What do Employers look for in Graduates?

Whether you’re coming towards the end of student life and putting a CV together, or simply wondering what more you can gain from univeristy, here is a list of skills that most employers look for in a graduate. No matter how much you scroll on your wireless mouse down informative pages regarding this, that little rodent named tech will need a battery transplant before it doesn’t show these six ‘essentials’ I have listed.


skills and competencies

  • Time Management; In the modern workplace, you’ll find that managers are unlikely to be constantly breathing on your shoulder, eyes squinted, leering at you menacingly like some type of Mrs Trunchbull-turned office supervisor. You’re a graduate now. You have passed the stage where you need to be supervised to see if indeed you are showing customers to their tables and not telling telling Ashley how Jaegermesitered you are and how you had drank more last night than Charlie Sheen does at breakfast. You’re likely to have personal targets which have a direct effect on those departmental goals but the leadership style is more Laissez-faire meaning with the freedom in also the need to manage your time wisely. Employers want to know that you can do this, no question. They want to know that you can keep those plates spinning and demonstrate pragmaticism in the non-ideal times. They want you to be more flexible than Beth Tweddle (that doesn’t mean they want you to do the splits during staff meetings).
  • Communication; It’s such a simple one. Fundamentally important. It is the motherboard to the success of all businesses and organisations. Your ability to effectively converse with your colleagues, including that one you think is a bit weird because he sits skyscrapingly high on his office chair and answers his phone with a phrase more irritating than Ned Flanders’ ‘diddlies’, is instrumental to how well you fit in the organisation and become a valuable cog in the machine. Furthermore, the larger the organisation you enter, the increased likelihood you’ll be required to liaise with other departments or external stakeholders including other organisations. Employers want to gain and maintain such relationships and need employees who can exercise this well. Having the ability to communicate effectively with the most diverse range of people and form positive relationships is an attribute every employer holds in high regard.

  • Teamwork; Chances are that, when employed, you’re going to enter a team. Unless you’ve been employed into a one-man (or woman) department, which is about as likely as Leonardo Dicaprio winning an Oscar, it’s most probable you’ll be introduced to bunch of new faces and you’ll learn your role and how it links in with everyone else’s. Again, you’re about to become a cog in a larger machine. Employers want you to fit into that team seamlessly but effectively and work with them towards a common goal. They want to know that you’re going to be a ‘Gareth Bale’ to an already exceptional Real Madrid team. They want that fourth member who could have successfully helped Ross Gellar pivot that sofa up that staircase. They need you to be respectful of others, aware of your fellow colleagues’ independence, co-operative and contributory in discussion. Emphasise your previous personal contribution to a team and apply to the job you’re going for.
  • Problem Solving; Speedy-handed Mats Valk holds the record for solving a Rubik’s cube in 5.55 seconds. Now I’m not saying you need to be a good as him, but employers want a workplace equivalent. They want an intuitive graduate. One who picks up on the details others may miss. And one who can analyse problems, be they minor or major, and devise appropriate resolution/s for implementation. As good as is the combo of chicken with peri-peri sauce, the combination of both logic and imagination is an extremely desirable super-trait and perfect for coming up with intelligent solutions to difficult circumstances. If you can describe a scenario on your job application, applicable to the requirements of the job also, do so. Identify the issue, define the obstacles that were present, examine the options you had, state the action you took and explain what the outcome was. Choose an example which had a positive outcome and not one where you burned the pizzeria down.


  • Computer & Technological Ability; At a time where technology is everything and computers are in almost every workplace (well, every professional workplace, which obviously where you want to work), computing and technological ability is pretty much an expectancy. If you’re asked fill in information on a database, you need to excel on Excel (I know, I know, that was way too easy). But nonetheless, the ability to naturally pick up the use of a system is what employers want. They’re going to have to tell you what you’re doing on said system, but they don’t want to teach you how to use it from scratch!
  • Business Acumen; Graduates who have started their own societies and started up their own t-shirt businesses have a good grasp on monetary issues and how to make money. Demonstration of such entrepreneurship is extremely desirable to employers and could be the motivation behind them whisking you quickly into their organisation, to make them money before you turn out to be Lord Sugar Jr. Possessing commercial awareness, albeit in an organisation which isn’t even corporate or something sales based, is important and that you understand that is too.

In addition to these six essentials, are three ‘highly desirables’ that I’ve also found crop up often on sites regarding graduate employability. These can make you stand-out from the crowd to employers so you can be less of a ‘Wally’. (You know, from ‘Where’s Wally?’ Because he doesn’t stand-out? Because you can’t find him?…Anyway.)


  • Another Language; We pretty much all did one in school. As a British student, I was predictably made to do French. As I was one of the achieving students in this, I was then made to German as well! Admittedly, I thought to myself ‘Why do I need to know these?!?’ However, the demand for having at least one other language is immense. Businesses and organisations want to be international, if they aren’t already. The world is shrinking. Having ‘business-fluent Mandarin’ on your CV may be the difference between an employer choosing you over someone else when they are thinking about the future and they hope you can help them expand to soon. – Take Add+vantage (see what I did there?) of the modules on offer outside of your degree and also to the ‘Linguae Mundai’ opportunities to learn another language again, offered by IEMS (International Experience and Mobility Service) in the Student Centre.

  • Being International; Linking in nicely to the point above, having international experience is one of the shiniest things to have on CV by the time you graduate. Whether it is to inadvertently or to explicably exercise a new language you’re learning, getting to experience life somewhere else is a major plus; for you and for your potential employers. I myself Robinson-Crusoed a six-month round-the-world globetrot last year which, as you can predict, was incredible. However, the opportunities available whilst you’re at university to do this are second to none; with IEMS department, again, stretching open their Richard-Bransonesque wallets to give you up to £3000 grants to travel like he does. We’re talking cost free travels here people! To places you might never go again, whilst gaining unprecedented experience in your desired relevant field. The placements on our link on the student portal can all be funded, as can ones you find yourself on Google or Bing (probably Google; who uses Bing? Seriously?). Showing that you have the capacity to work in international territory and forming relationship through effective communication, is another ‘stand-out’ on a CV and/or application. Lookout also for the international Add+vantage modules too!
  • Creativity; “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” (Sylvia Plath, 2000). Employers really do want people who aren’t afraid to come up with ideas. Now whether its creativity in response to a problem, which links hugely with the ‘problem solving essential’ described earlier, or artistic creativity such as producing something aesthetically phenomenal, creativity is a trait that is extremely unique to anyone who has it. In this sense, it is the ability to come up with something that potentially no one else could which really makes a candidate stand-out. Now obviously, not everyone is innately creative. But those who rapidly assume they are not are those who will assimilate it to when someone has them draw a sprinter and they draw a stick man with one leg up and a perfectly round head twice the size it proportionately should be. But it’s not just that. It’s being an ‘ideas’ person. Developing new strategies to meet intended goals that are exciting and innovative.

Whilst you are still at University and there are any ways to enhance any of these skills, make sure that you do so. Evidence to support qualities such as these at as high a level as possible, and as applicable to your intended profession as possible, the better the position you put yourself in by the time you are a graduate.




Posted on March 21, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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