The 5 Transferable Graduate Skills Employers Look For

2 Minutes

We’ve all seen the memes and posts on social media. The format often goes like this: no job ...

By Pareto Team


We’ve all seen the memes and posts on social media. The format often goes like this: no job because of no experience—no experience because of no job. Although it can often seem to be the case, transferable graduate skills can make all the difference when it comes to securing that first role which will allow you to kick-start your career.

Transferable skills, in short, are the abilities, professional competencies, and life experiences that accompany you across every career transition. There’s no doubt that you’ve developed a range of transferable graduate skills employers look for throughout your academic career.

So, how do you recognise what your transferable skills are? How should you refer to them on your CV? How do you communicate them to your professional network or an interviewer?

In this guide, we’ll share our list of the five most desirable transferable skills you will have gained in your course of study. These are professional competencies that should not only be highlighted in your application materials but will set you in good stead in the job application process throughout your career.

Our Top 5 Transferable Graduate Skills

No matter which field your studies were focused on, the transferable skills you’ve developed will help to set you apart from other graduates and thrive in your chosen career. The following skills are in high demand across various sectors, and the good news is that you’ll have already developed a strong foundation in them.

1. Writing and Communication

With emojis, Snapchat and Instagram stories becoming a preferred method of communication amongst many younger professionals and ChatGPT threatening to up-end the writing that students do for their coursework, it’s perhaps unsurprising that 80% of educators have noted that university students lack the ability to communicate effectively with staff, and 79% note struggles in communicating with peers. 

As a graduate, you must continue to hone the writing and communication skills you’ve refined to hit word counts and clearly argue your point in coursework since, regardless of the field you work in, you’ll likely need them. 

Employers aren’t searching for the next Shakespeare—unless, of course, you’re looking to become a copywriter — instead, they’re searching for candidates that can do a handful of business-critical tasks well: 

  • Professionally and efficiently communicate. Whether you’re working with other businesses or customers, you will often need to express your requirements via different channels, such as email. Poor grammar, spelling, or punctuation can harm your professional reputation, but understanding the basics means you know when to distinguish between occasions for formal and colloquial language and can always make a good impression.

  • Prepare reports. Getting buy-in from executive and senior leadership staff is vital in the business environment, and knowing how to structure a report and concisely write up your success stories is an essential transferable skill that many professionals struggle with. 

  • Listen actively. Writing and communication skills aren’t just an excellent way to express yourself effectively—they’re vital in a consultative sales environment, where active listening can help you to identify a lead’s pain points and seal the deal. Experience in writing clearly and concisely can help you to ask better questions and read between the lines.

It’s vital to highlight your writing and communication abilities on your CV. These skills are highly valuable to employers and crucial for success at senior levels of employment, where you’ll often be expected to present your work and comment on ROI for clients and internal stakeholders.

2. Teamwork

Regarding career readiness and employability skills, working well in collaboration with a team is perhaps one of the most valuable professional competencies to possess. All employers expect their staff to be team players, regardless of whether they prefer to work independently or not—and we’ve found this applies to all roles and industries. 

Throughout your studies, you will have had opportunities to work as part of a team—not only for coursework tasks but within seminars and societies, too. These group tasks will have helped you to develop a number of skills, but it’s important to know how to communicate them to an interviewer: 

  • Collaboration and cooperation. Working well with a team and aligning on tasks to ensure that you can effectively achieve your goals is crucial within any workplace. Even if your role sees you largely working independently, it’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself playing part of a team whose members all bring different strengths, and being able to leverage your colleagues’ different competencies to succeed will be vital to your long-term career success.

  • Delegating tasks and negotiating. Being able to lead a team effectively doesn’t just mean that you’ll help out with your share of the tasks—it means effectively delegating tasks and handling scheduling conflicts. If you’ve been able to evidence an ability to negotiate with your fellow students to ensure that group coursework tasks are completed on time, you can set yourself apart from candidates that haven’t had these experiences.

  • Conflict resolution. Ensuring that a team works well together is an essential aspect of many jobs, and being able to handle disagreements and effectively mediate between members of a team whilst remaining calm is a vital transferable skill.

When you’re listing teamwork as a skill on your CV—or discussing it with an interviewer—it’s vital to explore how you impacted the success of that team rather than focusing too much on what tasks other team members completed. Whilst celebrating your collective success, highlighting in precise detail how your efforts helped to achieve that success will enable your employers to see how effectively you can build professional relationships. 

3. Presenting

While it’s more common in client-facing sectors such as sales or marketing, most professionals will need to present at some point throughout their careers. Whether getting buy-in for a new resource, technology, or tool from the CFO or illustrating ROI to a client, presenting is an essential aspect of career readiness. 

The ability to present is also increasingly sought after amongst the other employability skills that recruiters and hiring managers look for in management or executive candidates. As a result, being comfortable with presenting your ideas to internal and external stakeholders is quickly becoming one of the most critical professional competencies to develop.

