Recruiters are struggling to find candidates with the right skills despite the large number of applications for each job. Discover what skills employers are looking for and how you can sell them on your CV

Your degree will have provided you with subject-specific and transferable skills. It's important to be able to reflect on what they are, and where you gained them.

According to Manpower Group's The Talent Shortage survey, 77% of global employers are having difficulty recruiting. In the UK, it's 80%. The top five in-demand skills areas were:

  • IT and data
  • engineering
  • sales and marketing
  • operations and logistics
  • customer facing and front office.

In addition to these specific areas, employers in the survey reported difficulties in finding employees with these transferable skills:

  • reliability and self-discipline
  • creativity and originality
  • critical thinking and analysis
  • reasoning and problem solving
  • resilience and adaptability.

Here are some other skills that employers look out for when taking on new recruits.

Effective communication

How clearly you put across your ideas and your ability to listen to others is an important skill for any job hunter to demonstrate. Employers will be keen to see how you build rapport, persuade and negotiate.

Use your CV or application form to outline specific written and verbal examples of when you've put these skills into practice. This might be any public speaking you've done, or writing for a student newspaper, for example. Show how you tailored your message to the target audience.


This refers to your ability to deal with setbacks, and is something that graduate employers have increasingly started to consider. How well do you cope with stressful situations or when something goes wrong? How do you react to unexpected changes or problems that occur during a project?

You aren't expected to be unaffected by these events, but you need to be able to show that you react to them positively and are able to develop strategies to deal with them.

Commercial awareness

Also known as business acumen, this is all about understanding how an industry or particular organisation works - where it sits in the market, who its competitors are and having knowledge of current developments in the field.

To exhibit commercial awareness, you'll need to show you've done your research on the company and the sector it sits in. Membership of a professional organisation or relevant work experience can also be used to illustrate this skill.

Leadership and management

Even if you're not applying for a management position, you'll still need to demonstrate to employers that you have the potential to motivate and lead others to achieve common objectives. It's also important to evidence the skill of self-management - demonstrating a situation where you've managed your own time successfully.

On application forms, detail situations where you've had the opportunity to plan and coordinate tasks during your degree or in extra-curricular activities such as university clubs and societies. The ability to solve problems and conflicts is always highly valued by recruiters.

Planning and research skills

To accomplish certain work tasks, you may need to come up with a suitable strategy and plan of action. This could involve seeking out relevant information from various sources. How you analyse, interpret and report these findings is what's important here.

Highlight the relevant skills you've developed during your degree - reading around a subject and analysing that information before writing an essay, for instance, or interpreting the results of a scientific experiment.


Organisations want to stay competitive, so it's essential to show employers that you're able to adapt to new situations and learn new skills in the workplace. Possessing this skill also tells employers that you're a good leader who handles challenges well.

To evidence this in your application you could use examples of a time you've learned new skills or processes at university, or an instance when you've adapted to a new or challenging situation in your part-time job.

Teamwork and interpersonal skills

Most graduates will have had the chance to work in teams during their time at university and in part-time jobs or work placements. Employers will be looking at your individual contribution towards achieving common goals.

This isn't just about times when you've led a team successfully, but also when you've been an effective team member taking instructions and direction from somebody else.

Find out how to incorporate these skills into your application forms by looking at example questions and answers.

Relevant work experience

It's not just about showing you have the necessary skills. Having some relevant work experience is also important to help you stand out in a competitive jobs market and demonstrate to employers that you're serious about the role.

For advice on how to secure a placement and make the most of the opportunities available, see work experience and internships.

Find out more

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