6 top attributes recruiters are looking for in graduate candidates

by Dec 4, 2023

Have you ever wondered what attributes graduate employers look for in candidates?

This year, the UTS Careers team attended The Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) annual conference, bringing together graduate employers from around the nation to learn, develop and network. The conference allows employers to focus on what current students are searching for, discuss the latest trends, and talk about the ways they can recruit, train, and retain graduates at their organisations.

As part of the conference we spoke to a number of organisational representatives from Stantec, the Department of Treasury, GHD, Arup, EY, Coles, AMP, Mainfreight, Transgrid, Quantium, Suncorp, Accenture and more about the main character attributes they look for in candidates. From resilience to self-awareness, here are some of the key things they said, and how you can build, and showcase these attributes in the recruitment process.



Resilience is being able to get back up after being knocked down and recover after something hard has happened. At work, this means your ability to bounce back when things go wrong or stay positive when things are challenging. Employers value this from graduates because, like in life, there is no perfect job, and there are going to be adversities throughout your career. They want to know that you’ll be able to overcome those and step up when you need to.

You can showcase your resilience throughout the recruitment process by:

  • bringing up examples of times you have been resilient.
  • discussing the practical ways you have tackled challenges, such as your coping strategies.
  • being honest about struggles you’ve had in the past.

If you’re looking to build your resilience, check out this past blog post for the keys to bouncing back.


Effective communication

Communication is key, and involves your written and verbal ability to receive and convey information, ideas and messages in ways that effectively get the meaning across, and are appropriate to the context.

During the recruitment process and in a professional environment, you need to showcase this skill on a daily basis. From communicating new ideas, and providing updates on projects or tasks, to actively listening, speaking, and empathising with colleagues, effective communication skills are vital to the workplace.

By honing in on these skills, you can be well-prepared when you start applying for grad roles. You can start small by showcasing new ideas in a group project you are working on, listening attentively and contributing during discussions, either in a university class or a social context. Empathy is also really important in the workplace, involving kindness, connection, and helping others.


Initiative and willingness to learn

A common theme in our discussions with graduate employers was how they valued candidates’ willingness to learn, and their initiative.

In the workplace, this could mean doing things without being told and finding out what you need to know. It’s also about the ability to keep going when things get a little bit tough and being able to take advantage of opportunities that others might pass by. The key is to focus on acting instead of reacting, proactively taking on or proposing new tasks or projects when they come up. Display this through the recruitment process by responding quickly to any communications, being forward-thinking, and expressing your desire to learn. 



The idea of needing to have a passion can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The reality is that you don’t need to have one true career passion, despite what society tells you. Rather, most people have multiple interests that can transfer across to their careers.

When it comes to recruitment, employers aren’t looking to hole you into a single box based on your one passion. Rather, they want you to be passionate. Enthusiasm comes from having strong feelings or beliefs in something and can allow you to try your hardest to achieve or make something happen.

Graduate recruiters often say that they want candidates to show how they are passionate about the organisation they’re applying to. While this can seem intimidating, organisations have values just like you do, and recruiters want to see that you align with them.

So, how do you show that passion?

Start by creating a list of all your interests, through your studies, in your working life, and even in your personal life. Outline the core things you value in life and work. Then, research the organisation you’re applying for, and see how their goals and values align with yours. Find the connection points, and as you go into the recruitment process, focus on showcasing those commonalities.

If you are a UTS student and want to explore how you can identify your interests and values, check out our resources on CareerHub.



Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. It’s a key factor in self-control, decision-making, creativity, learning, growth and self-fulfilment.

In the work environment having a good understanding of yourself is key and being able to monitor and focus on yourself and your reactions to situations regardless of the situation will take you a long way. Self-awareness is also a key component of emotional intelligence. In a work setting, having a strong grip on your feelings, emotions, and mental health plays a big part in how we feel, think and conduct ourselves on a daily basis.

There are certain things we can do to help us be more self-aware and get us ready to tackle anything that comes our way during our careers. Try to:

  • Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
  • Take time out to analyse the decisions you make
  • Focus on managing your emotions
  • Be humble about your accomplishments
  • Practise gratitude
  • Seek feedback from others
  • Avoid making rash decisions or reactions
  • Keep a daily journal
  • Practise mindfulness and mediation

This can help you be more self-aware, and positively impact your work, or recruitment outcomes.



Be genuine, and real, and stay true to yourself. Being genuine in the workplace will take you a long way.   

This requires being honest with those around you, being truthful, and staying open to your colleagues. If sharing stories with colleagues, try to avoid exaggerating, and if asked for an opinion, be sincere but respectful. Part of the equation may also be setting boundaries with your co-workers.

Here are some tips on how you can be your authentic self in the workplace:

  • Build trust with colleagues
  • Establish good working relationships
  • Share your experiences
  • Follow-up with conversations
  • Listen to others
  • Share elements of your life outside of work where appropriate

When it comes to the recruitment process, these same suggestions apply. Be yourself throughout the process, focus on telling the truth, being honest, and building rapport with recruiters.


Final thoughts

If you’re going for a new job, or are nervous about the process, the important thing to remember is that recruiters are people too. The primary attributes they’re looking for in candidates are not revolutionary new skills you need to acquire, but rather, everyday practices you already do. By focusing on self-improvement, and presenting an honest but positive version of ‘you’, you’ll land the perfect role in no time.



Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Sofie Talveski

Sofie Talveski

Industry Engagement Coordinator

Sofie is the Industry Engagement Coordinator at UTS Careers. She has been with the team for over 12 months, and has over 12 years’ of experience in tertiary education and graduate recruitment. Outside of work, she loves watching her daughter Meikah play football.