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  • Major the Deciding Factor Between Equal Candidates

    January 25, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    Candidate Selection
    People wait to be interviewed.

    TAGS: candidate selection, nace insights

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    When two candidates are equally qualified for a position, employers indicate that academic major is still the deciding factor in their hiring decisions, according to results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2017 survey.

    In both this year’s and last year’s surveys, respondents rated “academic major” as having the greatest influence when deciding on one candidate over another. (See Figure 1.)

    Candidates who have held a leadership position also have an edge when employers are considering two candidates. In addition, involvement in extracurricular activities and a high GPA (above 3.0) also have at least somewhat of an influence.

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

    Data for the Job Outlook 2017 survey were collected from August 5, 2016, through October 4, 2016. A total of 169 surveys were returned—a 17 percent response rate. The Job Outlook 2017 report is available at or through the MyNACE area at

    Figure 1: Influence of Attributes

    Attribute 2017 Average Influence Rating 2016 Average Influence Rating
    Major 4.0 4.0
    Has held leadership position 3.9 3.9
    Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, and/or others) 3.6 3.6
    High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.6 3.5
    School attended 2.9 2.9
    Has done volunteer work 2.6 2.8
    Is fluent in a foreign language 2.1 2.2
    Has studied abroad 2.0 2.0

    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 2017, National Association of Colleges and Employers