Graduate recruitment trends for Ireland and Northern Ireland

Graduate recruitment trends for Ireland and Northern Ireland

The latest data (2019) on how graduate employers choose successful candidates: the minimum entry requirements and the most important competences.

Employers always want to recruit the best graduates, and most will have a clear idea what that means for their particular organisation. Many recruiters set minimum entry standards for their graduate roles, and will generally have a number of criteria that candidates must fulfil in order to progress to first interview stage.

Employers want a blend of academic achievement relevant to the role and the appropriate skill set to ensure successful integration into their role and the company.

According to the gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey 2019, our annual survey of Irish graduate recruiters, more than half of graduate recruiters in Ireland and Northern Ireland specify that applicants must demonstrate certain competences and an increasing number of companies now require a 2.1 degree or above.

Minimum entry criteria

These are the minimum criteria expected by companies who took part in our survey:

  • Must demonstrate certain core competencies 65%
  • Must have or expect a 2.1 or above 54%
  • Must have studied specific degree courses 42%
  • Must have had relevant work experience 15%
  • Must pass psychometric or other in-house testing 35%
  • Must have or expect a 2.2 or above 19%
  • Must have a certain level of CAO/UCAS points/tariff 12%
  • Must have studied at particular universities/colleges 6%


Employers do not just look for high academic achievers, but also for candidates ‘who can demonstrate specific competences’. So what do they mean by ‘competences’? These are the skills that are specific to working (rather than academic) life. They can be broken down into soft skills (personal qualities such as communication and team working), hard skills (those that can be taught, such as writing), and knowledge-based skills (eg business, science).

Soft skills

Soft skills are often the area where employers feel that graduates are lacking. Managing their own learning and communication skills were two top skills most widely idenftified by multiple employers, at 51% and 46% respectively. 33% highlighted an inability to work independently.

Companies were also asked which activities they feel have the greatest impact on improving graduates’ soft skills. The overwhelming answer was to complete an internship or industrial placement. 76% of respondents believe that is a very effective way to develop core soft skills. Second on this list was gaining international expereince by studying or working abroad which 24% of recruiters believe is a very effective way of improving soft skills.

Shortfall in soft skills

The soft skills where recruiters saw the biggest shortfall were:

  • Managing their own learning 51%
  • Communication 46%
  • Attention to detail 44%
  • Independent working 33%
  • Motivation 31%
  • Adaptability 31%
  • Work ethic 31%
  • Leadership 25%
  • Problem solving 23%
  • Flexibility 23%
  • Confidence 21%
  • Dilligence 16%
  • Teamworking skills 8%

Hard skills

When it comes to basic ‘hard skills’, writing skills are the number one area in need of improvement, with over 50% of employers stating a shortfall in this area.

Shortfall in hard skills

The hard skills where recruiters saw the biggest shortfall were:

  • Writing skills 53%
  • Data analytics 46%
  • Administration and organisation 44%
  • Project management 36%
  • Fluency in a foreign language 34%
  • Numeracy skills 25%
  • Basic computer skills (e.g. MS Office) 25%
  • Computer programming 22%