What graduate employers really want

Entering the world of employment after university can be tough…

But landing your first job after graduation isn’t just about the qualifications you have or how good your degree is. It’s also about the knowledge, skills and other key attributes you’ve developed throughout the time you’ve spent studying.

To help boost your application, here are a few key things that graduate employers are really looking for in their ideal hire:


Someone with transferable skills

Although your degree is an important part of your application, the key to landing a graduate role often comes down to your ability to understand that what you’ve studied and what you can do are two different things.

In other words, simply stating your subject title and grade might not be enough to make your application stand out – you need to relate them to the role you’re applying for.

So instead of going overboard with the details, and referencing every single module you studied, consider each individual skill you gained whilst studying them. Then think about how you could apply them to the job.

This means researching the company, figuring out exactly what skills they’re looking for (see the job description), and referencing areas of your course that taught you these essential transferable skills.

Top tip: Don’t get hung up on the fact that you may not have any actual experience working in your preferred industry – that’s what transferrable skills are for. Sell your potential, not necessarily your proven ability.


A cultural fit

Employers aren’t just looking for candidates with strong academic credentials – they also want all-rounders who will fit in and work well with the rest of the organisation.

So, to ensure they’re seeing as much of you as possible, you need to sell your non-academic qualities and working style as effectively as possible.

If you can demonstrate how your subject-specific skills and general competencies complement one another, and explain how your mindset is similar to the organisation you’re applying to work with, you’ll have more chance of staying ahead of your competition.

Although you can give an indication of your work ethic in your cover letter, cultural fit is mainly judged at interview stage – so be prepared. Knowing how to effectively answer character questions should help you get your personality across.

Top tip: Preparing questions to ask about company culture is also a great way to find out more about the way an organisation does things – and if the interviewer hasn’t already asked you about your ideal environment, this will give you an opportunity to talk about your suitability.

Graduate cover letter template


Graduates who have gone the extra mile

With almost all graduate roles attracting thousands of qualified university leavers, candidates need to stand out from the crowd in any way they can.

This is where voluntary work, internships, and other work experience comes in handy. Not only will it show your enthusiasm and drive, it’ll also make you that bit different from everyone else with the same degree as you.

Even if you’ve finished university, there are opportunities out there for you to build your skills. Some of which might not even directly affect your work experience.

For example, mentioning any interesting and/or relevant hobbies and interests in your CV could also boost your chances of being considered – and give you something to talk about in the interview. Independent reading or study on a subject also fit within this category.

Top tip: Doing temp work during university holidays (or after you’ve graduated) will also help you to expand your opportunities, and gain the all-important office experience that many graduates are lacking.

Graduate CV template


A genuine interest in the role

OK, this may seem obvious. But it can often be overlooked when you’re applying for a range of different graduate jobs all at once – and employers can spot this lack of dedication a mile off.

If you want to stand out, express a genuine interest in the role and company, and make it clear that you’re not just looking for any job – you’re looking for this job.

Employers want to find graduates that are passionate about starting and continuing a career within their organisation, not someone who will leave as soon as they find something else. Tailor each application to the specific role, and you’re far more likely to prove you’re interested.

And think of it this way: if you haven’t put the time into applying for a job with them, they probably won’t spend their time pursuing your application. It’s only fair.

Top tip: Link your application back to individual tasks and duties described on the job description, and always remember to alter your cover letter accordingly for each job you apply for.


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