1. Relevant work experience
Experience can be a lot more attractive than grades, particularly if it’s relevant.
For instance, if you’re applying for a marketing role and have a 6 month marketing internship under your belt, your potential employer knows that:
- You have some of the basic skills and knowledge needed for the role, so they won’t have to invest time and money into training you up completely from scratch.
- You know what you are getting into. You’re likely to have some grasp of what marketing is and are, as a result, less likely to quit within the first few months and leave your employer with the palaver of having to re-hire!
Read about how volunteering can boost your employability.
2. Communication skills
If we had a penny for every time one our clients requested a grad with cracking communication skills, we’d be very rich indeed!
No matter how technical a job, soft skills will always play a big part in your success – you need to be able to relay ideas to your manager, speak to clients and persuade team members round to your way of thinking.
Sociable hobbies that involve effective communication, such as team sports, volunteering or event organisation and work experience in a customer-facing environment are great ways to suggest to employers that you’re a good communicator.
From an employer’s point of view, a candidate who is passionate about their company and their sector is an incredibly attractive prospect.
Of course an employer wants you to be bright, but if you don’t have the passion for their role then you aren’t going to go the extra mile for them.
So, how do you show a company really want to work for them? Simple: a CV and cover letter tailored to the employer, and a level of pre-interview research that would put a private investigator to shame.
4. Success outside of academia
Whether you’re an accomplished sportsperson, musician, writer or comedian, success in other areas of your life can more alluring to an employer than academic prowess.
While your grade 8 piano might not be directly relevant to the job spec, (unless you’re applying to be a music teacher of course), it implies that you can knuckle down, work hard and have a drive to succeed.
This is important, particularly at the interview stage when an employer asks you the common interview question “what are your hobbies and interests?”
5. Commercial awareness
If you’re on the graduate job hunt, this is a phrase that you’ll see again and again (and probably again after that).
Grads with business nous, as far as employers are concerned, are a rare breed.
Running your own business venture at university, managing the finances for a society or organising a fundraising event all show you’ve got an idea of how businesses work.
Still unsure? Find out exactly what commercial awareness is and why graduate employers value it so much.
6. Specialist skills
You have something that will be incredibly useful to a subset of employers, and can use this to trump any academic mishaps.
Check out these 11 free online courses to help you upskill.
Think about it: if a company needs someone to converse with clients in Italian, and you can do this, then that C grade in your Maths A-level isn’t going to hold you back! It’s true that languages do boost your employability, here’s 8 tips on how to learn a language.
Make sure you display any specialist strong-suits loudly and proudly on your CV.
Flexibility is extremely important to graduate employers.
Grad roles will often be quite generalised- so you need to be willing and able to chip in wherever you’re needed!
Giving examples of times you’ve thrived in unfamiliar situations, either on your CV or at interview, will show employers you take new tasks in your stride.
Being able to stand on your own two feet, work autonomously and having the confidence to follow through with your decisions, are all very appealing traits for an employer.
From their point of view, the less time they have to spend monitoring you, the more time they can spend getting on with their own work!
9. Leadership potential
While you’re unlikely to hop into your first graduate position and be managing a team of 20, employers will want to know that you have the potential to lead.
Why? When employers are looking for grads they’re hunting for good long-term, as well as short term, prospects- they want to hire the future managers and leaders of their business.
Last (but certainly not least) on our list is professionalism.
An employer needs to know that they can put you in front of their clients/candidates/colleagues and that you’re going to be a good representative for their company and brand.
How you handle yourself in the application and interview process will give employers clues about your professionalism.