Top 10 skills employers look for in new college graduates

Top 10 skills employers look for in new college graduates

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook survey, a handful of specific skills employers look for in new grads. Let’s get you prepared for these skills before joining the workforce.

1. Problem-Solving Skills

A whopping 85.5% of employers want to see new college graduates tout excellent problem-solving skills. Many hiring managers use behavioural interview questions to assess a job candidate’s problem-solving ability. Therefore, you may want to prepare anecdotes that paint you as a solution finder.

You don’t need job experience to prove you’re a problem solver. Think about times when you were proactive, innovative, or highly responsive to a challenge, like when you helped solve a customer complaint while working at the campus coffee shop. Even better: Show that you took the initiative to identify and solve a problem.

2. Analytical Skills

Many hiring managers (78.6%) want to hire entry-level workers with analytical skills, meaning they’re searching for critical thinkers. Those people know how to gather and evaluate information and then make good decisions based on that intel.

3. Ability to Work in a Team

Nobody likes the employee who wants to hog the spotlight. But unlike your career as a student, where you’re 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 76.3% of hiring managers want to know you can collaborate well with many different personalities.

This skill will need you to learn how to delegate, take direction, value differences of opinion, and play to your and your co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses.  

4. Written Communication Skills

Good communication will always be among the top skills employers look for. The survey found that 73.3% of managers feel writing proficiency is the most desirable complex skill among recent college graduates. Therefore, submitting a well-crafted cover letter is crucial.

You’ll want to highlight your resume experiences demonstrating your writing skills. If you volunteered to be the scribe for a group project in college, include that on your resume. And depending on the nature of the industry—marketing, communications, or journalism, to name a few—you might also submit writing samples with your application.  

5. Initiative

Tied with leadership and technical skills, 72.5% of hiring managers reported they want newly minted college graduates who know how to take the initiative. This is where the maxim “Show them, don’t just tell them” applies. In the experience section of your resume, cite an example of a time when you deal with a problematic situation in a direct way or a time when being proactive enabled you to head off a problem.

6. Strong Work Ethic

No matter what field you’re in, is dedicated to and engaged with your work is a must—so says 71% of employers considering you for a position at their company. Best of all, you don’t need any job experience to demonstrate a strong work ethic. You have to show up on time, be committed to doing quality work, and strive for improvement.

7. Technical Skills

Technical skills round out this three-way tie. Many industries, not just jobs in the technology sector, call for professionals with technical abilities. Case in point: 64.9% of hiring managers said new grads should possess technical skills. Describe how you’ve applied your technical skills in the past. For instance, if your resume lists that you have Java experience, it should also describe how you utilized the program on a particular project in college.

8. Flexibility/Adaptability

According to the survey, 63.4% of managers are looking for new grads that can roll with the punches and land on their feet. If you’re resistant to change or learning new things, you’ll have difficulty convincing companies that you’re worth the effort to train. The pandemic of 2020 taught employees to be ready for just about anything. Show them that you’re not intimidated by change and can adjust accordingly.

9. Detail-oriented

According to the survey, 62.6% of managers are looking for new grads with meticulous attention to detail. As a result, ensure your resume is impeccable, free of typos and grammatical errors, and organized with clear, concise, and effective language. 

10. Leadership Skills

It’s a tall order: 60.3% of hiring managers want potential hires with excellent 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, 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 from former internship managers that speak to your leadership skills.

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