Thursday, December 1, 2011

Competency #8: I know what skills employers most seek in candidates

In addition to knowledge and unique content-specific and technical skills required for your career path, there are many “soft skills” employers seek in potential employees, too. Many employers consider these skills to be more important than job-specific skills.

Employers looking to hire new college graduates place the ability to work in a team at the top of the list, according to a new survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).  

Among employers taking part in NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey, verbal communication skills; decision-making/problem-solving skills; the ability to obtain and process information; and the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work rounded out the top five “soft skills.” (See Figure 1.)   

But employers look for much more in prospective employees, says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director. 
“Employers also reported a preference for candidates who have some type of relevant work experience, and those who have held a leadership position,” says Mackes. “These offer some evidence of the candidate’s ability to perform successfully.”  

In addition, in this tight employment market, nearly three-quarters of employers said they use GPA, typically 3.0 or above, to help them screen new college graduates for consideration. 

Here's what the survey determined:

Figure 1: Soft skills  
Attribute                                                      Average rating 
Ability to work in a team...................................... 4.60
Ability to communicate verbally........................... 4.59
Ability to make decisions and solve problems..... .4.49
Ability to obtain and process information............. 4.46
Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work....... 4.45 

5-point scale: 1=Not at all important; 2=Not very important; 3=Somewhat important; 4=Very important; and 5=Extremely important

(Source: Job Outlook 2012, National Association of Colleges and Employers)

While this might not come as a surprise to veteran workers, it serves as a helpful reminder that employers recognize these skills as necessary to succeed in the workplace.  As I've mentioned in earlier posts, your ability to quantify and qualify these skills in writing and in the interview can make or break your chances of getting a job offer.