Part two: how employable are you?

By Janet Davies, editor of and

Part two discusses further advice on how to improve your employability skills to boost your chances in a tough graduate job market.

IT literacy: It hardly needs to be said that being able to use some kind of word processing or spreadsheet programme and the internet is a given these days. However, if you have expert knowledge of particular programming languages or techniques, specialist software packages and skills in forms of media that are important to the role that you applying for, make sure that these are clearly outlined in your application.

Self-management: Management structures in most organisations are pretty lean these days – employers are looking for people who can manage their time and priorities effectively, who can take as well as give direction and feedback and who don’t need micro-managing. Being late for your interview, admitting that you hardly ever turned up for lectures or handed in coursework on time, or not being able to manage an assessment centre exercise designed to test your organisational skills, will all serve to undermine your perceived ability to manage yourself. When employers are handing out salaries, they expect to get an effective return on that investment so remember to make a good impression right from the beginning of the selection process. Besides, you’ll probably have to work quite long hours – being badly organised at work and taking longer than necessary to complete a task means less time for you to socialise and actually have a life as well!

Commercial awareness: Employers want to know that you are genuinely interested in their sector, the challenges it faces and the culture and customer ethos they need to adopt to achieve their objectives. If, for example, you are applying to work in management consultancy, they will expect that you understand current affairs, that you’ve bothered to read the customer publications on their website and done some background research. If you want to go into the Civil Service, interviewers may quite rightfully expect you to have an appreciation of who the leading figures in the Government of the day are, what the impact of the budget deficit is on public services and current affairs. Make some time to keep up with the outside world not just what is going on Facebook or YouTube.

Additional skills: Can you speak another language? Can you drive? Do you have any other skill, experience, achievement or contacts that will give you the edge when recruiters are sifting through hundreds of CVs?  Use them wisely – every little detail could mean the difference between you being at the top or the bottom of the recruiter’s list.

Your disposition: Employers like enthusiastic, motivated, driven, dedicated applicants who  know how to show initiative and may be capable of becoming the future leaders and wealth creators in their organisations. It’s the ‘X Factor’ that makes one candidate a winner and another an also-ran. They want to like you and they spend a lot of effort in their employer brand and values work to make sure you’ll like them. That’s the personal part for which there is no test, no exam and no guarantee. Still, it’s not all one way. Learn to smile at interviews but also trust your instincts – if you don’t like anyone you meet during the interview process and you don’t get a good vibe about the place, be very careful before you agree to work there!

Work experience: If you haven’t so much as served a pint in a bar or had some basic experience of work, you are at a serious disadvantage in the selection process. If you’ve had an internship or a work experience placement, you’ll have serious advantage. Internships and part-time jobs aren’t always easy to come by, but get some experience you must. Inspiring Interns can help you do just that!

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