The Top Skills Employers Seek in College Graduates

The Top Skills Employers Seek in College Grads
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What skills does a hiring manager seek when they are recruiting college seniors and recent graduates for employment? What marketable skills do you have that can help you secure an interview and ultimately a job offer? Employers are looking for leaders who can also be team players, who can solve problems and communicate, both in writing and verbally, according to respondents to NACE’s Job Outlook 2018 survey.

Hiring managers also screen resumes for evidence of a strong work ethic (job and internship experience, solid GPA), and analytical and technical skills. The more skills you can develop while you're in college, the more opportunities you'll have for getting hired for a full-time position after graduation. Keep in mind that all your college accomplishments in activities, sports, academics, volunteering, jobs, internships, and with clubs can help you gain the skills you need for your first post-graduate role.

Top 10 Skills Employers Seek in College Graduates

Here's a list of the top skills that the employers who responded to the NACE survey look for on resumes. They are a combination of skills that qualify the candidate for a specific job and that prepare a graduate to succeed in a professional workplace.

  1. Problem-Solving Skills
  2. Ability to Work in a Team
  3. Communication Skills (Written)
  4. Leadership
  5. Strong Work Ethic
  6. Analytical/Quantitative Skills
  7. Communication Skills (Verbal)
  8. Initiative
  9. Detail Oriented
  10. Flexibility/Adaptability

Top Skills That Helped the Class of 2017 Get Hired

LinkedIn's Guide to Getting Hired in 2018 reports on the top skills of 2016-2017 grads.

  1. Microsoft Office
  2. Customer Service
  3. Leadership
  4. Public Speaking
  5. Social Media
  6. Teamwork
  7. Time Management
  8. Research
  9. Management
  10. Event Planning

Soft Skills and Hard Skills

Like most hiring managers, employers hiring recent graduates look for candidates with a mix of soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are skills required of applicants regardless of the industry; they are personal attributes and social abilities.

Examples of soft skills from the NACE survey include teamwork, written and verbal communication, and flexibility/adaptability. Hard skills are the more tangible skills you need to succeed in a particular job or industry. Technical and computer skills are examples of hard skills that employers look for in recent graduates.

More In-Demand College Grad Skills

Many of these skills are similar to the top skills employers want in the employees they hire for most jobs. Being a team player, having strong communication and interpersonal skills, and being able to analyze data and knowing what to do with it, are all important to hiring managers. Here are more of the top skills employers want in job applicants. 

Tips for Including Skills on Your Resume

Hiring managers review many resumes and it can be hard to differentiate between candidates when most of them have basically the same set of qualifications.

Help your application to stand out from the crowd by including a mix of experiences that highlight a blend of the most sought-after hard and soft skills on the list of in-demand skills. Also be sure to list the skills you have that the employer has noted as "required" or "recommended" in the job posting. The closer you are to a match for the job, the better your chances of getting chosen for a job interview.

  • Set Up a Skills Section - You can include some of your skills in a “Skills” section of your resume, in which you list your skills that relate to the particular job.
  • Emphasize Your Skills in the Experience Section - In the "Employment" or “Experience” section of your resume, you can also emphasize particular skills in your descriptions that you employed to carry out those jobs and/or internships.
  • Match Your Skills to the Job - Wherever you decide to place your skills on your resume, be sure to tailor your list of skills to a particular job. Use keywords listed in the job description to ensure your resume is a strong match. If particular hard skills are required for a job (such as knowledge of a specific software program) be sure to explicitly list those skills on your resume. You can find even more resume writing tips here.

    Be Prepared to Share Examples

    Make sure that whatever skills you incorporate in your resume not only sound impressive but can be defended and elaborated upon during your interviews. Each word on your resume can be a trigger for a question by an interviewer, and you will often be asked to provide examples of the skills that you have referenced.