Apprenticeships 5 min read

What skills are employers looking for?

Get My First Job

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Universities UK research into university leavers has found that there is often a mismatch in the skills students expect employers to be looking for, and what graduate employers actually want. Understanding these expectations may increase your chances of employment if you display these skills during the application process.

Historically, a degree qualification would give a candidate the edge in job hunting. However, though your degree is still incredibly important to most employers, it’s vital to make sure that the skills that you have carefully developed over the years at university take pride of place on your CV and are demonstrated in interviews once you graduate. At GetMyFirstJob, we have compiled six of the top skills that employers look for in their candidates, no matter if you’re looking for a further degree apprenticeship, internship or graduate job:

1. Teamwork

No matter the role, employers want to take on people that are team players – those who are co-operative and work well with others. Teamwork is all about being able to operate efficiently within a group, whether that’s through inspiring and motivating others,or exercising the ability to compromise. Teamwork is often one of the most desired skills by employers, as collaboration is often crucial to complete tasks; different employees can offer unique perspectives to deal with any issues that may be encountered.

You may have already honed your teamwork skills without even noticing; volunteering, group projects at university, sports teams or even acting on a committee of a student society – all of these display teamwork. Working alongside other people provides great opportunities and you can learn from others to improve your own abilities.
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2. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is one of the most in-demand skills by employers. If you can use your logic and creativity to come up with intelligent solutions to issues that may arise or anticipate problems before they occur and work to mitigate the effects, this will be viewed favourably.

Careers in certain industries may deal more directly with problem-solving, such as in business, law or engineering, but most others will expect you to display similar abilities in your role.

In an interview, you may be asked for examples of how you’ve previously solved issues or will be presented with a hypothetical situation and asked how you would respond to the event. Online aptitude tests and case study exercises at assessment centres are also commonly utilised by employers to test their prospective employees on their problem-solving skills. Employer websites often offer example tests so make sure to practice some before an interview to show-off your abilities.
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3. Communication

Effective exchange of information is crucial to a business. Without efficient communication, many companies fail. This is why as job hunters you must show that you can listen and speak out when needed. Expressing yourself concisely will impress employers; whether that’s by asking the correct questions, phrasing things in a specific way, or even just understanding the audience you’re interacting with.

An employer will assess your oral and written communication skills through your CV and interviews, noting how you present information about yourself and interact with others. So, ensure that your CV and cover letter is tailored to the role and spell-checked! An interview is meant to be a two-way conversation, not an interrogation, so don’t be afraid to interact with your interviewer and show off your ability to communicate!

4. Commercial awareness

A lot of job descriptions may ask for ‘basic commercial awareness’; this can seem confusing, especially if you’re a student looking for your first role or apprenticeship. However, commercial awareness is highly important to employers, many even offer their recruits further training in this topic. Commercial awareness is simply the knowledge you have of the industry you’re applying for.

Adding some simple research findings into a cover letter, or discussing what you have found in an interview, will show employers you’ve taken the necessary steps to better understand the job and how it fits the wider market. To improve your understanding of the topic, check out company websites and do a few internet searches on current market events, to give you a good overview of how the industry operates and confirm to employers that you are prepared and knowledgeable about their business.
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5. Flexibility

Flexible employees are valued by employers. Huge developments in technology and changes in the workplace environment mean that we now have to be more adaptable than ever. Those that seek to change and adjust to new situations are respected by companies who base themselves on being flexible. A willingness and ability to respond to varying circumstances and expectations is incredibly important to many organisations.

Demonstrating that you are open to change will impress employers who are increasingly shifting to adaptable job descriptions – this may also be tied to career progression as you become more equipped from opening yourself to different situations.
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6. Organisation

Your organisational skills are some of the most crucial and transferable. Keeping work organised enables you to focus on different projects and increase productivity. You’ll often find that you have multiple, equally pressing priorities that may rely on others to also complete their necessary tasks. To succeed in your role, you’ll need to organise your tasks, making sure that you can realistically complete your work.

Your organisational skills will be tested every step of the way during the recruitment process. Simple things such as making sure that you’re on time for an interview or submitting your application before the deadline, will show employers that you’re organised and time conscious. If you’ve had any part-time jobs or extracurricular hobbies alongside your studies then mention those, as that experience will demonstrate how you’re able to juggle different responsibilities and have strong organisational skills too.

It’s important to remember that all employers are seeking different things when it comes to their recruits. Be confident in your skill set and don’t be afraid to draw on past experiences to prove to employers that you have what it takes to excel. Also, be aware of your weaknesses, so that you know where you can develop.

Now that you know what skills employers are looking for, visit GetMyFirstJob.co.uk and start applying!

What skills are employers looking for?
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