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  • The Key Attributes Employers Seek on Students’ Resumes

    BETHLEHEM, PA—College students who are conducting their job search and want to impress employers with their resumes should emphasize their abilities to solve problems and work as part of a team, according to a new survey report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    When NACE asked employers participating in its Job Outlook 2018 survey which attributes—beyond a strong GPA—they most value, employers indicated that problem-solving skills and an ability to work in a team are the most desired attributes and are of equal importance. (See Figure 1.) This is the second consecutive year that the largest percentage of employers will search for these attributes on students’ resumes.

    Following problem-solving skills and teamwork abilities, written communication skills, leadership, and a strong work ethic are also highly valued attributes that employers want to see evidence of on resumes.

    Employers also provided insight into the influence of attributes when deciding between two otherwise equally qualified candidates. This year, NACE added four attributes—all related to work experience—to the original list that had been used in the past.

    While past surveys consistently found the student’s major to be the deciding factor between two otherwise equally qualified candidates, this year the most influential factors are whether the candidate completed an internship with the hiring organization and whether the candidate has internship experience within the hiring organization’s industry. (See Figure 2.)

    Additionally, general work experience and no work experience are found to be more of a deciding factor than a candidate’s high GPA (3.0 or above), involvement in extracurricular activities, school attended, and volunteer work. The only other attribute that held its ground with the addition of the new attributes is leadership. It continues to follow immediately after the student’s major in terms of influence.

    Figure 1: Attributes Employers Seek on a Candidates Resume

    Attribute % of Respondents
    Problem-solving skills 82.9%
    Ability to work in a team 82.9%
    Communication skills (written) 80.3%
    Leadership 72.6%
    Strong work ethic 68.4%
    Analytical/quantitative skills 67.5%
    Communication skills (verbal) 67.5%
    Initiative 67.5%
    Detail-oriented 64.1%
    Flexibility/adaptability 60.7%
    Technical skills 59.8%
    Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) 54.7%
    Computer skills 48.7%
    Organizational ability 48.7%
    Strategic planning skills 39.3%
    Creativity 29.1%
    Friendly/outgoing personality 27.4%
    Tactfulness 22.2%
    Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker 19.7%
    Fluency in a foreign language 4.3%
    Source: Job Outlook 2018, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Figure 2: Influence of Attributes

    Attribute 2018 Average Influence Rating* 2017 Average Influence Rating* 2016 Average Influence Rating*
    Has completed an internship
    with your organization
    4.6 N/A N/A
    Has internship experience
    in your industry
    4.4 N/A N/A
    Major 3.8 4.0 4.0
    Has held a leadership position 3.7 3.9 3.9
    Has general work experience 3.7 N/A N/A
    Has no work experience 3.4 N/A N/A
    High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.4 3.6 3.5
    Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, etc.) 3.3 3.6 3.6
    School attended 2.8 2.9 2.9
    Has done volunteer work 2.7 2.6 2.8
    Is fluent in a foreign language 2.2 2.1 2.2
    Has studied abroad 2.2 2.0 2.0
    Source: Job Outlook 2018, National Association of Colleges and Employers. *5-point scale where 1=No influence at all; 2=Not much influence; 3=Somewhat of an influence; 4=Very much influence; 5=Extreme influence.

    About the Job Outlook 2018 survey: Data for the Job Outlook 2018 survey were collected from NACE’s employer members from August 9, 2017, through October 2, 2017. A total of 201 surveys were returned—a 20.5 percent response rate. Of those responding, 14.4 percent of respondents were from the West, 25.9 percent were from the Northeast, 23.9 percent were from the Southeast, and 35.8 percent were from the Midwest. The Job Outlook 2018 report is available for purchase 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