The top 10 skills that'll get you a job when you graduate

With so many graduates now on the market, employers will look for evidence of skills and work experience, which will make you stand out from the crowd. Start gathering them now or work on what you've got so you are ready to impress recruiters.

Graduate employers place a lot of emphasis on finding candidates with the right skills and competencies for their organisations. Depending on the career sector and profession you choose to work in, there could be very specific skills, abilities and knowledge needed to do the job. However, complementing these are general competences and behaviours that are essential for successful working. These are often overlooked by candidates, but they are the things recruitment professionals want to see evidence of.

The top ten skills graduate recruiters want

1. Commercial awareness (or business acumen): This is about knowing how a business or industry works and what makes a company tick. Showing that you have an understanding of what the organisation wants to achieve through its products and services, and how it competes in its marketplace.

2. Communication: This covers verbal and written communication, and listening. It's about being clear, concise and focused; being able to tailor your message for the audience and listening to the views of others.

3. Teamwork: You'll need to prove that you're a team player but also have the ability to manage and delegate to others and take on responsibility. It's about building positive working relationships that help everyone to achieve goals and business objectives.

4. Negotiation and persuasion: This is about being able to put forward your way, but also being able to understand where the other person is coming from so that you can both get what you want or need and feel positive about it.

5. Problem solving: You need to display an ability to take a logical and analytical approach to solving problems and resolving issues. It's also good to show that you can approach problems from different angles.

6. Leadership: You may not be a manager straight away, but graduates need to show potential to motivate teams and other colleagues that may work for them. It's about assigning and delegating tasks well, setting deadlines and leading by good example.

7. Organisation: This is about showing that you can prioritise, work efficiently and productively, and manage your time well. It's also good to be able to show employers how you decide what is important to focus on and get done, and how you go about meeting deadlines.

8. Perseverance and motivation: Employers want people to have a bit of get-up-and-go. Working life presents many challenges and you need to show employers that you're the kind of person who will find a way through, even when the going gets tough... and stay cheerful-ish.

9. Ability to work under pressure: This is about keeping calm in a crisis and not becoming too overwhelmed or stressed.

10. Confidence: In the workplace you need to strike the balance of being confident in yourself but not arrogant, but also have confidence in your colleagues and the company you work for.

Employer buzzwords and words of action

There are certain words which are key to catching an employer's interest. Mention them in your CV and at interviews and see how impressed they are with your business-speak (but don't go overboard or you'll sound daft).

  • initiative
  • dynamic
  • teamplayer
  • proactive
  • self-motivated

You can also talk in terms of actions that you achieve through your skills by using good, strong verbs in applications and interviews:

  • led
  • achieved
  • completed
  • co-ordinated
  • delegated
  • delivered
  • identified
  • presented
  • promoted
  • reported
  • resolved
  • organised

Top tips for developing the skills employers want

  • Make the most of university life and extra-curricular activities to develop your general skills.
  • Plan early to get relevant work experience and voluntary work which will give you transferables that will make you work ready: have something lined up for each vacation, and get ready for formal placement and internship applications at the beginning of your second year.
  • Religiously record the skills you gain and work experience activities you do so that you can pull out good examples on applications and in interviews. If you want to identify your key strengths (and weaknesses you need to work on) sign in and use our free careers report tool.
  • Network! Use family, friends and contacts to get work experience and to find out more about career areas that interest you.
  • Visit your university's careers service: find out whether it runs any employability skills sessions; sign up for relevant courses and workshops; get help from a careers adviser to write a CV that really showcases your competences and abilities.
  • Take advantage of careers fairs and employer presentations: talk direct to recruiters to find out what they look for.
  • Always do your homework before applying for jobs. Employer research will help you identify the skills and competences a particular organisation places most emphasis on. In turn, you can tailor your application so that it stands out. As a starting point, use the employer hubs on targetjobs.co.uk!