SURVEY SAYS: Grads Face Gaps

grads face gaps illustration

What are employers looking for in new college graduates? Some of the very qualities that employers say new grads struggle with the most.

Two recent surveys tell what employers want—and the deficiencies they see. Taken together, the survey results tell college students what they need to know to stand out and hit the ground running once they’ve secured that first job.

When employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers were asked which attributes they look for on a job candidate’s resume, 77.8 percent of respondents chose “leadership” and “the ability to work in a team.” The next two most sought after qualities were “written communication skills” and “problem solving skills.” 

Compare that with the results of a 2015 CareerBuilder survey of employers. The survey, conducted online by Harris Poll, included a representative sample of 2,175 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes. When asked to name which skills they think recent college graduates lack for the workplace, these were the biggest vote-getters:

  • Interpersonal or people skills: 52 percent
  • Problem-solving skills: 46 percent
  • Oral communication: 41 percent
  • Leadership: 40 percent
  • Written communication: 38 percent
  • Teamwork: 37 percent

Employers said college students need more internships and other real world experiences to close the skills gap.

“One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships. Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder.

As a job seeker, be ready to play up relevant experience from internships and previous jobs as well as classwork, volunteering and extra-curricular activities.

“Students are well advised to take their studies seriously. An impressive GPA reflects a strong work ethic, intellectual understanding and motivation to be successful.

“However, good grades alone won’t always land students a desirable internship or job. Effectively communicating with others and solving problems using critical thinking and logic are among the attributes needed for success.

“There are aspects of nearly all part-time jobs that lead to soft skill development. Examples include representing the organization in a professional manner to its customers, successfully multitasking during peak demand periods and operating effectively as part of a team.”
Tim Luzader, director, Purdue University Center for Career Opportunities