What skills are employers looking for?

What Skills Are Employers Looking For in Graduates?

In 2022, more applicants than ever before hold higher education qualifications. This jump in education levels and experience creates more job market competition—so how can graduates stand out and succeed?

Well, it all starts with employability skills—broad-reaching abilities and competencies that help graduates impress employers and secure a job.

In this article, we’ll lay down the top employability skills employers look for today so you can land a job straight after graduation.

What are employability skills?

Employability skills are a set of capabilities employers use to determine whether a candidate is suitable for a job. Some employability skills apply to multiple industries, while others are specific to certain career paths.

These capabilities can branch beyond typical technical skills, extending into personal qualities, values, and personality traits. For example, many employers seek out applicants who are passionate about their industry and motivated to succeed.

While these aren’t new skills, they’re becoming increasingly important as job duties increase and competition soars.

You might also hear employability skills referred to as soft, enterprise, or workplace skills. Whatever you call them, they’re critical for success in the modern working world.

What skills do employers want?

Skills employers look for translate into productivity, passion, and participation in the workplace. Abilities that help employees solve problems and manage conflicts are also essential since these 21st-century skills encourage a more positive and inclusive working environment.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the top employability skills today’s employers look for—plus some tips on how you can work on them.

Students developing skills employers are looking for

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is all about rationalisation and analysis. A person with strong critical thinking skills can solve problems and form solutions by making informed judgments about something they say, hear, read, or write.

Critical thinkers don’t take what they hear at face value. They don’t automatically believe everything they see or read. That’s why it’s such a crucial skill—it discourages false, misleading judgments while encouraging deeper understanding.

In the workplace, critical thinking enhances problem-solving, reduces the likelihood of errors and inconsistencies, and promotes multiple views and perspectives.

You can build your critical thinking skills through active learning activities and class discussions. Consider open-ended questions and consider different ideas and perspectives when brainstorming solutions.

Communication

Each day, we communicate with colleagues, bosses, other students, neighbours, family, friends… the list goes on. But in terms of employability, communication goes well beyond a morning hello!

Effective communication includes:

  • Active listening,
  • Clarity and volume,
  • Confidence,
  • Emotional intelligence,
  • Interpersonal skills,
  • A positive attitude,
  • Openness to giving and receiving feedback,
  • Respect and empathy,
  • Understanding nonverbal cues,
  • Responsiveness.

These skills ensure all members of a conversation feel equal and understood, which is critical for fostering an inclusive and motivating working environment. Employers value employees with strong communication skills because they can give and receive feedback well, share ideas, and build customer and client relationships.

Building communication skills is similar to developing your critical thinking abilities—through active listening and group work. Experience learning techniques are especially important here, since they focus on feedback, self-assessment, and analysis.


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Time management

Time management involves organising and planning how to divide time between different projects and activities. It’s a critical skill in workplaces managing multiple projects at once.

Good time management skills ensure all concurrent projects receive an appropriate amount of attention, ensuring positive outcomes. On the other hand, poor time management skills could result in one project receiving more attention than another, leading to weaker outcomes and poor impressions on clients.

There are several ways to improve your time management skills and prepare yourself for heavy workloads. Personal and class calendars are a great idea, allowing you to keep track of project dates and homework assignments. Also make sure to set aside time to work on tasks, ordering them by the level of urgency—and don’t forget to schedule regular breaks!

Teamwork & collaboration

Nearly all workplaces require employees to work in teams, directly in indirectly. Whether projects involve physically working together or simply sharing ideas, teamwork skills are essential.

Group projects are the best way to build collaboration skills and learn how to work well with your peers. When working as a team, make sure to:

  • Establish the project’s purpose (a “Why”),
  • Set and agree on a common goal,
  • Assign and clarify roles,
  • Share ideas and objectives,
  • Be flexible,
  • Recognise and reward contributions.

Project-based and work-integrated learning are fantastic options here thanks to their focus on meaningful collaboration.

Digital literacy

With today’s working world driven by technology, digital literacy and research skills are an absolute must. This skill describes a person’s ability to discover, analyse, and communicate information via digital platforms, including social media and search engines.

Digital literacy is crucial for communicating with staff members, bosses, and clients via email, virtual chat platforms, and other digital tools. Employers also look for applicants who understand online safety and know how to protect their data online.

One great way to build digital literacy skills is through online research projects. You’ll need to use search engines and other digital resources to find reliable information. Focus on using smart strategies for evaluating sources critically, reviewing peer-reviewed sources such as Google Scholar.

It’s important to acknowledge here that you may vary levels of technological fluency and access compared to other students—make sure to communicate these needs with your learning institution before beginning digital literacy lessons.

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills allow you to overcome obstacles, find solutions, and achieve goals. Problems can range from simple inconveniences to broad-reaching issues requiring complex analysis.

In the workplace, problem-solving skills can help employees analyse and discover the cause of an issue, generate potential solutions, implement plans, and assess how well the plans worked. The skill is essential for everything from handling customer complaints to fixing IT issues.

