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  • The Five "Must Have" Competencies Employers Seek in Interns

    BETHLEHEM, PA—When employers are recruiting students for internships, there are five “must have” competencies they’re seeking, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    In the three years since NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey first asked employers about the competencies that are most important to them when selecting students for their internship programs, these five essential competencies have been tops on employers’ lists. (See Figure 1.) They are:

    • Information processing;
    • Teamwork;
    • Planning/prioritizing;
    • Decision making/problem solving; and
    • Verbal communication.

    In 2017, nearly all of the employers responding to the survey see information processing and teamwork as critical components of an internship recruit’s appeal. Similarly, nearly 90 percent of respondents find planning/prioritizing, decision making/problem solving, and verbal communication as very or extremely important.

    Among the moderately important competencies again this year are data analysis, computer skills, and job-specific technical skills/knowledge. The percentage of employers that deemed these competencies very or extremely important ranged between 51 and 77 percent.

    Figure 1: Preferred competencies for intern hires

    Competency 2015 2016 2017
    % of respondents
    Information processing 95.6% 94.4% 98.7%
    Teamwork 96.9% 94.9% 94.9%
    Planning/prioritizing 92.6% 93.5% 89.7%
    Decision making/problem solving 90.4% 84.6% 89.7%
    Verbal communication 90.6% 90.7% 88.5%
    Data analysis 75.4% 71.0% 76.9%
    Computer skills 66.2% 63.2% 61.5%
    Job-specific technical skills/knowledge 58.3% 58.4% 51.3%
    Written communication 45.0% 37.1% 30.8%
    Selling/influencing 24.9% 17.8% 28.2%
    Source: 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers
    In this analysis, a criterion was defined as “important” if a respondent who used that criterion considered it either “very important” (4) or “extremely important” (5) on a 5-point scale.

    About the 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey: NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey was conducted from November 21, 2016, to February 17, 2017, among NACE employer members; there were 276 respondents, representing 26.4 percent of all eligible respondents. An executive summary from the 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey report is available at  

    About NACE: Since 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media at