qualities to look for.


After losing in the final, both Jones, Farrell, and the team took responsibility for their loss and were incredibly honest by giving credit to South Africa and accepting that they were not good enough on the day. Knowing your responsibilities is a key trait of any potential leader. Good leaders also understand that they are responsible for their successes and their failures and cannot pick and choose where the responsibility lies.

If your graduate applicant acknowledges mistakes from their past, see this as a positive. Leaders acknowledge, explain and improve. They don’t make excuses. Moreover, if others see this individual being honest and noteworthy for their actions then they are much more likely to want to follow them or work with them.


Like the slick ‘dummy and go’ from Ben Youngs to secure the second try against New Zealand in the semi-final, a leader needs confidence. Without confidence and self-belief, a graduate will never be able to pull through hard times, make tough decisions effectively, convince others to back their projects or inspire others.

Every now and then, businesses face setbacks. New competitors provide challenges, or campaigns may not go as well as you planned, but graduates with confidence will be able to ignore these setbacks and turn that loss into a success.

Communication skills/teamwork

The nine-ten connection between Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell and a steely co-ordinated defence in England’s world cup finalist squad was vital in their victories; however, none of this would have been possible without impeccable communication.

Leaders must be able to communicate with others in order to lead a team. Graduates who form communicative relationships easily and effectively are ones to look out for as potential future leaders.


Eddie Jones made huge calls to bench number ten, George Ford, in the quarter final against Australia. Yet this decisive call and the decisions that the players on the field made during the game were key in securing a large and important victory.

Strong leaders can make difficult decisions, after doing their due diligence and assessing all of their options. Thus, graduates who are decisive in their actions are ones who could be the future leaders of your company.


When Owen Farrell embraced the despondent and empty vessel of Jordie Barrett after New Zealand’s semi-final loss, he displayed empathy for what his opposite player was feeling. A true leader will understand the feelings and actions of others and act accordingly with this.

When looking to hire the future leaders of tomorrow, emotional intelligence is key. Look out for graduates who demonstrate the ability to feel and act according to empathy during the recruitment process.


To slot home the winning points over and over again throughout the world cup campaign requires a humongous amount of focus. 

Any given company has competing priorities and employers need to hire graduates who can focus on the tasks they are given so they are completed on time. Observe if your potential hires are focused throughout interviews or whether they display a clear focus on what they are trying to achieve in their cover letters/applications. These are the ones who could be potential leaders.


Creativity is Henry Slade’s audacious grubber kick, sweetly guided into the path of a rampaging Johnny May who nestled it between his bosom before dotting it down in the corner against Australia. It is also that sentence in itself. It is creativity.

Leaders can’t lead if they don’t have creative ways of thinking. They solve problems through thinking outside the box and not always agreeing or going along with the accepted norm. Graduates who display clear creative thinking skills or achievements are the candidates who could be effective leaders of the future.


When Eddie Jones and his England team lost 6-13 in a pre-tournament fixture to Wales, he remained optimistic and resilient despite some wavering from fans and critics. He stuck by his team and, in the following week, they won their second match against Wales 33-17.

When looking for a potential graduate hire with great leadership promise, you should be able to sense their optimism. They will believe that they can and will get the job. You can also see how they react to any potential challenging questions or setbacks they have during the interview. If they react positively and still seem optimistic that they will succeed, this is a great sign.


The moment Eddie Jones became the England coach in 2015, and when the England players put on their shirts each and every time, it requires commitment. A commitment to the goal they set of winning the world cup; to the campaign; and a commitment to each other – their teammates.

The leaders of tomorrow stick around. They do not abandon ship when things get tough or when large commitment is required. By being willing to relocate, commute, and sign a permanent contract, during, and after the application process, graduates show that they could be potential leaders.

Future leaders are hard to find, never mind world-cup finalists. Graduates may be young and at the start of their careers, but they will be the managers, directors, and CEOs of tomorrow. Hiring the right graduates now could help take your business to the next level in 10, 20, and 30 years’ time.


To find out how our graduate recruitment website TARGETjobs can help you recruit the best future leaders contact or call 01491 826262.

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