The key skills graduate employers look for

Complementing these are general competencies and behaviors that are essential for successful working. These are the key employability skills – 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.

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 organization wants to achieve through its products and services, and how it competes in its marketplace.

Good communication

You need to be able to express yourself concisely to impress graduate recruiters, but you also need to be a good listener and good at asking questions. Communication is really more of a package than an individual skill:

  • Communication is not just what you say; it is also how you present yourself.
  • Being able to phrase the right questions is an important skill.
  • Not saying too much is also part of good communication.
  • Understanding your audience and tailoring what you say is essential to graduate job hunters’ success.


Teamwork is one of the fundamental skills employers look for and it’s on the graduate recruiters’ high priority list. Show you can collaborate, influence and compromise.
Emphasise how your personal contribution allowed the team to reach its full potential.

Teamwork is all about being able to operate smoothly and efficiently within a group. Doing this draws on a number of abilities:

The ability to encourage and inspire other team members to perform better.
The ability to compromise and ignore your own ego.
The emotional intelligence to better understand team members’ behaviour, actions and responses.
Communication and other interpersonal skills such as negotiation, influencing, advising and interpreting

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.

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.


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.


This is about showing that you can priorities’, 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.

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.

Ability to work under pressure

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


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.

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