Careers advice and planning

What are the top 10 skills that'll get you a job when you graduate?

6 Sept 2023, 10:31

Have you got the key skills graduate employers look for? You'll need to give examples of these essential competencies in your job applications and interviews to impress recruiters and get hired.

What are the top 10 skills that'll get you a job when you graduate?

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The skills that you have on your CV will likely be top of the priority list for graduate employers to examine when seeking candidates 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 for your CV – 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 when you’re writing your application or CV.

Short on time? See the top 10 skills in 79 seconds

Watch our video defining the most important skills that employers want to see in graduate hires.


Discover the top ten skills that'll get you a job in our one-minute video.

The top ten skills for your CV that graduate recruiters want to see

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.

Read more about how to show your commercial awareness as a skill on your CV.

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.

You might think that it’s difficult to present verbal communication as a skill on your CV, but read our guide on communication skills to understand how you can write about it as well as how it’ll affect your application and interview process.

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.

Read more about teamwork and tackling teamwork interview questions .

4. Negotiation and persuasion

This is about being able to set out what you want to achieve and how, 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.

If you’d like to see what types of employers are looking for negotiation and persuasion skills on your CV, and the sorts of questions that you’ll be asked, check out our guide to influencing skills .

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.

Read more about problem solving

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.

Read more about leadership skills and how employers will assess the skills on and off your CV.

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.

Read more about time management

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.

You won’t necessarily need to list motivation as a skill on your CV, but you will almost certainly be asked about it at interview or on some tailored application forms. Read our guide to answering the tricky interview question what motivates you?

9. Ability to work under pressure

This is about keeping calm in a crisis and not becoming too overwhelmed or stressed.

Read more about how to answer questions about handling stress at interview

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.

Read about how to boost your confidence before a job interview

More key skills for your CV 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 on your CV – managing ambiguity, resilience, analytical skills, entrepreneurial skills and IT skills – you’ll be even better placed to land the graduate job you want.

Managing ambiguity

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.

Read more about managing ambiguity


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.

Read more about resilience

Analytical skills

Analytical skills enable you to work with different kinds of information, see patterns and trends and draw meaningful conclusions. Analytical skills are not usually assessed on your CV, but are often assessed using aptitude or psychometric tests.

Read more about analytical skills

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.

Read more about enterprise skills

IT skills

The best way to demonstrate your IT skills using your CV 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 skills on your CV in a way that showcases what you’ve gained and highlights your experience.

  • 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 and the skills you learned 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 .

You can also check out our targetjobs guide to the top retail skills for your CV .

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