Understanding what employers need in a graduate: Hard skills | Top Universities

Understanding what employers need in a graduate: Hard skills

By Gordon Scott, SuccessfulGraduate.com

Updated July 6, 2023 Updated July 6, 2023

Written by Successful Graduate

As a university student, you may be familiar with the importance of developing soft skills, but it’s equally important to consider the hard skills that employers are looking for in graduates. Hard skills refer to the technical skills and knowledge required to perform a specific job, and they are often essential for success in many fields.

So, what are the hard skills that employers are looking for in graduates? According to the QS Employer Survey, the top hard skills that employers complain are lacking in graduates include:

  • Digital skills: In today's digital age, employers expect graduates to have a strong understanding of digital technology and the ability to use it effectively. This includes skills such as coding, data analysis, social media management and digital marketing.
  • Foreign language proficiency: With the global economy and increasing internationalisation of business, employers are looking for graduates who can communicate effectively in languages other than English. This includes proficiency in languages such as Spanish, Mandarin and French.
  • Project management: Many jobs require the ability to manage complex projects, including planning, budgeting and scheduling. Employers want graduates who can lead a project team, manage stakeholders, and deliver projects on time and within budget.
  • Analytical skills: With the growing emphasis on data-driven decision-making, employers are looking for graduates who can analyse data, identify trends and make informed decisions based on data insights. This includes skills such as statistical analysis, data visualisation and modelling.
  • Financial literacy: Regardless of your career path, financial literacy is a valuable skill that employers are looking for in graduates. This includes the ability to read financial statements, understand financial markets and manage budgets.
  • Writing proficiency: In many jobs, effective written communication is critical. Employers want graduates who can write clear, concise and well-structured documents, including emails, reports and proposals.
  • Research skills: In fields such as science, technology and academia, research skills are essential. Employers want graduates who can design and execute research projects, analyse data, and draw conclusions based on their findings.
  • Creativity: While often considered a soft skill, creativity is increasingly valued as a hard skill in many fields, including marketing, design and technology. Employers want graduates who can think outside the box, generate new ideas and develop innovative solutions to complex problems.

In addition to the QS Employer Survey, a report by Burning Glass Technologies found that employers are also looking for graduates with technical skills in areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

While these hard skills are highly valued by employers, it’s important to remember that they can vary depending on your chosen industry and career path. For example, if you’re interested in a career in engineering, employers may be looking for graduates with skills in areas such as CAD design, 3D printing and prototyping.

Ultimately, developing a combination of both soft and hard skills can greatly enhance your employability prospects and help you stand out to potential employers. So, as you continue your studies, be sure to consider how you can develop these valuable hard skills alongside your academic achievements and soft skills. 

This may involve taking relevant courses, participating in internships or work placements, or pursuing extracurricular activities that allow you to develop and demonstrate your skills. By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to meet the demands of the job market and achieve success in your chosen field.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov

This article was originally published in June 2023 . It was last updated in July 2023

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