Learning Outcome

  • Investigate skills and attributes required for employment
  • Assess and compare personal skills to identify development needs
  • Develop an action plan for program and co-curricular activities to enhance employment opportunities


Understanding employer needs

Employers are increasingly looking for graduates who can demonstrate generic skills (sometimes referred to as ‘soft’ skills, professional skills or transferable skills) and practical experience in addition to subject and technical knowledge.

Generic skills are a range of abilities or competencies that you develop through your life through education, training, work experience, interests and extracurricular activities.

It is important that students are aware of the skills employers want when they are deciding which graduates to hire (including those specific to their discipline).

Suggested Activities and discussion

Suggested activities – What Employers Want

  1. What are employers looking for? – Students to brainstorm what employers are looking for in students?
    Discussion:Employers are looking for a combination of:

    • Qualifications (and grades),
    • Degree subject knowledge and skills
    • Motivation (interest in a particular industry, role),
    • Personal qualities (e.g flexibility, creative, emotional intelligence),
    • Practical experience (Work integrated learning, volunteer work or general work experience)
    • Generic skills.

    It is interesting to note that an RMIT Graduate employment study, found in a survey of nearly 400 employers and 1000 students that employment history is the most commonly mentioned item that employers are looking for in addition to the degree. Most employers are seeking a well-rounded candidate, mentioning they look for extracurricular activities and volunteering. By contrast, graduates believe that employers are looking for more direct experience or appropriate qualifications (and good grades). They are much less likely to believe that employers look for extracurricular activities.

  2. Generic skills - This topic will focus on generic skills. Provide students with a definition – Ask students to brainstorm which generic skills they think employers consider most important when recruiting graduates.


    A considerable amount of work has been published which lists the many generic skills that employers look for. The Employability Skills Framework 2 lists the following skills as the top skills that employers are looking for:

    • Written and verbal communication
    • Planning and organising
    • Teamwork
    • Self-management
    • Technology
    • Problem solving
    • Learning
    • Initiative and enterprise, entrepreneurship skills are also often discussed in the employability literature.

    This provides a general list of what employers are looking for. Specific disciplines or individual employers may be seeking other skills and it is important that students identify these when exploring selection criteria in relevant job ads.

  3. Engineering employer video – Students studying engineering may view a video on soft skills and listen to employers talking about what skills are important in their profession.

    • How important do the employers consider soft skills to be? How do they justify this?
    • What skills do they mention in the video?
    • What are the impacts on companies of employees not having the necessary soft skills?
  4. Start building skills - Students to complete an online skills audit and skills action plan – see building your skills’ topic.

Further Resources/reading

  1. Employability skills framework
  2. Core skills for work developmental framework


Face to face


1 hour