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.
Complementing these are general competencies and behaviours that are essential for successful working. These are the key employability skills – the core skills that will make you effective at work, whatever job you do. They are sometimes known as transferable skills because you develop them over time and take them with you as your career develops; think of them as your passport to career success. You'll need to draw on your work experience to give evidence of these skills.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
More key skills that graduate recruiters look for
Think you’ve got the top 10 covered? If you can show your mastery of a further five key skills – managing ambiguity, resilience, analytical skills, entrepreneurial skills and IT skills – you’ll be even better placed to land the graduate job you want.
Our advice explains what is meant by managing ambiguity and why it is a particularly important skill in complex, fast-changing environments, such as the retail sector.
Graduate employers look for resilience in their recruits because it enables employees to cope with change, problems and stress. Find out how to develop your resilience and how employers assess it during the recruitment process.
Analytical skills enable you to work with different kinds of information, see patterns and trends and draw meaningful conclusions. Analytical skills are often assessed using aptitude or psychometric tests.
Enterprise and entrepreneurial skills
Spotting gaps in the market, suggesting ways to improve processes, or coming up with new ideas are all signs of an entrepreneurial approach. You don’t have to set up your own business to make use of your enterprise skills; many employers will be looking out for graduate recruits with these qualities.
The best way to demonstrate your IT skills to employers is to show that you have been able to use them to achieve something, and you can demonstrate this with examples from your studies, extracurricular activities or work experience.
How to describe your skills on your CV
Here are three tips to help you write your CV in a way that showcases your skills.
- When you are giving details of the skills you developed in a job, internship or work experience placement, reflect the competencies listed in the job description and give examples of the most relevant skills first.
- Use confident language to describe your skills, for example, by drawing attention to awards or praise employers have given you.
- If you’re struggling to find a way to write about your holiday or part-time jobs on your CV, remember that it’s better to focus on transferable skills than routine tasks.
You’ll find much more advice on how to describe your skills in our guide to writing your CV.