If you’re a recent graduate, applying for your first job can seem like a Catch 22 situation. Most job adverts typically list ‘minimum requirements’ for skills and experiences but if you’re applying for your first role, where would you have acquired them? With an increasing number of companies using automation in their recruitment processes, chances are an AI-generated applicant tracking system scans hundreds of CVs looking for pre-set keywords that typically include the skills and experience the role requires. Gartner research reveals that 38% of companies are focusing their AI efforts on talent acquisition. If you’re applying to your first ever role, this can put you at a particular disadvantage. So, what can you do to beat the system and bag that interview?
In this blog we’ll look at 6 top skills that recruiters want to see on your CV and show you how to present yourself in the best possible light. But how do you list skills on a CV if you haven’t got enough experience?
Cite examples of project-based work or part-time roles
If you are a recent graduate, then you likely acquired the bulk of your skills and experience from your years in college. It’s a good idea to mention any project-based work or part-time roles you’ve had on your CV. You can use these examples to demonstrate how you may have used certain skills in a practical context.
For example – if the job description requires proficiency in Excel, you can mention how you used it to record and analyse data and incorporated graphics to enhance reports for your college dissertation.
Match the language of the job description
Pay attention to the language used in job descriptions. A good rule of thumb is to reference certain catchphrases and keywords used in the role outline in your own application. For example – if a role requires ‘strong research skills’, demonstrate how you leveraged those skills to achieve a result. For example –
Published an article for my college newsletter on the 5 Top Companies Hiring Graduates. Conducted extensive research to source statistics and relevant case studies to corroborate the piece.
Employers list this skill to find candidates with an ability to source and analyse relevant information from multiple sources and verifying the authenticity of the sources.
Hard Skills and soft skills
You can use your CV to list both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are the ones that you acquire usually at the end of a formal training programme or as part of your experience on the job. They can include knowledge of using certain software and systems, proficiency in the use of specific methodologies; knowledge of using certain hardware and more.
Soft skills on the other hand are perceived as social skills that you need to thrive in any role. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. And 89% said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lack critical soft skills.
Skills for a Tech Role
Roles in tech are as diverse as the sector itself requiring a range of different skills. However, according to a report by Tech Nation, data and architecture are the most in-demand tech skills across all tech jobs, after recording a 1000% increase in demand between 2019 and 2021.
While a genuine interest in IT will naturally lend itself well to your suitability for a role in the sector, you don’t need a technical background for it. Having a STEM degree is not a pre-requisite to landing a role in tech. In fact, there are several alternative ways of acquiring ‘tech skills’ including:
- Online courses and certifications
- IT apprenticeships
- Technical Graduate programmes
Besides the hard technical skills here are some of the other skills that recruiters look for when hiring for IT roles.
Top 6 Skills to include on your CV
IT at its core is a collaborative industry with multiple moving parts. So, the success of a project depends on several teams working together. This is why communication is an important skill if you’re applying for a role in IT. Whether you’re liaising with colleagues on a project or providing tech updates to stakeholders within the business, effective communication is a key skill that you need, to be successful in your role.
Most employers value communication in IT roles because they want applicants who are able to convey and explain technical issues to non-technical audiences in plain, jargon-free terms.
It’s relatively easier to demonstrate your communication skills when writing a cover letter or answering specific questions in an application or interview. The key is to follow the 7 Cs of communication –
However, when your CV is the only document that you have to hook a recruiter, you should think strategically. In addition to mentioning how you used your communication skills, show them how effectively you can communicate.
For example – when listing an academic or volunteering position, consider how clear and concise you can make your description.
September 2021 to August 2022
Secretary of University Drama Club
- Worked with the club’s committee to plan and agree on yearly event calendar including the annual performance
- Promoted and managed all communication on the club’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts
- Arranged for pre and post-show features of the annual performance in the university newsletter as well as two graduate websites.
This sounds like a self-explanatory skill in that obviously employers want someone who can solve problems. But what companies want to see is the approach that an applicant takes to problem solving and their ability to view an issue from different perspectives. You can demonstrate a logical approach, an analytical approach or a unique creative approach.
To be an effective problem solver you need to be curious, persevering, adaptable, creative and capable of lateral thinking. In order to solve a problem, you first need to be able to identify the issue.
You can provide an instance of how you encountered a problem whilst working on a group project in university and the steps you took to solve it. A good approach is using the STAR method to describe your experience. What is the STAR Method? STAR, an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result is a structured method to describe how you responded to specific situations in the past and the results of your actions.
Let’s consider this example to demonstrate how you leveraged your problem-solving skills to resolve an issue –
May 2021 to September 2021
Volunteer at Local Foodbank
- Managed inventory at my local food bank
- Storage area was damaged due to rain and a new drop off point was required immediately
- Reached out to the local branch of a supermarket and set up temporary storage there for two months
- Communicated change of location on the neighbourhood Facebook page
- This ensured delivery chain remained unbroken
Providing real examples of a project or any work that you’ve done is a great way to demonstrate your core competencies.
Commercial awareness is your knowledge about the company to which you’re applying or the sector in which it operates. Employers want to gauge an applicant’s interest and understanding of the business. Again, it is easier to demonstrate your commercial awareness in a cover letter and when answering specific questions in an application.
In a CV you can present commercial awareness through examples of any part-time work or independent research you may have done that’s related to the role.
Pro Tip: following the company’s social media feeds and any related news publications will help you stay updated.
Most roles require basic computer skills. Naturally, these vary based on the type of job. For instance, the digital skills that a role in finance requires will be different to those of a software developer or systems administrator. Hardware skills refer to the physical handling of a machine whilst Software skills relate to computer programs and applications.
Depending on the job, IT recruiters may ask for either hardware or software skills or a mix of both. Common computer skills listed by employers include:
- Fluency in programming languages – like Python, C++
- Systems administration
- Proficiency in Excel
If you’re considering a career in IT, it’s useful to get an idea about the top 5 most in demand tech skills in 2023 and try and upskill yourself before you start the application process. This could be anything from taking an online course in coding to brushing up on your Excel skills. You could also find out if your university has any volunteering opportunities in its IT department. These can be valuable experiences to include as examples of your computer skills on your CV.
Time management is arguably one of the most important skills in a 24X7 industry like tech. In order to be successful you need to be able to complete tasks to hard deadlines whilst also maintaining your work-life balance. Employers want to see an applicant’s ability to organise their work in a way that enables timely completion.
You can demonstrate your time management skills with an example of a time when you had to balance more than one project and successfully completed both.
For example –
Completed my final year dissertation whilst working part-time as a social media assistant at a local real estate agency. With effective time management and prioritisation, successfully submitted my dissertation and grew the agency’s Instagram following by X%.
Teamwork makes the dream work – there’s a reason for this cliché: it’s true! Specially in IT where most small, medium and large projects require collaboration between teams. It’s important to be able to work together cohesively in order to reach a common goal. Teamwork skills can be developed through a various jobs as well as volunteering experiences – whether from working together with your colleagues on a group project at uni, or being part of a sports team.
Here’s an example to describe your teamwork skills:
February 2022 to August 2022
Launched university newsletter
Launched quarterly newsletter with four batchmates. Worked together to source content, database of contacts and agree design, sign offs and timelines. With effective teamwork we successfully delegated different roles and successfully sent out the first two editions of the newsletter.
To Sum Up
It’s a great time to join the tech sector which is continuing to grow at an exponential rate with no signs of slowing down. You can come from a purely non-technical background and then decide you want to change careers after graduating.