If you’re keen to improve your problem-solving skills, consider the problem-solving sequence: define the problem → brainstorm solutions → choose a solution → test the solution → evaluate the outcome → repeat if necessary.

Remember documenting what doesn’t work is just as important as what does. Also, keep in mind that the process often matters more than the end product.

Skill development for employers

Decision-making

Decision-making skills are essential for making rational choices. Employees, especially those striving towards leadership roles, must demonstrate confident decision-making abilities.

Good decision-makers in the workplace look beyond their values and perspectives, considering the impact a decision could have on other employees, customers, and the organisation itself. They consider facts, consequences, and alternatives before choosing a way forward.

Developing decision-making and leadership skills goes hand in hand with problem-solving approaches—identifying problems, gathering information, and brainstorming possible solutions. Remember that decisions should follow thorough research and analysis from multiple perspectives.

Adaptability

Adaptability, and a similar skill called learning agility, refers to an individual’s ability to adapt to new situations. If you’re adaptable, you can take changes in stride and confidently approach fresh challenges.

Adaptability is important because changes happen all the time in the workplace—staff changes, promotions, software updates, and so on. Employers look for individuals who can adapt to these changes quickly, reducing downtime and training requirements.

Building learning agility takes time, but it’s possible if you stay dedicated. If you embrace unfamiliar challenges, allow yourself to explore multiple solutions, and always push for new ideas, you’ll become an adaptable learner in no time.

Ability to work remotely

Remote and hybrid workplaces are on the rise. Today, employers look for applicants who can adapt to remote working environments, staying productive and engaged while working from home.

Remote workers must be self-starters. You’ll need to know how to manage your time, avoid distractions, and communicate well online. 

Thankfully, many universities now offer remote study opportunities, so you have a chance to practice these skills before entering the workplace. You can also undertake a remote internship to gain real-world experience before graduation.

Knowledge to work with people from different cultures

In the working world, working with people from different cultures is common. It’s essential to know how to successfully work with people from all backgrounds, regardless of cultural differences or language barriers.

You can build your skills in this area by:

  • Looking inward, considering your own culture,
  • Actively learning about other people’s cultural needs and practices,
  • Building relationships with people from a range of cultures (i.e. fellow students or mentors),
  • Willingly adapting and adjusting to change.

One fantastic way to expand your understanding of other cultures is to undertake a volunteer placement in another country, or intern at a global company with a diverse workforce.

Where do employers look for these skills?

There are two primary ways employers will look for employability skills during the hiring process—interviews and applications. Let’s discuss these points in more detail now.

Interviews and assessments

During job interviews, employers will look at several factors beyond your hard, technical skills. These factors can include:

  • Body language,
  • Likeability,
  • Openness to new ideas,
  • Soft skills (i.e. integrity, empathy, dependability),
  • Time management skills,
  • Preparation,
  • Confidence,
  • Passion,
  • Past experiences and proven successes.

Essentially, employers want applicants to demonstrate employability skills during the interview process. For example, you can show time management skills by arriving at the appointment on time, and effective communication skills by confidently expressing your experiences and abilities.

Resumes and cover letters

While resumes traditionally present job-relevant skills and experience, they’re a powerful way to exhibit soft skills, too. When creating a resume and cover letter, make sure it’s free from grammatical and formatting mistakes—errors are an instant red-flag for many employers and your CV is likely to head straight to the recycling bin!

A well-presented application immediately shows hiring managers you’re prepared, dedicated, and have strong attention to detail—all crucial professional skills.

Students developing skills desired by employers

How to enhance your employability

Summing up what we’ve said above, the best way to enhance student employability is via meaningful, time-relevant, and challenging projects. Modern educational approaches such as experiential and work-integrated learning are some great options.

Learning through experience will help you understand why education is important and how it applies to your future career goals. If you approach these new experiences with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, you’re sure to become the type of employee hiring managers love.

So, if you’re looking to become an employable candidate straight out of university, you’ll need real-world experience, a strong work ethic, and transferable skills under your belt. Thankfully, Practera is here to help!

Be industry-ready with Practera’s help

Practera’s student programs make it easier than ever for students and learners to participate in  real industry experiences that will prepare you for career success. 

Programs such as our Study Australia Industry Experience Program will connect you with real business clients, offering you real-world experience and a strong foundation of industry connections. As they say—it’s often about who you know, not what you know. Plus, the ‘no experience, no jobcatch-21 becomes a problem of the past!

The Practera Industry Experience Program help you in building your professional network and level up your CV with experiences and skills one can only get in a real work environment. The programs also help you with your communications skills of presenting your credentials and experiences in a job interview to give you the best chance at landing a job after graduation.

To find out more about these life-changing programs and participate as a student please visit Practera’s student programs

If you are an Educator keen on giving your learner these valuable employability skills through our program get in touch with the Practera team today.  You can also download our white paper to learn more about the power of project-based learning.


Gain Experience & Skills Employers Are Recruiting For Today!

Enrol for free in Practera’s government-backed live programs to build your employability skills  


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