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Understanding employability

The graduate job market is extremely competitive but you can help yourself to stand out from the crowd by developing and demonstrating the kinds of skills and qualities which employers really value.

Put simply, employability is the ability to:

  • get a job at graduate level after leaving university
  • keep that job
  • progress in that job
  • get a better job
  • get a different job (career change)
  • create your own job (self-employment)

Employability skills are the skills that employers look for alongside academic achievements when selecting graduates for employment. The employability skills the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has identified as essential include:

  • Self-management
  • Teamworking
  • Business and customer awareness
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication and literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Application of information technology

The resources in Standing out will give you an in-depth understanding of these employability skills and the positive attitudes and attributes that will enable you to initiate and maintain a rewarding graduate career.

To get started, listen to what four senior employers told us about their career journeys and the skills and qualities that have been most important in their success.

You can get more advice on what employers want from graduates and what impresses them most in, What recruiters say and How to stand out.


A set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace – to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy.

CBI/Universities UK, Future Fit report, 2009

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