The top ten skills graduate recruiters want


A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters predicts a 10% rise in graduate jobs – but are you ready? Do you have the skills you need to apply for that job? If you are sitting down to write your CV, you might have left it too late to assess the skills you have gained – in fact, you should see your first day at university as the first day of your working life. Plan how you spend your time at university to maximise the skills you need in your chosen career.

The University’s Career Ahead award can help you with identifying and developing those skills employers are looking for, and with new templates, it’s easier than ever!

The skills that you need will of course depend on your chosen career, but there are some things that all graduate recruiters look for that you can start working on from day one:

Business sense 

Students who have started a business, organised an event or created a new university society while at uni gain a great working knowledge of how a business is run. This is one of the top skills that graduate recruiters are looking for, but according to a 2013 Guardian survey, only 1`0% of students thought it was a vital skill – this is compared to nearly 50% of employers!

Get global

Make the most of your time at uni to meet people from around the world so that you develop a greater understanding of other countries and cultures. You could take a summer placement abroad or even study abroad for a year. It is becoming increasingly important for graduates to have an understanding of different cultures and  how industries work across different countries.

A language 

Graduate employers love it if you speak another language, so really highlight this on your CV or application – ‘fluent in Spanish’ looks much better on your CV than Spanish A-level (A)’ as it really demonstrates what you can offer the company. Remember though to make sure that you brush up on your languages before your interview!

A squeaky clean digital footprint

Make sure that your online presence really reflects what you want to do and your future career, this could include setting up a LinkedIn profile and building some connections in your chosen sector. A lot of recruiters will google you – so make sure that all of your online presence is professional and aimed at your future career. If recruiters find dodgy photos of your from nights out, it could influence their decision.

Office etiquette

It’s a good idea to try and get a bit of experience in an office environment while you are a student as a lot of graduate jobs will start in the office. Understanding basic office etiquette such as how to dress, how to answer the phone and so on will set you in good stead.

Driving licence 

While having a licence may not be a requirement for a lot of jobs anymore, if you haven’t learned to drive it’s worth trying before you leave uni. It could open other opportunities further down the line, and some recruiters may be asking “why haven’t they learned to drive yet?” – some may see it as laziness.

Computer skills

All employers these days expect graduates to be computer literate – we’re talking things like working with spreadsheets and word processing, using the internet and being aware of instant messaging and conference calling – all of these skills will be important to recruiters. Of course, having skills in programming and software development are a bonus that some recruiters look for, but even having really good numeracy and analytical skills are important.


Uni really is the perfect time to join a team, and it could help you land a job! Think about it – what demonstrates teamwork better to an employer than the fact that you have been part of a team for the last 3 years?! You will always see ‘working as part of a team’ on a job description, and you need to be able to prove that you can work in a team beyond the group work you do as part of your degree. If you can use an example where you have built a team yourself – even better!!


Working on your confidence will only help you when it comes to building up your network. Go along to networking events relevant to your chosen career and talk to people! Not only will you meet people already in your career that can give you advice and guidance, but you will be working on building your confidence too.

Positive mental attitude

If you’re still at uni, it’s worth thinking about how you can build up all these skills. But if you’re in your final year and haven’t ticked them all, don’t worry. Whatever experience you’ve got to your name, a positive attitude is still the most important thing you can bring to your first job.


Things you get involved with at university and in your own time might not seem directly linked to what you want to do in the future, but you never know when those skills might come in handy!

This post was adapted from this article on the Guardian website.