BETHLEHEM, PA—What sets two equally qualified job candidates apart can be as simple as who has the better communication skills.
An annual survey of the job market for new college graduates shows that, year after year, certain skills, attributes, and qualities show up on employers’ “most wanted” list.
According to the Job Outlook 2013 report, published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), after confirming the requisite major and course work for the job, employers screen candidates by GPA (grade point average) and relevant work experience—often earned during college years through internships or cooperative education assignments.
“Just over 78 percent of employers screen candidates by GPA,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE’s executive director. “Also important is related work experience. Less than 5 percent of employers say that work experience doesn’t factor into their hiring decisions.”
What makes a new graduate stand out from equally qualified competitors, however, is evidence of the “soft skills” needed in the workplace. Employers prize skills such as communication skills, the ability to work in a team, and problem-solving skills. (See “Employers Rate Candidate Soft Skills/Qualities” infographic, below.)
“Employers say they want good communicators who can make decisions and solve problems while working effectively as part of a team,” Mackes says.
As a result, employers also look for extracurricular activities, Mackes says. Playing on a team, doing volunteer work, leading a professional student organization—it is these types of activities that teach the soft skills students might not learn in the classroom.