The Top Skills Employers Seek in College Graduates

The Top Skills Employers Seek in College Grads
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What skills do hiring managers seek when 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 be team players, leaders who can solve problems and communicate both in writing and verbally, according to respondents to the National Association of Colleges and Employer's (NACE) Job Outlook 2019 survey.

Hiring managers also screen resumes for evidence of a strong work ethic (job and internship experience and a 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 of your college accomplishments in activities, sports, academics, volunteering, jobs, internships, and clubs can help you gain the skills you need for your first post-graduate role.

Top 6 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 those that prepare a graduate to succeed in a professional workplace.

  1. Communication Skills: The ability to effectively express yourself verbally and in writing is a necessity at any job. Communicating will not only help you get your job done, but it'll help you skillfully navigate—and avoid—conflict in the workplace.
  2. Problem-Solving Skills: Problems are bound to arise at any job, and employers value employees who work to solve them. Steps to problem-solving include analyzing the cause, coming up with and evaluating possible solutions, putting a plan into action, and assessing the effectiveness of that plan.
  1. Ability to Work in a Team: Most jobs require the ability to work well with other people. That includes treating others with respect and working together to solve problems and get the job done.
  2. Initiative: Many employers want their workers to take initiative and be self-motivated. That means getting the job done without waiting to be told what to do and coming up with ideas for improvement.
  3. Analytical Skills: This includes collecting and evaluating information in order to make decisions on the job. It can include dealing with both complicated data and situational information.
  1. Leadership: Leadership skills are especially important for those who are managing teams, but are also valuable in entry-level employees who are looking to climb the latter. This includes being an example for other employees, inspiring motivation and positivity, and offering feedback to encourage growth in others.

Top Skills That Helped You Get Hired

LinkedIn's "The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019" reports on the top skills of 2019 grads.

  1. Cloud Computing: This involves using remote servers on the internet to store, manage, and process data instead of storing it directly on computers or other devices or on physical servers at the workplace.
  2. Artificial Intelligence: Also know as AI, this type of tech involves using computers to perform tasks that normally would require a human. Some popular examples of this are the communication abilities of Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa.
  3. Analytical Reasoning: Companies are collecting massive amounts of data, and they're looking for people who can interpret it and use it to guide business decisions.
  1. People Management: Like leadership skills, this is a skill employees should begin developing from the outset, especially if they have ambitions of rising to the top. Managing people includes finding ways to empower them and encourage their growth for the good of everyone in the company.
  2. UX Design: A user-friendly design is integral to the success of any modern product, and user experience (UX) designers are key to making it happen.
  3. Mobile Application Development: Most companies offer some sort of mobile application, so the ability to develop them is in high demand.
  1. Video Production: According to LinkedIn, video streaming represents 70 percent of all consumer traffic on the internet. Many types of companies are looking for employees that can help them take advantage of this.
  2. Sales Leadership: As long as a company has something to sell then it'll need an outstanding sales team to stay competitive—and a leader who can effectively shape it.
  3. Translation: An important part of working in a global economy is being able to communicate with people around the world. Those who can help companies break language barriers are seen as valuable assets.
  1. Audio Production: LinkedIn connects the popularity of podcasts to employers' desire for skills in sound recording and editing.

The Difference Between 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're 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.

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.

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 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 the 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 the skills you incorporate in your resume sound impressive, and also be sure that you can defend them and elaborate upon them 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've referenced. Be prepared to talk about how you've successfully applied these skills on the job.