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  • Major, Leadership Deciding Factors Between Equal Candidates

    BETHLEHEM, PA—When deciding between two candidates who are equally qualified for a position, employers over the past five years have valued the candidates’ majors and leadership experience above all other attributes, according to results of an annual survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    NACE’s Job Outlook surveys over the past five years show that employers are consistent in the attributes they value. (See Figure 1.) However, during the past two years, major has inched in front of leadership experience as the most influential attribute for employers deciding between otherwise equally qualified candidates.

    Over the past five years, candidates who have been involved in extracurricular activities and/or who have earned a high GPA (above 3.0) also had a decided edge when employers are considering two candidates.

    The remaining attributes—school attended, volunteer work, fluency in a foreign language, and study abroad—have consistently had far less influence in the hiring decisions made by employers.

    Figure 1: Influence of Attributes, 2013-17

    Average Influence Rating*
    2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
    Major 4.0 4.0 3.9 3.9 4.0
    Has held leadership position 3.9 3.9 3.9 3.9 4.0
    Has been involved in extracurricular activities
    (clubs, sports, student government, etc.)
    3.6 3.6 3.6 3.5 3.6
    High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.6 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8
    School attended 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.9 3.1
    Has done volunteer work 2.6 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.8
    Is fluent in a foreign language 2.1 2.2 2.4 2.4 2.4
    Has studied abroad 2.0 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
    *5-point scale, where 1=No influence at all, 2=Not much influence, 3=Somewhat of an influence, 4=Very much influence, and 5=Extreme influence.
    Source: Job Outlook reports from 2013-17, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    About the Job Outlook Survey: The Job Outlook survey is a forecast of hiring intentions of employers as they relate to new college graduates. Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys its employer members about their hiring plans and other employment-related issues in order to project the market for new college graduates for the current class and to assess a variety of conditions that may influence that market. The survey is conducted in two parts: fall and spring. This release is based on data gathered in the fall Job Outlook survey over the past five years.

    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