What employers are looking for

As the jobs market becomes more competitive as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand what employers are looking for. Even before the pandemic, employers received an average of 21 applicants per vacancy. With many more people now unemployed, the competition for the available jobs will be greater.

Generally, employers are looking for someone with the whole package: the right educational qualifications are essential and work experience is often a pre-requisite. Also, do not forget your employability skills! Employers may be willing to compromise on some aspects, depending on the type of job, but not on others. For example, an employer may hire someone as a Checkout Operator without any work experience, but will insist on good team work and customer service skills.

Education and training

Overall, work is becoming more skilled. The majority of jobs created in the future will require a Vocational Education and Training (VET) or university qualification. The workforce has also become more skilled, with nearly two-thirds of the working age population (aged 15 to 64 years) in 2019 holding a post-school qualification (up from 51% in 2014).

Completing Year 12 (or equivalent) is the minimum requirement for most employers, however, many are seeking people with post-school qualifications.

University is not the only pathway to a good job. Apprenticeships, traineeships, diplomas or certificate III or IV level qualifications will also set you up for a stable and rewarding career.

If you are considering a VET course or qualification, the best type of training is related to the job you want to do. But don’t do training for the sake of it! For example, Personal Carers often require certificates in food handling and first aid, but one certificate I (or several) may not help in the long-term. A certificate III or higher qualification will likely include the relevant training, along with a range of other units important for this occupation.

In response to COVID-19, new short courses, or ‘micro-credentials’, are also available to help you upskill (check out courseseeker.edu.au for available courses). These short courses can be a good way to gain new skills relevant to the jobs in demand.


Workplace experience is another important quality that employers look for. All jobs will give you valuable experience and help you develop vital employability skills. Regardless of the job, you will gain an understanding of what is expected in the workplace and be able to demonstrate to employers that you are committed to work, reliable and trustworthy. Most importantly, it gives you a foot in the door and provides you with an opportunity to build your network and gain referees.

Experience can be gained through part-time, casual, or temporary jobs, work experience placements, internships or even by volunteering.

What if you do not have any work experience?

If you don’t have any work experience, think about other ways to demonstrate your transferable skills. You could provide examples from your school activities or work on group projects, working with your local sports club, even participating in debating, theatre or dance performances or chess competitions. Employers are also very encouraged by young people who participate in community or volunteering activities.

There are also some jobs for which employers are more likely to consider someone without previous experience, such as Fast Food Cooks, Packers and Pharmacy Sales Assistants. Research conducted by the NSC indicates many of these jobs have been in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as General Sales Assistants and Checkout Operators.

Sources: ABS, Education and Work, Australia, May 2019; National Skills Commission, Jobs in Demand Employer Survey; National Skills Commission, Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences.