Skills employers look for in college graduates
Highlight these abilities to help yourself land a job.
Another day, another data set for new college grads who are about to enter the workforce.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2017 survey, there exists a handful of significant skills that employers are seeking from new college grads.
Unfortunately, only 21% of students feel prepared to take on the challenges, according to a report by McGraw-Hill. Now, this isn’t necessarily a negative for you job-seeking college grads out there; it’s an opportunity to hone your skill set and show that you actually do have what it takes.
Below you’ll find the skills hiring managers say need to be part of the college grad repertoire. So if you’re on the hunt for an entry-level job, read on to learn what these skills are and how to master them.
Ability to work in a team
Unlike your career as a student, where you're really the only one who can make or break your success, the workplace depends on teams of people to get the job done. No surprise that 78% of hiring managers want to know you can work well with lots of different personalities. You'll need to learn how to delegate, take direction, value differences of opinion, and play to your and your co-workers' strengths and weaknesses. It goes without saying that nobody likes the employee who wants to hog the spotlight. Be sure to point out your co-workers' contributions to projects.
Overall, 77.3% of managers want to see this soft skill shine among new college graduates. Many hiring managers use behavioral interview questions—phrases such as "tell me about a time when" or "give me an example of"—to assess a job candidate’s critical-thinking ability. Thus, you’ll want to prepare anecdotes that paint you as a problem solver.
Granted, “it’s tough giving employers examples when you don’t have work experience yet,” says Los Angeles-based career coach Nancy Karas.
So you may not have a ton of work experience, but that doesn’t mean you have no experience whatsoever. After all, you must have experienced something in college. Guess what: That still counts.
“Think about times where you were proactive, innovative, or highly responsive to a challenge,” like that time you helped solve a customer complaint while working at the campus coffee shop, Karas says. Even better: Show that you took the initiative to identify a problem and then solved it.
The survey found that 75% of managers feel writing proficiency is the most desirable hard skill among recent college graduates. Submitting a well-crafted cover letter is crucial, but there are some other unconventional ways to highlight your writing chops.
If you volunteered to be the scribe for a group project in college, for example, include that on your resume, advises Dawn Bugni, a professional resume writer in Atkinson, North Carolina. Depending on the nature of the industry—marketing, communications or journalism to name a few—you might also bring writing samples with you to job interviews.
Strong Work Ethic
You need to be committed to your job responsibilities and understand that doing your job is more than just means to a paycheck—after all, a company stands for something beyond business and so should you. That's why 72% of hiring managers want to see new hires demonstrate a strong work ethic. Show up on time, be engaged in your work, and act with integrity.
Verbal communication skills skills (70.5%) rank high for desirability. To ace your first impression in a job interview, do your research on the company—including reading its website, recent new stories, and social media feeds—and tailor your answers to the specific organization. Also, make sure you’re prepared by doing a mock interview with a friend, and focus on your posture, tone of voice and pacing.
Nervous? “Think of a job interview as a conversation instead of an interrogation,” says Karas.
It’s a tall order: 68.9% of hiring managers want potential hires with great leadership skills. Believe it or not, there are ways you can show possible employers that you have leadership potential before you even enter the workforce.
If you held a leadership role in college (e.g., president of the French club), highlight it on your resume. If you emerged as the informal leader on a group project, talk about the experience during the job interview. Also, get letters of recommendation former internship managers that speak to your leadership skills.