What are UK Employers Looking for from University Graduates?
This time last year, I had just handed in my Sociology dissertation at Oxford Brookes University and was applying to jobs across Oxfordshire, looking to start a role where I could progress long-term.
Coming out of university, there is so much information available about what to do next, the types of roles you should be applying for and how to make yourself employable. So, as someone who has recently been promoted 11 months into a graduate program here at Thompson & Terry Recruitment, I thought I would share the tips I have used which have led to success so far in my career.
Just to stress, when it comes to graduate roles, there is no right or wrong answer and specific roles may be looking for certain requirements, but the below tips have really helped me post-graduation and can often be applied across sector!
Things to consider:
Can you quantify your success?
I was talking to a friend just yesterday who graduated with a first-class biomedical science degree last year and has been applying for scientist roles whilst working at Waitrose alongside education since 2018. They recently received the fantastic news that following a rigorous interview process, they have been offered the job!
Feedback from the interview was that it was a very tight decision between them and another (very similar) candidate but they had been successful simply because of the fact that they had received 2 promotions during his part-time work at Waitrose which quantified his hard-working drive.
Promotions are such a great way to prove that you are capable of progressing, you have performed well and that your efforts have been noticed by a previous manager so are always really important to highlight on any CV.
What numbers can you put on your CV?
There is a common misconception in the world of recruitment that numbers should only be used by salespeople but I don’t think this could be more wrong! Graduate programs are so competitive and often decisions made by hiring managers really do come down to the finer details.
Imagine we have two candidates applying for the same graduate position within an e-commerce business. Neither have sector-relevant experience, both graduated from the same course, at the same university with the same grade and scored highly at the interview stage. The only difference is that one candidate has 4 years of longevity within the same employer and used phrases such as “served 80+ customers per day” on their CV whereas the other simply stated that they had worked in a retail store.
Put yourself into the mind of the hiring manager. Who would you employ?
Do you have the right mindset?
One of the biggest things that graduate programs across the country have to offer is an opportunity to not only gain tangible working experience but also to carry on learning!
Speaking to the fantastic Mike Foster (Entrepreneurs Mentor) and Ian Farrington (business trainer, coach and consultant) yesterday, it became really apparent that lots of people have a very clear passion for what they do or are looking to do but often lack an obvious willingness to learn.
Coming out of university, you are unlikely to be equipped with all of the skills that you need to head straight into your dream role, and if you are a graduate program is perhaps not right for you. What employers are looking for from university graduates is evidence of a growth mindset and a willingness to admit that there is lots you can bring to the business but also lots you need to learn.
This can be difficult to balance so it might be useful to take a look into the company’s culture through their website and social media platforms before applying to roles and make sure that what the role has to offer aligns with the level of learning, development and progression that you’re looking for.
To summarise, there is lots to think about if you are a recent graduate looking for that first step in your career. In order to make yourself really employable, you should be considering what you’re looking for in terms of a future career and seek to join a business that will give you longevity, tangible experience, and allow you to work towards a promotion!