The Key Attributes Employers Are Looking for on Graduates’ Resumes

College students hoping to catch the eye of potential employers through their resume should forego relying only on their strong GPA and instead highlight the attributes and skills they developed in their classwork and through their various experiential assignments, according to results of a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

When employers participating in NACE’s Job Outlook 2024 survey were asked what attributes they are looking for on the resumes of the candidates they consider for their job openings, nearly 90% indicated they are seeking evidence of a student’s ability to solve problems and nearly 80% are seeking candidates who have strong teamwork skills. (See Figure 1.)

In addition, at least two-thirds of employers report looking for:

  • A strong work ethic;
  • Written and verbal communication skills;
  • Analytical/quantitative skills;
  • Flexibility/adaptability; and
  • Technical skills.

“College students graduating into today’s job market need to develop competencies that will help them in the workplace through the various experiences they have inside and outside of the classroom,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE’s president and chief executive officer.

“Furthermore, what can make them stand out from other candidates is the ability to connect the skills and qualities they developed to the position and articulate that connection to employers on their resume and during interviews.”

It is also important for students to highlight the internship experience they gained—both with an employer’s organization and within its industry—during their college career. Employers cite internship experience as the top deciding factor when they are deciding between two equally qualified candidates for a job opening.

In addition, over recent years, NACE’s research has found that employer use of GPA as a screening tool is plummeting, down 35% from just five years ago. Among employers taking part in the current Job Outlook survey, just 38.3% use GPA as a criterion in their college hiring process. (See Figure 2.)

“The shift away from GPA as a screening tool not only underscores the weight employers now place on candidates’ skills and competencies, but it is also a sign they understand that screening by GPA may weaken their efforts to build an inclusive workforce,” VanDerziel says.

Figure 1Figure 2

About Job Outlook 2024: Data for the Job Outlook 2024 survey were collected from August 2, 2023, through September 18, 2023. Of the 255 total respondents, 180 were NACE employer members, representing 20.3% of eligible member respondents. The Job Outlook 2024 survey was also distributed to nonmember companies, from which an additional 75 responses were received. Both the survey report and its results dashboard are available on NACEWeb.

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 12,300 college career services professionals, more than 4,000 early career talent acquisition 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.