Hand using laptop

Computer skills: how to meet graduate recruiters' expectations

Employers expect this generation’s graduates to have strong IT skills as a matter of course, so you need to be willing to take on new technologies.
According to a CBI/Pearson education and skills survey, 69% of employers are satisfied with graduates' IT skills, and a further 28% are very satisfied.

IT and computer skills are vital because employers will expect current graduates to have IT skills as a matter of course. In addition, employers will increasingly expect graduates to be familiar with multiple platforms, and devices such as mobiles and tablets. Of course this all depends very much on which industry you go into.

  • Most desk jobs will only need you to know how to use Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) and a handful of websites. However, even this might not be as straightforward as you think, and each job has its own particular requirements.
  • For more computer-oriented roles you may be required to know and be able to use one or even several programming languages. In addition, you will be expected to know how to use a range of software and online resources.

Computer skills examples

The good news is that according to a CBI/Pearson education and skills survey, 69% of employers are satisfied with graduates’ IT skills, and a further 28% are very satisfied. Unless your employer was in the 3% who were less impressed, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. However, there is a difference between having a skill, and proving that you have it.

Whether you are putting together an application or preparing for an interview, having examples of experience with computers is a good idea. The best way to demonstrate your IT skills is to show that you have been able to use them to positively achieve something – whether it would have been impossible or simply a lot harder.

The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) is a good way to get your IT skills accredited if you think you need it. If you're looking for a more impressive accreditation then you can become a chartered member of the Chartered Institute for IT.

How do I phrase it on a job application?

Do say: ‘I learnt how to use this particular piece of software/website/app, and was able to solve this particular issue which had cropped up.’ – One of the most important aspects of computer and IT skills is a willingness to try new things when you don’t know them. This is what will mark you out from the old fogies who distrust innovation.

Don’t say: ‘Oh yeah, I use the computer all the time to chat to my friends and find out what work I am meant to be doing.’ – You really need to spell out which applications and software you have used. Furthermore saying that your primary use for computers is social media is nearly as bad as putting ‘socialising’ on your list of interests on your CV.

How to develop IT and computer skills

Students are well known for spending a lot of time in front of computers. However, if you’re looking for specific ways to develop your IT skills, there are a couple of suggestions:

  • Run your own blog. Web logs (if you want to be pedantic) are a good place to learn about the basics of website design and programming languages. Depending on the topic you choose they can also be a good way to develop commercial awareness.
  • Develop an app. For the advanced learners out there building an app is a good way to learn how to develop a programme from start to finish. Making it publicly available is also a good way to show companies that you have an entrepreneurial outlook.
  • Organise the hell out of a student society. Student societies change hands every year, and are frequently less than perfectly organised. However, you can sort out calendars, budgets and risk assessments with a couple of Excel spreadsheets.