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to deliver a full presentation during your degree, you’ll have had several opportunities to exercise your communication skills by offering your point of view in lectures and seminars. There are many ways to hone your existing presentation skills: 

  • Attend a workshop, join a club, or take a training session. Many organisations offer training sessions specifically aimed at enhancing graduates’ presentation skills. 

  • Watch and learn from expert public speakers. From Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs, there are many examples available on platforms such as YouTube, which will allow you to analyse and understand some key aspects of crafting a compelling presentation.

  • Seek feedback from a mentor, friend, or family member. You can always ask your peers to watch you practice your presentations and offer feedback on areas for improvement.

When discussing your presentation skills during the job application process—or in the interview environment—don’t limit yourself to simply discussing the presentations themselves. One of the skills employers look for is the ability to prepare for presentations through meticulous planning and organisation. As a result, discussing previous presentations is another way to illustrate yourself as a well-rounded candidate.

4. Project Management

Managing your time and workload to maximise efficiency and productivity is imperative in the modern workplace. Whilst you’re likely to have a number of personal tasks to schedule and complete, you’ll also be part of projects which span various departments and have multiple professionals working on them—and you don’t want to be the one that drops the ball. 

As a graduate, you’re no stranger to the concept of project management. You’ll have run a tight ship to meet coursework and exam deadlines, so there are several examples you can leverage to evidence your project management competencies: 

  • Explain how you overcame obstacles to complete projects on time. Fast-paced workplaces will often see you working reactively and acting quickly to respond to urgent client requests, making proactive scheduling and meticulous planning of your other tasks all the more important.

  • Highlight extracurricular activities which allowed you to exercise your project management skills. If you were involved in facilitating any events or supporting volunteers in a coordination role, you could highlight how you were able to plan and deliver these projects on time and within budget.

  • Get more practice with personal projects. If you’re struggling to gain experience in project management, you can always do some research on the best practices used across the industry, such as Kanban project management, and use these to complete a personal project on an area of interest.

By explaining to employers how you’ve been able to organise your resources and prioritise your time to achieve the best results, you can prove that you’re able to understand and respect the various skills that go into completing a large-scale project and contribute your expertise to ensure that deadlines are met.

5. Research and Critical Thinking

Like any course, the purpose of a university degree is to explore and understand the subject matter in detail. As a result, you’re already an expert in research and critical thinking—increasingly in-demand graduate skills among business leaders. 

Research and critical thinking are crucial for analysing and interpreting complex information, identifying problems in processes, and developing practical solutions. Your degree may have seen you incorporating abstract concepts into your work, conducting your own first-hand research to generate data, or evaluating sources via literature reviews, and many professional roles will see you critically appraising different solutions—such as in the planning of a marketing campaign. 

Luckily, when it comes to evidencing your research ability and critical thinking skills, you’ll have plenty of examples to refer to: 

  • Academic projects and coursework. When demonstrating research and critical thinking skills, why not focus on what you’ve spent the last three years doing? You could, for example, discuss your dissertation, illustrating how you gathered, analysed and reported on data and overcame challenges. Review your process with the recruiter to highlight your ability to reach an informed opinion by evaluating all available evidence.

  • Sharing your passions. Although they might seem irrelevant if you’ve been blogging or vlogging about your interests, that can show an interviewer that you can conduct research, develop your opinions, and offer insights.

  • Volunteering your research skills. Many organisations require support with their data analysis and research, meaning that graduates have the opportunity to gain deeper skills in this area and apply them to the professional environment whilst supporting a cause that makes a difference within their community or industry.

You should be drawing on your critical thinking and research skills in all of your job applications and interviews, discussing with recruiters and interviewers how you approach complex issues through evaluation and reasoning. Amongst the professional competencies addressed in this list, research and critical thinking are perhaps the most technical, but—as you’ll find—they’re crucial to bring into the modern workplace.

Graduate Skills Summary

In this guide, we’ve seen how these five essential transferable skills can help you to excel in your chosen career. 

Strong writing and communication skills are vital if you’re looking to express yourself professionally, prepare reports, and actively listen in a consultative sales environment. 

Alongside this, the ability to work effectively as part of a team, delegate tasks, and resolve conflicts demonstrates valuable teamwork competencies. Presenting ideas confidently and effectively is increasingly sought after in various sectors and should be developed through training, observation, and seeking feedback. 

Similarly, project management skills, whether honed through coursework or extracurricular activities, are crucial for efficient time and resource management. The research and critical thinking abilities that you’ve developed throughout your university studies are highly valued for analysing complex information and problem-solving. 

By highlighting these skills and providing specific examples in the interview environment, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from competitors, positioning yourself as a well-rounded candidate ready to contribute to the modern workplace.

Enhance Graduate Skills and Realise Your Potential With Pareto

At Pareto, we’ve been passionate about connecting ambitious graduates with cutting-edge organisations for over 25 years. We’re market leaders in assessing, placing and training candidates, ensuring they have the in-demand competencies to enable long-term career success, no matter their specialism. Contact our consultants today to learn how we can help you to take that crucial first step in your career. 

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