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5 Tips to Improve Graduate Employability

Are you a recent graduate looking for your first job? Find out the top employability skills companies are looking for and tips to give you an edge over your peers.

In today’s highly competitive job market the pressure is on to make the best possible first impression and stand apart from your peers. With hundreds of graduates with similar qualifications and credits applying for the same jobs, it’s crucial to have something that gives you an edge and makes an employer hire you over other candidates.

In this blog we’ll cover:

  • What is employability
  • Top employability skills
  • Five tips to improve graduate employability

What is employability?

The Cambridge dictionary defines employability as ‘the skills and abilities that allow you to be employed’. This includes a mix of academic qualifications, soft skills and the right attitude that make a candidate most likely to be hired by an employer. During the hiring process, recruiters assess candidates to determine what they can offer beyond the qualifications listed in their CVs. This is because the qualification requirements for most entry-level roles are quite broad - often listing a 2.1 degree in a particular subject. This means a lot of candidates qualify for the initial eligibility criteria.

Top employability skills

Here are some of the top employability skills that companies look at when hiring recent graduates:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving skills
  • Time management
  • Commercial awareness
  • Teamwork
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Confidence
  • Organisational skills
  • Leadership and people management
  • Creative thinking

5 tips to improve graduate employability

1. Take an online course

Online courses are a great way to learn a new skill or improve on an existing one. There are several online training providers who offer free or discounted courses. Topics range broadly from technical courses in coding and software development to business administration, design and more. LinkedIn Learning whilst not free is an excellent resource with a large number of interactive courses and training modules.

Remember, any course you do doesn’t have to relate to your career. Often, anything new that you learn gives you transferrable skills that are bound to come in handy in future. Also, employers are more interested to see that you’ve been proactive in reskilling and upskilling yourself. They’re less interested in the actual course that you’ve done. Of course, it’s a bonus if your new skills complement your new role. For example – if you’re considering in career in IT, a course in coding will be useful or if a career in finance is what you’re after, refreshing your Excel skills is a good idea.

2. Volunteering opportunities

Volunteering is another excellent way to improve your employability. As a recent graduate, employers don’t expect your CV to reflect a lot of work experience. However, volunteering gives you the chance to pick up some great transferrable skills and the chance to draw on your experiences during job interviews.

Obviously, a volunteering opportunity in a related industry or role will be an advantage. But you can benefit equally from an opportunity that lets you develop important soft skills like leadership and problem solving.

Consider joining clubs and societies in your university. For example – your university’s student magazine or a sports or drama club. Taking an active role in the running of these clubs is a great way to meet new people and learn and build on your soft skills. It also demonstrates a well-rounded range of interests outside academics.

Read: Why are extracurricular activities important to employers.  

3. Learn a new language

With communication becoming a key factor driving the global economy today, language skills are more important than ever before. In this climate, learning a new language can be an added advantage. Consider this – the company you want to apply to has operations in two or more European countries and works closely with European clients. Being fluent in a language like French, German or Spanish will no doubt improve your employability.

There are several online resources for learning languages. The most common one is duolingo, offering a free and wide selection of languages.

4. Review your social media presence

An estimated 91% of UK employers are currently using social media for recruitment, and 21% of recruiters admit rejecting an applicant after looking them up on Facebook. If you’re a grad looking to step into your first role, make sure you review and (if required) edit your social media presence.

Remember to keep your profile professional and updated. This includes having an appropriate photo that is preferably consistent across all your social channels. Also, consider which parts of your profile you want to be visible to employers. Adjust your security preferences accordingly, so professional contacts don’t accidentally stumble across photos that you’d rather keep private.

Further, avoid using inappropriate language or sharing controversial content. A good rule of thumb is to think of your social account as a scrapbook that you take to an interview. If there’s anything on there that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with your interviewer, delete it.

Finally, optimise social media for your job search. Set up your LinkedIn account (if you don’t have one already) and make sure you update it regularly. With 722 million members, LinkedIn is the biggest platform for job seekers to find jobs.

Read our tips to find jobs on social media.

5. Do your homework

This means both drafting the perfect CV and cover letter but also tailoring them to each job you’re applying to. Read our tips on how to write a CV with no experience and how to write a cover letter. Keep on top of the latest trends in CV formats, lengths and styles. Some roles encourage you to get creative with your CVs. For example – if you’re applying for a web design role, consider adding a QR code on your CV. Recruiters can use the QR code to be directed to an online portfolio of your work.

This is a great way of showcasing your creations in a cool way that is bound to get a second glance from an employer.

Also, make sure you do your research and read up on the company you’re applying to as well as the industry they’re in. No one’s expecting you to be a subject matter expert but you should be able to have a basic conversation about industry trends or some of the recent projects that a company is doing. This shows the employer that you’ve invested time and effort into your application.

Where possible, add a reference to the company in your cover letter itself. If you’ve read about the organisation’s impressive DE&I stats, maybe mention it as one of the reasons for your interest in applying. Or if there was something in the job description that caught your eye, make a reference to that.

For example – ‘Your job description encouraged applicants to apply even if they didn’t fulfil every single criteria. I found this very reassuring as it showed an openness to consider applicants from various levels.’

Everyone likes to be acknowledged. Just be subtle and you should be expecting a call from the hiring manager soon!

Are you a recent graduate looking to launch your career in business or tech? Apply to the FDM Graduate Programme today.

About Preeta Ghoshal

Preeta is a content writer with over 10 years’ experience across print, digital and broadcast media. She has worked extensively in multi-media content creation. Her work reflects a mix of subject matter research and storytelling to produce content that is both informative and easily digestible. She is presently providing content support to each of the FDM programmes and the wider marketing team.


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