6 Key Employability Skills for Graduates

Nov 1, 2019

In this post, we share 6 key employability skills for graduates. Regardless of what degree you studied or what career field you want to go into, graduate recruiters will be looking for evidence of these key skills. 

It is vital that you demonstrate these 6 key employability skills in your CV, cover letters and interviews. 

Even if you haven’t gained work experience yet, you should be able to demonstrate these skills. You’ll have gained these skills from your academics, extracurricular activities or voluntary experiences.

1: Communication 

Graduate recruiters are looking for graduates with excellent communication skills

Communication is defined as: “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or other mediums.” 

You’ll need to demonstrate your ability to communicate throughout the entire application process.

How graduate recruiters will assess your communication skills:

  • By the examples that you give on your CV and in your cover letters.
  • How you answer your interview questions (your verbal communication skills).
  • Your body language/non-verbal communication during job interviews.
  • How you interact with other candidates during group assessment centre tasks.
  • How you answer competency-based questions relating to communication.
  • Your active listening skills.

You can show your ability to effectively communicate in the following ways:

  • Public speaking
  • Written work/creative writing
  • Working in a public-facing or customer service role
  • Taking part in a group presentation at university

2: Teamwork

Teamwork is a fundamental employability skill for graduates.

You’ll need to prove that you are a team player.

In the workplace, you’ll need to be able to work effectively as part of a team.

Graduate employers will be looking for your ability to share your ideas, listen to others, and contribute to the overall success of the team.

How graduate recruiters will assess your teamwork skills:

  • Evidence of your ability to work as part of a team on your CV and cover letters.
  • Situational judgement tests
  • Working as part of a team during group tasks in assessment centres.
  • Competency-based questions during interviews.

You can demonstrate your teamwork skills in the following ways:

  • Working as part of a team during group assignments at university.
  • Being a part of a sports team.
  • Internships or work experience.

3: Organising and planning

Next up in our list of key employability skills for graduates is organising and planning skills.

This involves showing your ability to prioritise your work efficiently and manage your time productively.

Organising and planning skills may be referred to as time management or prioritisation skills on graduate job descriptions.

Your time management skills will be assessed throughout the entire graduate recruitment process.

Ways you can improve and demonstrate your organising and planning skills:

  • Make sure that you send off your application well before the deadline.
  • Take on extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs to demonstrate your ability to balance your academics with other responsibilities.
  • Get an internship in a fast-paced environment.

4: Problem-solving

The ability to solve problems is one of the key employability skills for graduates.

You’ll be expected to be able to take a logical, analytical and creative approach to solve problems.

Problem-solving is all about making sense of a situation to come to an intelligent solution.

In the workplace, you’ll be continuously solving problems and resolving issues.

Therefore, graduate recruiters will be keen to assess problem-solving skills in candidates.

How will graduate employers assess your problem-solving skills?

  • Competency-based questions in interviews.
  • Asking hypothetical interview questions.
  • Psychometric testing.
  • Game-based recruitment assessments.
  • In-tray exercises.

The IDEAL problem-solving technique

IDEAL is an acronym for breaking down what you need to do to solve a problem.

  • Identify the problem/issue
  • Define the challenges
  • Examine your possible solutions
  • Act on an agreed course of action
  • Look at the outcomes of the actions

5: Professionalism

You’ll be expected to behave professionally in the workplace.

Potential employers will be looking for your ability to:

  • Manage your own learning.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Accept responsibility.
  • Demonstrate commercial awareness.
  • Respect others.
  • Show integrity.

Your level of professionalism will be assessed throughout the application process.

6: Working on your own initiative

The ability to use your initiative is another one of the key employability skills for graduates.

Using your own initiative is vital in the workplace.

When you are asked interview questions about using your initiative, recruiters will be assessing:

  • If you can work independently
  • Your ability to understand problems and create a plan to resolve it.
  • If you can come up with new ideas

During your graduate job interviews, you may be asked: “Give me an example of when you showed initiative”.

Here’s a post on how to answer interview questions about using your initiative.

You should be able to draw upon an example from your work experience, academics or your extracurricular activities, to demonstrate your ability to show initiative.

Key Employability Skills for Graduates: summary

To summarise, the 6 key employability skills for graduates are:

  1. Communication 
  2. Team Work
  3. Organising and planning
  4. Problem-solving
  5. Professionalism
  6. Working on your own initiative  

These are all transferable skills that all graduates should be able to demonstrate throughout the graduate recruitment process and in the workplace.

The skills listed in this post are soft skills. Some graduate schemes/jobs will be looking for specific hard skills in addition to these.

These specific skills will be listed in the job description.

Put together an employability skills portfolio to demonstrate the value that you can bring to an organisation.

Before you go, check out our online courses!

Featured photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

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