Cambridge University Skills Portal


Cambridge University Skills Portal

What Employers Look For

We need postdocs’ skills, especially in scientific roles, and value their more mature scientific outlook, but we do find they lack application of knowledge in a commercial context, and adaptability

Materials Technology Specialist

Cambridge researchers are sought after by many employers, large and small, representing a variety of different job sectors. In you, an employer knows to expect a high level of academic achievement and specialist knowledge. But this is unlikely to be enough to secure you your next position. In 2006, the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ survey of employers revealed that they also seek the following skills, attributes and interests:


  • Problem solving
  • Report writing
  • Numeracy
  • Oral communication
  • Planning and organisation
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Teamworking
  • Leadership
  • Career management


  • Commitment and drive
  • Motivation and enthusiasm
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Risk-taking/enterprise

Interest in:

  • Commercial Awareness
  • Cultural Sensitivity

A research contract gives you the opportunity to develop the majority of the skills listed above and calls on many of the personal attributes, but employers won’t automatically make this connection. Often this is because of the differences in the language that you use to describe what you do and employers use to describe what they’re looking for. For example, working effectively in a ‘research group’ might be described to an employer as an example of teamwork and creativity; similarly ‘running experiments’ could be translated into project management and problem solving skills.

In order to make a successful job application, you’ll have to demonstrate on your CV – with specific evidence – that you have a selection of these skills, attributes and interests depending on what your preferred employer seeks.

In addition to the skills you will develop during your research, do try to take advantage of the extra-curricular opportunities that Cambridge has to offer, whether it is taking part in a business competition or volunteering for a community based organisation.

And remember – employers won’t assume that your experience at Cambridge and as a researcher have helped you to develop these skills and attributes, you have to convince them!

Photographs from the Cambridge Local GradSchool 2009 used by kind permission of Andrew Bottomley