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ten tips for graduate job hunters in 2020

Job skills for 2020: ten tips to future-proof your graduate career

We look into the TARGETjobs crystal ball for answers about how to give yourself the best chance of graduate job success in the year ahead.

Making predictions is always a chancy business, and given the political uncertainty of recent years, it’s hard to be confident about what lies ahead for the graduate jobs market in 2020. Nevertheless, we’ve peered into the TARGETjobs crystal ball to look for answers to some of the questions you might have about your job hunt. Here are ten tips that should help you make the most of the opportunities coming your way.

1. Skill yourself up to cope with change

Soft skills such as flexibility, adaptability, resilience and problem solving will help you cope with uncertainty and change. These skills will help you through the recruitment process and beyond, as you start your graduate career. They’re also skills that graduate recruiters look for, as they’ll make you more effective in the workplace.

Our advice explains how to develop the skills you need to find your way through unpredictable and challenging experiences, along with tips on how to showcase them in your applications and interviews: 

2. Decide what you want (and what you need)

How important is salary to you, and what do you expect to earn in your first graduate job? The average graduate starting salary is around £22,400, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. A survey carried out in 2019 by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), which represents many large companies, found that the average graduate starting salary offered by ISE members was £29,000. This higher figure reflects the nature of the ISE membership, which includes many big graduate recruiters that tend to pay higher salaries.

Your starting salary will vary considerably depending on what you do. Our advice on what you could earn in different careers identifies the sectors with the highest starting pay.

Unsurprisingly, London is the UK’s biggest hotspot for graduate recruitment. You can find out more about the proportion of graduate jobs based outside London from our advice on where in the UK you are most likely to get a graduate job.

There will also be many other factors at work in your decision-making about your career and where to apply for work, including your personal values, what motivates you and the importance you place on work-life balance. Here's some of the advice we've put together to help you explore your career options:

3. Review your options, from postgrad study to working abroad

Are you considering further study? Check out our postgrad study advice for tips on what you can do with a masters, how to market it in your job applications and more.

If you’re thinking about taking time out after graduating, use our advice on planning a gap year to help you. Tempted to look for a job overseas? Check out our country-by-country guides to working abroad. Our TEFL teacher job description explains what TEFL teaching involves and how to qualify.

What if you’ve already graduated? Our advice on how to structure your job hunt if you’ve already finished university will help you keep going until you succeed in getting the job you want.

4. Check out the jobs of the future

Roles we’ve picked out as potential in-demand jobs of the future include:

  • food technologist
  • cybersecurity expert/devops engineer
  • wellbeing and fitness instructor.

You can find out more, including key areas where the UK government anticipates future skills shortages, from our advice on jobs of the future.

5. Understand what employers are looking for

Recruiters tell us that motivation is hugely important to them. They want to be sure that you’re genuinely interested in the role and the employer, and you’ll need to have done your employer research to convince them.

According to the ISE survey, most employers set minimum requirements for entry, with 57% of ISE members requiring a 2.1 as a minimum and 22% requiring a 2.2 as a minimum, while 16% set a minimum UCAS tariff or A level grades. However, a significant minority – 22% – choose not to set any minimum requirements.

Employers also love candidates with work experience, and they are particularly keen on recruiting their own interns into graduate jobs. This has been a trend in recent years and is set to continue. According to the ISE report, in 2019 graduate employers rehired an average of 47% of their interns and 44% of placement students.

6. Know how to present yourself in your applications

Make sure you can translate your experience of part-time work, studying and extracurricular activities into the kind of soft, transferable skills that employers are looking for, such as communication, motivation, time management and so on. This will underpin how you present yourself in your applications and interviews, and will enable you to show that you match the skills required for the job.

A good starting point is our advice on ten skills that will get you a job when you graduate. We’ve also put together a series of articles on different skills and competencies to explain how to show employers your strengths.

It’s best to take a strategic approach, focusing on doing fewer applications well rather than trying to fire off as many applications as possible. Remember you need to tailor each application for the employer. Our big guide to writing your CV explains how to use and adapt our CV template depending on the role you’re going for.

7. Prepare for aptitude tests

Online aptitude tests are used by many large employers. They’re often set at an early stage in the graduate recruitment process, so you might find you’re asked to take some tests after you’ve submitted your initial online application.

There are three types of aptitude test you’re particularly likely to come across:

One of the best ways to prepare for aptitude tests is to take the Graduate Benchmark. This is a series of tests we’ve put together so you can take tests similar to those used by graduate recruiters and review how you scored. There are practice versions you can take first to familiarise yourself with the nature of the tests.

The Graduate Benchmark tests are likely to be different to the kind of tests you’re used to taking as part of academic exams:

  • they’re adaptive, which means the difficulty of the questions is automatically adjusted in response to how you’re doing – if you are performing well, the questions get harder.
  • your results are shown in the form of a graph, with your score given in relation to others in a comparison group.

8. Make sure you’re interview-ready

Many graduate employers now use video interviews. Candidates sometimes find these challenging but, on the plus side, you can fit them in at a time that is convenient for you. Assessment centres, which used to last a whole day, are also getting shorter.

Whether it’s a video interview, phone interview or face to face, chances are the employer will use competency-based questions. These involve asking for examples of a particular skill or competency.

However, the majority of employers combine more than one approach, so you might well find yourself facing questions that focus on your strengths, values and technical skills as well as competency questions.

9. Keep up with Brexit

If Brexit is likely to have a direct effect on the industry you want to join, keeping up to date with the relevant issues will help you show your commercial awareness. Our advice on how Brexit might affect your job hunt includes tips on how to approach the subject in your applications and interviews.

10. Make the most of TARGETjobs in 2020

Register with TARGETjobs and fill out your profile, if you haven’t done so already. This means employers can contact you directly about vacancies you would be a good match for. Do your research into employers and different career areas, and make sure you don’t miss out on applying for any graduate opportunities that appeal to you.

Did you know that members with full profiles are more likely to get direct messages from employers?

Don't miss this great opportunity. Register now