Skills and competencies

What skills to put on a CV

24 Jan 2024, 10:38

Find out what skills you should put on your CV when you’re looking for a graduate job.

Image shows man throwing pages of CV in the air, as if juggling

The simple answer to the question ‘What skills should I put on my CV?’ is: ‘The skills that will get you the graduate job you want’. But if you’re applying for your first graduate role you may be struggling to identify what those skills are and how you should present them. Read on for our top tips on the best skills to include on your CV and how to demonstrate them during the application process.

Read the job description

It sounds obvious, but make sure you read the description of the graduate role you want very carefully. It should give you an idea of what the job will involve, any specific qualifications required, the deadline to apply, the salary (although this is not always specified) and, crucially, the skills the graduate employer will be looking for. You’ve probably heard that you should tailor your CV for every single application that you make; it’s actually the skills that you’ll most likely find yourself tweaking each time because, although your education and experience will remain the same, the skills you choose to highlight will change.

Most employers will be asking for a mix of hard and soft (aka technical and people) skills, and perhaps others such as language skills. You might find your hard skills are easier to identify and demonstrate. Graduate employers sometimes ask for specific skills and experience that are essential to the role advertised – for example, video editing skills, data analysis experience or knowledge of programming language such as Python.

But what about soft skills mentioned in the job description? These are more about your personal attributes and how you work; they are skills you develop rather than learn in the traditional way. Graduates usually find it harder to identify these in themselves and to describe on their CV. Read on for advice on displaying your soft skills on your CV.

Which skills should I put on my CV?

First, make sure you cover all the skills, hard and soft, listed in the job description. But, as is often the case with graduate roles, if the job description only mentions a few skills, are there any other skills that will further enhance your graduate CV? The answer is yes. For example, it would be highly unusual for a graduate employer not to value communication skills; even in a role where you’re unlikely to meet with clients, you’ll still need to be able to interact and work with colleagues. Equally, for obvious reasons most employers will value organisational skills, no matter what the role is. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 skills that will get you a job when you graduate . One of the reasons these skills are so highly sought after is that they are useful in almost every role you can think of. Even better news, most of the top 10 skills are ones that you will already possess.

Use your common sense too. Think about what the role will involve. If you’re going for an accountancy graduate job, for example, try to include a mention of your numerical skills and how you’ve used them on your CV. If you want to go into a marketing role, a demonstration of your creative skills could be called for.

Consider transferable skills, too. The role on offer may not specifically ask for customer service skills or public speaking ability, but if you’ve mastered these at university or in a part-time role, it’s likely that aspects of them will enhance your employability. And they could be closely related to the skills the graduate employer is looking for.

How to present your skills on your CV

There are several places you can include your skills on your CV: in a personal statement, in a separate skills section or integrated within the work experience section. You can also provide more details of your skills in your cover letter, if you have the opportunity to provide one.

One of the most popular options for new graduates is to integrate the skills you’ve developed within the descriptions of the work experience you’ve done.

If you have a personal statement on your CV, you can use it to talk about the skills you have that the advertised role requires. But generally, personal statements are not really essential for graduate CVs. Equally, there isn’t usually room to do your skills justice. Find out more about whether or not you should include a personal statement .

Sometimes a separate skills section on your CV can be the best place to list your skills. This is especially true if the role asks for some specific technical skills. Less popular with graduates (simply due to not having had the opportunities to develop a long list of skills yet) is the skills-based CV .

If you’d like more general advice on writing and structuring your graduate CV, head to our big guide to CV writing .

Graduate CV template

Getting ready to apply for a graduate programme or an entry-level job? Check out our example CV.

How to write up your skills on your graduate CV

It’s important not just to mention or list your skills on your CV – you need to give examples of how you used them and have developed them in a real-world setting. If you’re talking about programming, for example, name the programming language you know and give a bit of detail on your level of proficiency (don’t be tempted to exaggerate this – you could regret it at your interview!). If, say, you’re mentioning your communication skills, give an example of them in use. If you’ve worked behind a bar, for example, you could talk about interacting with customers and relaying information between you and your colleagues. If you want to highlight your problem-solving skills, can you think of a time when you had to work out a solution to something? If the role calls for leadership skills or leadership potential, can you think of a time when you had to help other employees with any aspect of a role, or a time when you had to guide other students during a group project?

Next steps

If you’re ready to start your graduate job search , go for it! Don’t forget to register with targetjobs to get the latest jobs and advice updates based on what’s important to you.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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