What Employers Want in New College Grads

Every year, recent college grads, fresh with diplomas in hand, come to the realization that finding a job right out of college can be rough, leading many to ask the question: what do employers actually want?


Regardless of your major, whether you realize it or not, you’ve developed unique strengths over the course of your college career that are valuable in the workplace. The Association of American Colleges and Universities surveyed 318 employers with at least 25 employees and found that overall employers want recent college graduates to be broadly educated.

Other findings of this survey include:

  • 80% of employers surveyed agreed that regardless of their major, college students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.
  • 95% prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.
  • Another 95% of those surveyed said it was important that new hires demonstrate ethical judgment, integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continued learning.
  • 93% of employers said that a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve problems is more important than a candidate’s undergraduate degree.

You’ve likely obtained and honed several strengths through a combination of academic work, internships, jobs, on-campus activities, and community engagement. In preparation for the job search and interview process, ask yourself , “What experiences separate me from the pack?” In your resume, cover letters, and interviews, transform your experiences into marketable job skills:

Problem Solving 

Problem solving skills demonstrate to employers that you can think critically, logically, and creatively. Think of times where you’ve identified a problem, thought of a solution to this problem, and implemented it. If an example doesn’t come to mind right away, it’s simpler than you think: you’ve likely solved a multitude of problems in the classroom, during an internship, a part-time job, or maybe volunteer work.


Teamwork is a vital skill that you’ll likely use everyday no matter what your career after graduation. Believe it or not, the ability to work well with others will take you far. Think of a successful group project. What was your role – did you lead? Were you encouraging and supportive? If there was a conflict, how did you compromise? Be prepared to explain why the group project was successful and how your role on the team positively affected the outcome.


Here’s where you’ll want to discuss contributions you’ve made to your internship, part-time job, or involvement in a student organization. Whether you’ve thought of a bright new idea or a great improvement upon an old idea, employers embrace grads with creative thinking skills. To highlight this ability, explain how you came up with an idea or improvement, how you put it into action, and the results (stick with positive examples).


Employers want grads who can not only speak and write clearly, but also listen and engage in conversations effectively. Throughout college you’ve had presentations, essays, and group projects (maybe even an internship or part-time job). Draw upon these experiences to demonstrate how you’ve used communication skills to successfully solve a problem, collaborate, and express ideas and information to others.

With this knowledge in mind, you can make yourself a competitive job applicant! If you’re having trouble finding a job, don’t give up. And remember, keep an open mind as you’re searching – having tunnel vision for your dream career could hinder you from finding opportunities that are a great foundation to develop these valuable skills.

image credit: campuscalm.com

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