Guest blogger Angela McCarthy gives the low down on what employers want in graduates

June 2, 2016

Angela McCarthy is an experienced career counsellor, freelance writer, small business owner – a parent and grandparent – with a passion for careers and a fascination with the turbulence and change occurring in the 21st century world of work.

What do employers want in graduates?

There is a lot of talk about the future of work and the furiously fast changes occurring to careers and the workplace.  So what skills are needed by your teen to become employable?

Alongside academic prowess, employers are looking for well-rounded graduates who are proactive, collaborative and resilient and keen to contribute and flourish in the workplace.

Employers say …

Vodafone New Zealand graduate manager Anna McHardy looks for adaptable graduates.

“We look for graduates who are curious, quick to learn, resilient and can adapt well to change.”

Attitude is everything, says FCB Auckland account director Nick Bell.

“Being positive, enthusiastic and willing to learn will take you a long way. In our industry you have to be curious and want to know what makes people tick.”

Jenene Crossan, CEO of, and founder of NZGirl and, says she looks for graduates who want to be useful. Jenene points out that parents can play a large part in developing that attitude in their offspring.

“Young people need to understand what it means to be useful, to want to help. Encourage this before they get to university, so when they leave university and go into the workforce they understand what it means to have a work ethic. It will make them stand out head and shoulders above everyone else.”

People need to be lifelong learners because of the huge breadth of skill sets needed in today’s digital landscape, says Digital Arts Network strategy director Stephanie Creasy.

“Whether on a specialist or generalist path, it is important to continuously learn. You can’t stand still and risk being left behind as the landscape matures and changes.”

AUT Edge Award

AUT's Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack has coined the term ‘C skills’ to summarise what employers are looking for in tertiary graduates. These skills include communication, collaboration, creativity, curiosity, co-operation, caring and sense of community.

In recognition of the importance of these employability skills, AUT has launched the AUT Edge Award, a co-curricular award designed to help students develop their employability skills and make the most of volunteering and leadership activities.

AUT Employability and Careers director Anna Williams says the award will be formally recognised on the AUT academic transcript of successful participants.

“We know from talking to employers that the C skills are highly sought after. This award is building those skills in our students from day one, along with all the other activities run by the Employability and Careers team, such as speaker series, career fairs and employability workshops.”

My five cents worth: students tend to only look at advertisements as their primary source for jobs. We know that between 65-80% of opportunities are never advertised. Employers tend to hire through their networks first, they like to hire from within, then networking and only advertise as a last resort.

Students need:

To be resilient and accept rejections

To research companies for opportunities

Develop their LinkedIn profile and follow preferred employers

Attend relevant conferences and other networking opportunities like career fairs.

As parents you may be able to put your child in touch with your own networks and help them with interview techniques. I've encouraged my Sam to be himself in interviews. He is not a particularly extrovert candidate but I think it is more important to be authentic.

It is also important to prepare a great CV and to practise interviewing skills. Workshops in these skills are all available through the Employability Lab at AUT and are a compulsory part of the Edge Award.

As parents we can give our children the edge by encouraging them to take up the opportunities above.

Subscribe Now
Enter your email address