The Job Market for the Class of 2023: Key Skills/Competencies Employers Are Seeking and the Impact of Career Center Use

BETHLEHEM, PA—College students from the Class of 2023 can improve their chances of gaining full-time employment after graduating by highlighting the skills and competencies employers value on their resumes, in their cover letters, and during interviews and engaging the career center to help them prepare for college recruiting activities.

Research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that college students hoping to attract the attention of employers via their resume should emphasize key skills they gained in their various experiences.

More than six in 10 of employers responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2023 survey are seeking evidence of a candidate’s abilities to solve problems and to work in a team. Among the skills that at least half of employers look for on resumes is written communication skills. (See Figure 1.)

These findings align with the NACE career readiness competencies that employers deem most important for college students to develop: communication, critical thinking, and teamwork.

“The key then is for students to not only develop these competencies, but also to be able to articulate how they use them in their classwork, experiential education, student organization activities, and more,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director.

“Unfortunately, many students don’t effectively identify and communicate about the competencies and skills they’ve learned in their college experiences. As a result, they don’t give themselves credit for the experiences and knowledge they are bringing to an employer. That coupled with students, in general, believing they are more proficient in the competencies than employers rate them as being means there is an opportunity for students to develop and promote these competencies to stand out in the job market.”

To help students better understand these connections, NACE has developed sample behaviors for each of the career readiness competencies that they can use as a guideposts when reflecting on and communicating their competency development.  

For example, in this context, individuals who have developed the communication competency “Clearly and effectively exchange information, ideas, facts, and perspectives with persons inside and outside of an organization.”

One of the behaviors exhibited by individuals who have effectively developed the communication competency is asking appropriate questions for specific information from supervisors, specialists, and others, something that students can do at a career fair, throughout an internship, and during an interview.

Perhaps the most impactful step students can take to tie all of this together and improve their chances of landing a job is using the career center. In fact, college students who engage with their campus career center get more job offers on average than those who don’t. The correlation between student use of the career center and their success in the job market is strong.

Results from NACE’s 2022 Student Survey show that graduating seniors who used at least one service offered by their career center—any service—received an average of 1.24 job offers. In comparison, graduating seniors who did not use any of the career center’s services averaged 1.0 job offer.

For every additional service seniors used beyond just one, their average number of job offers increased 0.05.

The study also identified career center services that have the greatest effect on job offers as using help from the career center with a search for an internship or co-op, taking part in mock interviews, and engaging in networking preparation.

One area that is becoming increasingly obsolete for candidate screening is GPA, which has dropped from 73.3% of employers screening by GPA for the Class of 2019 to just 37% doing so for the Class of 2023.

VanDerziel says the fact that this has plummeted in recent years suggests that the competition for talent has employers rethinking their initial screening procedures.

“It further signals a recognition that screening by GPA may weaken efforts to build an inclusive workforce as it can put students who are balancing school with work and other responsibilities at a disadvantage in the job market,” he explains.

“Increasingly, employers are more concerned about competencies and skills. So, candidates who can demonstrate experience, knowledge, and ability through their resume and applications will have the competitive edge.”

Figure 1

About Job Outlook 2023: Data for the Job Outlook 2023 survey were collected from August 3, 2022, through September 16, 2022. Of the 246 total respondents, 150 were NACE employer members, representing 17.4% of eligible member respondents. The Job Outlook 2023 survey was also distributed to nonmember companies, from which an additional 96 responses were received.

About the 2022 Student Survey: Data for the survey were collected from February 22, 2022, to May 15, 2022. The survey instrument was distributed to 1,522 NACE-member four-year colleges and universities; in turn, the member institutions distributed to the survey to their students. In all, 15,860 bachelor’s degree students responded from 262 four-year colleges and universities. Of those, 2,140 were Class of 2022 graduating seniors. Results presented here were controlled for gender, race/ethnicity, age, and first-generation status. Specific characteristics regarding respondents that may affect their ability to compete in the job market, e.g., attendance at a prestigious institution, however, are not captured.

About the National Association of Colleges and Employers: Established in 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the only professional association in the United States that connects nearly 11,000 college career services professionals, more than 3,600 university relations and recruiting professionals, and more than 400 business solution providers that serve this community.

NACE is the premier source of market research on career readiness, the employment of recent college graduates, and the college-to-career transition. NACE forecasts hiring and trends in the job market; tracks salaries, recruiting and hiring practices, and student attitudes and outcomes; and identifies best practices and benchmarks.

NACE offers its members unparalleled research, networking and professional development opportunities, guidance on standards and ethics, and advocacy on key issues. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media