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  • Internship Experience the Deciding Factor Between Equally Qualified Job Candidates

    BETHLEHEM, PA—College students hoping to differentiate themselves in the job market should gain internship experience, according to results of a new survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    Employers responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey indicate that internship experience is the most influential factor they consider when deciding between two otherwise equally qualified job candidates.

    Employers report that a candidate having internship experience in their industry has an edge when making a hiring decision. The advantage is even greater, however, if the student’s internship experience is with the specific company doing the hiring. (See Figure 1.)

    The student’s major is also very influential, as is the student having held a leadership position, having general work experience, and being involved in extracurricular activities.

    Although a GPA of 3.0 or above remains somewhat influential, the average influence rating has dropped compared to last year. This is not surprising as GPA screening has hit an all-time low: Just 56.6% of responding employers are using GPA to screen college graduates from the Class of 2021, a steep drop from the nearly 75% that used this method two years ago.

    Figure 1: Influence of Attributes

    Attribute 2021 Average Influence Rating* 2020 Average Influence Rating*
    Has completed an internship with your organization 4.5 4.6
    Has internship experience in your industry 4.3 4.4
    Major 3.8 3.9
    Has held leadership position 3.6 3.9
    Has general work experience 3.6 3.6
    Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, etc.) 3.4 3.6
    High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.2 3.5
    Has no work experience 3.2 3.4
    Has done volunteer work 2.8 2.7
    School attended 2.5 2.7
    Is fluent in a foreign language 2.1 2.2
    Has studied abroad 1.8 2.0
    Other 3.9 2.1
    Source: Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update, 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, and 5=Extreme influence

    About NACE’s Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update: The Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey updates hiring projections for the Class of 2021. The original projections were reported in Job Outlook 2021, which was published in October 2020. The Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey was conducted from February 17 – March 12, 2021. Of the 207 total respondents, 146 were NACE employer members, representing 17.1% of eligible member respondents. The Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey was also distributed to nonmember companies; this group provided an additional 61 responses. 

    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 www.naceweb.org. NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.


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