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What do employers look for in graduates?

Employers are often looking for grads with at least a 2:1 under their belt. But surprise, surprise, it’s not just good marks they’re looking for when sifting through job applications…

Here are some essential ingredients that go into making a successful graduate in the jobs market.


For some graduate-level roles, you’ll need a 2:1 degree minimum to even be eligible to apply. A 2:2 or lower restricts your choice and generally makes the process tougher, especially if you are looking for work with big name companies (but don’t panic, there are still jobs out there open to you).

With many of the major recruitment schemes, you don’t necessarily need to have a degree in a specific subject area – English graduates can make able accountants, musicians can move into management.

But it’s not just your degree. Employers may also want to know about your other grades and academic achievements.


Few organisations can afford to carry passengers, so it’s important your CV demonstrates how you go the extra mile in your studies and spare time. That could be through your involvement in a society or the students’ union, a work experience placement you arranged yourself, the lengths you went to research your dissertation and so on.

Less is more – we’d suggest you get very involved in one or two clubs and societies that you join and take a leadership role. Recruiters will be more impressed with a president’s role at one society than being involved at a basic level in four societies

Donna Miller | Enterprise Rent-a-car - European Hr Director


You have to show an aptitude for the job together with a personality and attitude that will complement the company culture. Warning: this isn’t something you should try to fake.

This may be demonstrated by your degree, any relevant experience you’ve got and allowing your personality to shine in an interview. Psychometric tests and assessment centres are increasingly popular with employers to pinpoint the ‘right’ graduate candidates to take to the next stage.


Employers are looking for a mix of technical ability – whether it’s developing databases, calculating co-ordinates or writing reports – and ‘soft’ skills such as teamwork, communication, leadership and commercial awareness.

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    Evidence and examples

    An employer will quickly weed out where you’re blagging or exaggerating the truth in an interview. What they want is real-life evidence and examples that back up what you say. That means:

    • which skills you’ve used, where you’ve applied them and how effective they were 
    • what you’ve done that demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for this area of work – internships, experience, volunteering, extra qualifications
    • evidence that you want to work for them – that means more than a quick skim of their website when researching the company. Delve deeper and come up with a couple of questions that relate to what the organisation actually does and where the job you’re applying for fits into this.

    It’s essential that you are able to articulate your motivations for your given career choice. Some in-depth research in relation to the career and the organisation you are applying for will really help to mark you out from other candidates.

    Laura Yeates | Clifford Chance Llp - Graduate Recruitment And Development Manager

    Attention to detail

    Getting the basics right goes a long way, and getting it wrong can be a real turn-off. We’re talking things like making sure your CV and cover letter is grammatically correct, checking you have the contact’s name and spelling correct, turning up to an interview on time and dressing smartly and appropriately.


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