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What do employers want?

Employers tell us:

  • they want students with a good degree
  • who have participated fully in university life
  • who have work experience
  • who have reflected upon and can articulate their achievements.

Whatever sector or career path you decide to follow, whether a graduate scheme or direct entry position, almost all employers will be looking for evidence of core skills and competencies.

Skills graduate employers are looking for

Employers will be looking for candidates to possess and be able to demonstrate a wide range of transferable skills and these will vary depending on who you want to work for and what role you are applying for. Look at the job description or person specification to assess what each company wants and don’t just assume the same role at two different companies will want the same skills.

In general, most employers will be looking for skills such as:
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • leadership
  • negotiation
  • initiative
  • time management
  • organisation
  • problem solving
  • customer skills
  • commercial awareness

However, don’t second guess what an employer wants and don’t waste space on an application addressing skills they aren’t interested in. An excellent academic record will not compensate for a weak skills set as employers expect today's graduates to be able to integrate into a work place quickly. It is important to be able to recognise the skills you are developing in any given situation, whether that's work experience, volunteering or part-time, casual work.

What are graduate attributes?

Graduate attributes represent the package of skills, qualities and understanding that you will need to impress potential employers. You will be expected to demonstrate:

  • self-confidence, maturity and resilience
  • a willingness to fit in and co-operate
  • business etiquette and professionalism
  • intellectual curiosity
  • reflective approach to work and experiences
  • management of self and career.

Why work experience counts

Employers need to discriminate between applicants with a very similar academic profile and place increasing emphasis on the value of work experience. Without it you may struggle to compete at the application stage.

  • Nearly two-thirds of graduate employers warn that graduates with no previous work experience have little or no chance of receiving a job offer on a graduate programme (The Graduate Market High Fliers).
  • Employers look for evidence of professionalism - the ability to adapt to a professional or business environment. Completing an internship or work placement will provide you with the opportunity to acquire and demonstrate these skills at the application and interview stage.