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Just finished college? Here are some tips for that first big job hunt

Employers are quite clear on what they believe Ireland’s students need to improve on – including their communication skills and being able to work on their own, reveals Mark Mitchell.

Image: Sam Boal/

THE CONCEPT OF ‘employability’ involves developing a set of core skills and competencies that make a person more employable.

Employability skills are highly valued by employers – often because it is these skills that enable fresh graduates to become effective in the workplace quickly.

A third-level qualification, in isolation, does not translate into work-readiness without a student or graduate developing a series of hard and soft skills which they can layer on top of their academic qualifications and use in the workplace.

Gradireland’s research has discovered where the hard and soft skills deficits are, from the point of view of employers, and outlines how graduates can bridge any skills gap they have which might hinder their future employment prospects.

Soft skills  

Soft skills are those everyday, people-oriented traits that enable someone to work, communicate and deliver effectively.


As in previous similar surveys, the greatest number of employers (42%) believe that graduate recruits lack effective communication skills.

About 33% of graduate recruiters surveyed also said that not being able to effectively manage their own learning was another key soft skill that was lacking in today’s graduate recruits.

Other areas where skills deficiencies were identified included working independently (31%), while just over 25% of employers felt that problem solving, motivation and being flexible in the workplace were issues that graduates needed to address.

How should graduates develop their employability skills?  

In terms of addressing these soft-skill deficits, an internship or work placement was considered by 77% of employers to be the most effective method of gaining the requisite employability skills.


In addition to work experience, international experience gained through work or study abroad was judged to be effective by 41% of employers.

Other effective methods of building these core set of skills included taking part in team-based exercises at university, showing leadership or taking part in team sports.

These findings reinforce the message from careers services nationwide that students should engage widely during their time at college in order to effectively build their skills.

Hard skills  

Effective working disciplines such as being organised in your approach to work and your own personal administration were identified as the number one hard skill lacking in graduates, with 35% of employers surveyed identifying this as a problem.

This is up from 23% in last year’s gradireland research.

Other hard skills cited as lacking include project management (33%), while just under 30% of graduate employers highlighted poor writing skills.

Just over a quarter of employers view the lack of fluency in a foreign language as a challenge when looking for graduate recruits, while deficits were also identified in areas like leadership, IT skills and numeracy skills.

So the message is clear for students who want to give themselves an edge when it comes to competing for graduate jobs – develop or brush up on these skills (and make sure you can prove your aptitude either in your application or at interview) and you’ll be ahead of the competition.

How Irish students compare internationally  

Despite highlighting the skills deficits outlined above, graduate employers are still highly positive overall when asked about the graduates from Irish higher-education institutes (HEIs) that join their organisations.

As an overall indicator of where employers believe Irish graduates stand in comparison to their international counterparts, 56% believe there is no discernible difference in quality between graduates from Ireland and those from other countries.


About 34% believe they are generally of a higher calibre, while only 10% felt Irish graduates compared unfavourably which is good news for Ireland’s third level students.

Mark Mitchell is Director at gradireland.


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