What are the key skills that will help me land a job after graduation?

Have you got the key skills graduate employers look for? What exactly are today’s employers looking for in today’s graduates? At Oxford Learning College Reviews we’ve put together our top ‘hitlist’ for you to check up on before you start applying for your chosen new jobs. In our experience, you’ll need to give examples of these essential competencies in your job applications and interviews to impress recruiters and get hired.

Graduate employers are tasked with finding exactly the right people 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. However, complementing these are general competencies and behaviours 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 at interview stage, to ensure you stand out from the other candidates.

The top skills graduate recruiters want to see

1. Business Awareness

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.

It’s going to be vital that you show an understanding of the business, it’s sector, it’s competitors, it’s customers – the more you already know and understand, the more attractive you are to the company to employ.

Graduate recruiters are on the look-out for candidates who’ve gone the extra mile in terms of research and developing an understanding of their company: to stand out from the crowd, be prepared to impress with your research and knowledge.

2. Communication

This covers verbal, written communication, and aural (listening) communication. It’s about being clear, concise and focused; being able to tailor your message for the audience and listening to the views of others.

Recruiters are looking for effective communicators who will be able to talk and listen to members of their team, supervisors, management and customers. You’ll need to show you’re a fluent, confident communicator across all levels – and across several mediums, including telephone and email communication.

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.

How you fit in with the others around you is going to be a critical part of the graduate recruiter’s assessment of you. Companies can’t risk bringing someone into a team who isn’t going to fit in, so a huge part of the recruiter’s assessment is going to be around your suitability to fit into a particular team.

It’s also the part you can’t influence, as they know what they’re looking for and you don’t. Relax and be yourself – don’t try and be someone you’re not, as this could end with you being places into an unsuitable role / team within the company.

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.

Graduate recruiters are looking out for people who can only negotiate or persuade others by shouting or force of will, as there’s no place for that within a modern corporation. They’ll be looking for people who understand negotiation, give and take, compromise without bullying, ability to work with others …. all things that seem common sense, but are actually hugely important to the company and thus to the recruiters.

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.

Graduate recruiters will be looking for people who keep their cool no matter what the situation, and for people who dig in to resolve the problem no matter how long it takes. Problem solving encompasses everything, big and small, and you’ll need to prove you have what it takes to be part of a solution to a problem rather than the cause of one.

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.

In fact, companies now consider that every employee should be a leader in his/her own way, and are looking for candidates that understand and reflect that ethos. Recruiter’s are looking too, for leaders and those who would inspire those around them.

7. Organisation skills

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.

You’ll need to demonstrate ability to multi-task, to prioritise, and to get difficult jobs done to harsh timescales. You’ll also need to demonstrate your ability to do all of the above things by intuition, without needing assistance from supervisors to prioritise for as this will be extremely valuable, especially in a small team.

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 that you can stay cheerful throughout it.

Someone who gives up after the first attempt is likely not suited for most of today’s employers. They’re looking for resilience, perseverance and a ‘can-do’ attitude, and it’s up to you to show that side of you to the recruiter.

9. Ability to work under pressure

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

No company wants an employee who’d going to freak out the second they get busy. You need to able to work in all conditions, including those times when the company is busy, at exactly the same level of effectiveness and without becoming overwhelmed nor without negatively affecting those around you.

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.

Confidence is king, or so the old saying goes. Graduate recruiters are not looking for wilting wallflowers – they’re looking for confident, outgoing individuals who make eye contact, shake hands firmly etc.

More key skills 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 then you’ll be even better placed to land that graduate job you want.

11. Managing ambiguity

Don’t leave anything to doubt. Be clear, concise and careful in what you say and mean.

Ambiguous instructions can be costly for business, and so you need to persuade the Graduate Recruiters that you have clarity of thought, focus and speech.

12. Resilience

Graduate employers look for resilience in their recruits because it enables employees to cope with change, problems and stress.

Someone who needs a lot of hand-holding and care is not going to be as attractive an option to an employer as someone who is independent and resilient.

13. Analytical skills

Analytical skills enable you to work with different kinds of information, see patterns and trends and draw meaningful conclusions. Analytical skills are often assessed using aptitude or psychometric tests.

Analytical skills are highly prized in most companies, but especially in financial based companies.

14. 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 to help with the growth and develop of their company and customer base.

The more you can bring to a company, the better a job offer you’re likely to receive.

15. IT skills

The best way to demonstrate your IT skills to employers 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.

No business nowadays will employ anyone without them having a significant level of IT skills, so the more you can show here, the better.

So our ‘top fifteen’ checklist is there for you – let’s hope it helps you achieve that Graduate placement / job that you’re looking for!


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