Despite the large number of applications per job recruiters are struggling to find candidates with the right skills. But what skills do employers look for and how can you sell these on your CV?
Your degree will have provided you with a whole host of subject-specific and transferrable skills. Despite this it's imperative that you convey how you've gained the core attributes that you think would make you a worthwhile addition to the organisation.
Here are some of the most common key skills that graduate employers expect you to demonstrate. It's vital that you understand these skills, and how you can show that you've developed them, in order to write a successful job application.
This refers to your ability to deal with setbacks, and is something that graduate employers have increasingly started to consider. How well do you cope with stressful situations or when something goes wrong? How do you react to unexpected changes or problems that occur during a project?
You aren't expected to be unaffected by these events, but you need to be able to show that you react to them positively and are able to develop strategies to deal with them.
Also known as business acumen, this is all about understanding how an industry or particular organisation works - where it sits in the market, who its competitors are and having knowledge of current developments in the field.
To exhibit commercial awareness you'll need to show you've done your research on the company and the sector it sits in. Membership of a professional organisation or relevant work experience can also be used to illustrate this skill.
This is about how clearly you put across your ideas and your ability to listen to others. Employers will be keen to see how you build rapport, persuade and negotiate.
Use your CV or application form to outline specific written and verbal examples of when you've put these skills into practice. This might be any public speaking you've done, or writing for a student newspaper, for example. Show how you tailored your message to the target audience.
Effective leadership and management
Even if you're not applying for a management position, you'll still need to demonstrate to employers that you have the potential to motivate and lead others in order to achieve common objectives. It's also important to evidence the skill of self-management - demonstrating a situation where you've managed your own time successfully.
On application forms, detail situations where you've had the opportunity to plan and coordinate tasks during your degree or in extra-curricular activities such as university clubs and societies. The ability to solve problems and conflicts is always highly valued by recruiters.
Planning and research skills
To accomplish certain work tasks, you may need to come up with a suitable strategy and plan of action. This could involve seeking out relevant information from various sources. How you analyse, interpret and report these findings is what's important here.
Highlight the relevant skills that you've developed during your degree - reading around a subject and analysing that information before writing an essay, for instance, or interpreting the results of a scientific experiment.
Organisations want to stay competitive so it's essential to show employers that you're able to adapt to new situations and learn new skills in the workplace. Possessing this skill also tells employers that you're a good leader who handles challenges well.
To evidence this in your application you could use examples of a time you've learned new skills or processes at university or an instance when you've adapted to a new or challenging situation in your part-time job.
Teamwork and interpersonal skills
Most graduates will have had the chance to work in teams during their time at university and in part-time jobs or work placements. Employers will be looking at your individual contribution towards achieving common goals.
This isn't just about times when you've led a team successfully, but also when you've been an effective team member taking instructions and direction from somebody else.
Find out how to incorporate these skills into your application forms by looking at example questions and answers.
Relevant work experience
Having some work experience related to the job you're applying for is increasingly important given the competition for graduate roles. It is something that most employers will look for when assessing candidates.
For advice on how to secure a placement and make the most of the opportunities available, see work experience and internships.
Find out more
- Explore the skills you'll gain on your course at what can I do with my degree?
- Take a look at our example CVs. To give you a better idea of how to sell your skills in this format see our skills-based CV.
- For those who've graduated and are ready to find work, explore the Office for Students' (OfS) Graduate employment and skills guide(2021).