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What are graduate recruiters looking for?

Published: Monday, 15 April 2013

At the recent Targetjobs awards ceremony, leading graduate recruiters discussed what students and graduates need to do to make their applications stand out.

Research suggests that students remain worried about their employment prospects after graduation with over a fifth of those surveyed suggesting they may look for work overseas.

However, graduate recruiters suggest they are increasing the number of opportunities so what exactly do they want from prospective applicants?

The main advantage, unsurprisingly, is work experience. However, your chances of gaining a job with a specific employer increase greatly if you have secured an internship with them in the past. Graduate recruiter Miller say:

People need to be more creative. Getting on an internship or a work placement is now essential. The days of being able to come out with a first or 2:1 and automatically go into a graduate job are long gone. Competition now is so strong that being involved in a leadership role in activities on campus or having internships under your belt will really help set you apart.

However you can still secure a graduate role without work experience as long as you have maximised the other opportunities at university to gain the skills graduate recruiters are looking for. Activities such as leadership and positions of responsibility in societies or working as a course representative give a wide range of skills and resonate well with graduate employers. Emma Judge of BP says:

You may have plenty of other experience that's relevant. So it may be a case of talking to your careers service about how best to portray that in a relevant way.

Employers also warn about blanket applications that are not tailored to the job you are applying for. Success is about understanding the job role and the company and demonstrating this in your application. Jacqui Bernuzzi of Baker and McKenzie says:

We tend to find the better applications come from people who have really focused on where they want to go and why. These candidates will research the organisation to see that it matches their values and outlook; they will engage with it at campus events and then tailor their applications accordingly.

The most important thing is that you see your degree as part of a process and look for opportunities from the first year so that you can develop and evidence your skills when the time comes to find a graduate job. For advice on planning your Career drop-in to the Careers Centre. Our expertise is your career advantage. 

Source: Guardian Careers