Skills Employers Seek in College Graduates
Information on the skills and abilities that employers are looking for in college graduates is available from two large surveys. The first is based on data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). As their website states, NACE “connects campus recruiting and career services professionals, provides best practices, trends, research, professional development, and conferences.”
On college and university campuses NACE members are often found working in career services (e.g., at WSU’s Center for Advising and Career Development), and facilitating events and job fairs that bring potential employers to campus. Employer members responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey rated the top 10 job candidate skills/qualities (Table 1).
Table 1. Job Outlook 2012, National Association of Colleges and Employers
|Ability to work in a team structure||4.60|
|Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization||4.59|
|Ability to make decisions and solve problems||4.49|
|Ability to obtain and process information||4.46|
|Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work||4.45|
|Ability to analyze quantitative data||4.23|
|Technical knowledge related to the job||4.23|
|Proficiency with computer software programs||4.04|
|Ability to create and/or edit written reports||3.65|
|Ability to sell or influence others||3.51|
The second set of survey data is derived from the 2006 report, Are They Really Ready To Work? Published by a consortium of four organizations as an “in-depth study of the corporate perspective on the readiness of new entrants into the U.S. workforce,” the survey’s respondents represent over 400 employers and a combined workforce of over two million employees in manufacturing, business and professional services, financial and insurance services, health care, trade and entertainment companies. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of various areas of basic knowledge and applied skills (Table 2).
Table 2. Consortium Survey Data (2006): Four-Year College Graduates
|Rank||Applied Skill||Percent Rating|
|5||Critical Thinking/Problem Solving||92.1%|
|8||Information Technology Application||81.0%|
|10||Lifelong Learning/Self Direction||78.3%|
Table 3 (below) aligns the “top 10” skills that respondents (employers) in both the NACE and Consortium surveys seek in college graduates. As shown, employers in both surveys largely agree on “success” skills for new workforce entrants with college degrees.
Table 3. Alignment of "Top 10" Skills for College Graduates
|Decisions & problem solving; critical thinking||3||5|
|Information procurement & processing||4||5|
|Plan, organize, prioritize work; work ethic||5||3|
|Quantitative data analysis||6||5|
|Technical job-related knowledge||7|
|Computer software proficiency & application||8||8|
|Ethics & social responsibility||6|
|Leadership; Innovation; Lifelong learning||7, 9, 10|
|Sell or influence others||10|
Attributes Employers Find in College Graduates
In the Consortium survey, employers also evaluated the readiness of new baccalaureate entrants into the workforce as deficient, adequate, or excellent. The graph below (Figure 1) depicts the percent of respondents reporting “deficiencies” in college graduates for each of the skills identified.
Figure 1. Consortium Readiness Report on Deficiencies of College Grads
Are They Really Ready to Work? Employer’s Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce. (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006).
To generate this report, more than 400 employers from a consortium of businesses nationwide responded to a survey that addressed the preparedness of college graduates for jobs in the real world. Respondents cited deficiencies in baccalaureates’ skills in teamwork, critical thinking, and other critical areas.
Job Outlook: The Candidate Skills/Qualities Employers Want. (NACE).
Although portions of the NACE website require membership for access, the open access portions provide valuable information (e.g., unemployment rates for new college graduates; top-paying liberal arts majors).