Employability skills survey

In 2015 we surveyed hundreds of employers to identify the top skills and attributes they look for in students and new graduates.

The goals of the survey were to:

  • identify the top ten skills and attributes which employers look for in new graduates and students
  • explore the level of competency expected for each of these skills and attributes at the time of hiring
  • identify employer satisfaction with the levels of competency that Victoria University of Wellington students and graduates demonstrate for the skills and attributes identified as the most important

Wellington School of Business and Government also commissioned part of the research to survey employers about the most desirable skills and attributes when specifically recruiting commerce graduates.

We received 346 eligible responses from local, regional, national, and international organisations. The respondent population consisted of 61% private, 28% public, and 11% non-profit organisations. To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest response set of an employability skills survey in New Zealand and Australia to date.

Top 10 skills and attributes sought after in university graduates

All respondents:

  1. Work ethic
  2. Verbal communication skills
  3. Energy and enthusiasm
  4. Analytical and critical thinking
  5. Problem solving
  6. Team work
  7. Interpersonal skills
  8. Written communication skills
  9. Self-management
  10. Initiative and enterprise

Respondents recruiting graduates with Commerce majors:

  1. Verbal communication skills
  2. Work ethic
  3. Analytical and critical thinking
  4. Interpersonal skills
  5. Team work
  6. Problem solving
  7. Energy and enthusiasm
  8. Written communication skills
  9. Initiative and enterprise
  10. Self-management

Employers commented on the importance of graduates demonstrating a genuine interest in the work of the organisation and good understanding of the industry sector.

They also considered that extracurricular activities and life experiences such as living independently or overseas travel were important. Employers seek evidence of interests that go beyond the degree course, especially those that involve hands-on experience in a work environment. These comments highlight the value that employers place on students and graduates being well-rounded individuals who can demonstrate at least some strengths in all of the skill areas within the top ten list.

The results illustrate that the key to employability is the combination of the skills, and the best approach to the top ten skills and attributes is to view them collectively rather than individually.

For more information

Andrew profile picture

Andrew Tui

Manager, Careers and Employment
Wellington Careers and Employment