10 important skills employers look for in college graduates



All set to land your first job out of college? Get ready to put your talent to the test.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2021 survey, there are a handful of specific skills employers look for in new grads.

Below you’ll find the top 10 most sought-after attributes and skills to put on a resume that hiring managers want from this year’s graduating class.

So if you’re on the hunt for an entry-level job, read on to learn what these skills are and how to master them.

1. Ability to work in a team

It goes without saying that nobody likes the employee who wants to hog the spotlight. But unlike your career as a student, where you’re really the only one who can make or break your success, the workplace depends on teams of people to get the job done. No surprise, then, that 81% of hiring managers want to know you can collaborate well with lots of different personalities. You’ll need to learn how to delegate, take direction, value differences of opinion, and play to your and your co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses.

2. Analytical skills

Many hiring managers (76.1%) want to hire entry-level workers who possess analytical skills, meaning they’re searching for critical thinkers—people who know how to gather and evaluate information and then make good decisions based on that intel.

3. Verbal communication skills

Around 73.2% of hiring managers surveyed said good verbal communication skills are a must-have for new grads. Communication skills set the tone for how people perceive you and help you build relationships with co-workers. Verbal communication prowess is best demonstrated during job interviews. Presenting answers to interview questions clearly goes a long way.

4. Written communication skills

Good communication is always going to be among the top skills employers look for. The survey found that 72.7% of managers feel writing proficiency is the most desirable hard skill among recent college graduates. Therefore, submitting a well-crafted cover letter is crucial.

5. Leadership skills

It’s a tall order: 67.8% of hiring managers want potential hires with great 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 (e.g., president of the French club), highlight it on your resume. If you emerged as the informal leader on a group project, talk about the experience during the job interview.

6. Initiative

Tied with leadership and technical skills, a healthy 67.8% of hiring managers reported they want newly minted college graduates who know how to take 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 difficult situation in a direct way or a time when being proactive enabled you to head off a problem.

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: 67.8% of hiring managers said new grads should possess technical skills. Describe how you’re applied your technical skills in the past. For instance, if your resume lists that you have Java experience, it should also describe how utilized the program on a particular project in college.

8. Flexibility/adaptability

According to the survey, 65.9% 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 a hard time convincing companies that you’re worth the effort to train. The pandemic of 2020 taught employees to be ready for just about anything—including a sudden shift from working in an office to working from home. Let it be known that you’re not intimidated by change and can adjust accordingly.

9. Strong work ethic

No matter what field you’re in, being dedicated to and engaged with your work is a must—so says 65.4% 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 just have to show up on time, be committed to doing quality work, and strive for improvement.

10. Problem-solving skills

Seventy-nine percent of employers want to see new college graduates tout excellent problem-solving skills. Many hiring managers use behavioral interview questions—phrases such as “tell me about a time when” or “give me an example of”—to assess a job candidate’s problem-solving ability. Thus, you’ll want to prepare anecdotes that paint you as a solution finder.

You don’t need job experience to provide proof that you’re a problem solver. Think about times where you were proactive, innovative, or highly responsive to a challenge, like that time you helped solve a customer complaint while working at the campus coffee shop.