Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to determine the requirements of accounting graduates in relation to generic attributes. Employers have consistently maintained that graduates are deficient in this area. This Australia-wide, all-sector study addresses the issue by examining what employers mean when they make demands for universities and academics to deliver work-ready graduates. Design/methodology/approach - Interviews (recorded, transcribed and analysed with NVivo) with employers, and accounting professional bodies were conducted to ascertain their views of their needs of accounting graduates into the future. Findings - Employers held the generic attributes of communication, team work and self-management to be the most critical for graduates in the three areas of recruitment, training and ongoing employment. Demands on universities to deliver work-ready graduates are not homogeneous. Employers in different sectors construe the meaning of generic attributes in line with their specific needs. Originality/value - The study was an original piece of work that gauged the opinions of professional accounting bodies and employers of accounting graduates across Australia and in all sectors of the accounting profession. The value of the study is to inform academics as to the ranked importance of generic attributes but also alert them to the different meanings that are assigned to these skills by employers in different sectors.