To say the job market is tough (and intimidating) would be an understatement. Regardless of your industry and experience, when you first graduate you're stepping onto new turf that you haven't yet mastered. Naturally, the best thing a recent grad could hope for is a little bit of insight into what skills employers look for in recent graduates specifically.
Amy Howell, co-author of the newly released book The Future Belongs to Students in High Gear explains, "Millennials need every advantage they can get as they transition from the classroom to the career. Skills such as building a successful digital footprint, learning to take advantage of the resources available at each college and university and knowing how to network in the business community are all important to success."
Based on my experience in hiring new graduates I have compiled 8 essential skills that a variety of employers all look for when looking at a recent grad's resume, experience, and when meeting him/her in person. Of course this will not be perfect for every situation, but it's a good start. Consider the skills below:
- Face-to-Face communication skills.
In such a digital age face-to-face communication skills may not seem overly necessary, but they are when it comes to interviewing and making a good impression. Regardless if your position requires you to be good with people, it's important to have at least some in-person communication skills should the occasion arise where you have to talk to a client or customer, not to mention the day-to-day happenings in an office. This helps show you're confident, smart, personable, and more than likely easy to work with.
Keep in mind that this is also a skill that more and more recent grads are lacking in 2015, so something this simple can also set a candidate (you) apart from the rest.
- Ability to work with others well and complete team projects.
This skill also goes back to the idea that new recent grads are becoming disconnected, so it's important to be able to work well with others. This skill will be important to the success of company projects as well as the culture of the company as a whole.
- An understanding of how certain skills will transfer into real-world settings.
Having a well-rounded resume is great, but it isn't going to mean much if the graduate can't understand how his/her skills will transfer into real-world settings. In other words, it's important that a candidate shows what they can bring to the table, and this means understanding where his/her skills come into play for that specific company.
- Relevant work experience and past leadership roles.
Plain and simple, if you have held a leadership position in the past it shows that you are a self-starter and that you can handle making decisions (both skills on this list). According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) study, "when employees are forced to choose between two equally qualified candidates, they will choose the one with experience in a leadership position over the other."
- Being able to offer a fresh perspective with creativity and innovation.
This is one of the things that recent grads do well and employers want to see. Part of hiring someone new (recent grad or not) is bringing in someone with new ideas about how the company can grow. This is also a good opportunity for a candidate to show what they know about the company and the research they've done, both of which are things employers expect from any candidate regardless of experience.
This point piggybacks on the last point because if you can show creativity and innovation, chances are you're a self-motivated person. This skill is something important to employers because it ensures that they won't need to walk the new employee through every little decision every step of the way, not to mention it shows that the new employee is interested in growth. As an employer you want someone who can take the reigns so that you have more time on your hands, so self-motivation is crucial.
- Express ethical judgment and decision-making.
A CBS News article cited a study by the Association of American Colleges & Universities that found that 81% of employers marked this as top on their list of important skills for recent grads (even as more important than point number 3 above). Ethics has always been a big part of running a successful company, yet this isn't something that many people think about when they go in for an interview--especially recent grads. Nonetheless, it's important to be able to exhibit ethical judgment and decision-making. It not only shows that the candidate can be trusted, but it shows general intelligence.
- A high GPA.
Okay so you might be thinking, "that isn't a skill." Nevertheless, it's worth putting on the list because it is a characteristic that comes more into play for recent graduates. According to a USA Today College article, 91% of employers value interview performance more than GPA in their ultimate hiring decision, so there is no need to panic.
However, 43% of companies also have a formal GPA threshold, and this number jumps to 63% when looking at larger companies. In other words, a high GPA is something employers look for in a new grad to get the interview, which as we all know is the next step to showing off all of the other skills on this list.