Ever wonder what skills employers seek in their new hires? NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) released the results of a recent employer survey which asked what skills and attributes they seek in recent graduate new hires. The article can be read here, but here is a quick rundown of the top 5 skills:
1) Verbal Communication Skills: “Good communication skills” is almost always written on job description postings. While this has always been an important skillset, I believe there are more hiring managers and HR people who are placing more emphasis on this now. The ability to interface well with others is obviously important. This bodes well to all those communications majors out there. It might not hurt to take a communications class or two, as it might help you practice your public speaking skills (think presentations). A heavy dose of English or classes that require substantial written assignments will always help prepare you as well.
2) Strong Work Ethic: While this may seem like a given, this is a skillset or trait that is usually not teachable by hiring managers. This may be developed by years of practice in a disciplined environment, such as school, on-the-job experience, or organized team sports. Who says that afterschool job flipping burgers was worthless experience? (see my post on first jobs)
3) Teamwork Skills: The ability to get along with coworkers is a big deal. While a lot of people lose their jobs due to performance issues, more people lose their jobs (or quit) because they do not get along well with others. The ability to help others, improve morale, leadership, and take instruction well, are many skills that are encompassed by teamwork. While being a “team player” is a cliché term that you will find on a lot of resumes and cover letters, it is clear employers value this skill.
4) Analytical Skills: I surveyed employers years ago, and this was the number one skill on the list. As one manager put it, “I can teach employees the latest skills, but I can’t teach them how to think.” Analytical ability refers to your ability to intake information, process it, and output a conclusion or decision in a meaningful and accessible manner for others. This is another biggie. This is why you are in college: to hone your critical thinking skills.
5) Initiative: The cliché phrase may be “self-starter.” In other words, do you have to be told what to do? Or do you see things that need attention and get to work on it? If you come up with an idea to improve something, or create something new, what would you do? There are a lot of people with ideas, but not everyone acts on it. No one likes to be micro managed. But not everyone is self-sufficient. Put yourself in your manager’s shoes–would you want to be telling you what to do all the time? Or would you rather you work without always having to be told what to do? How do you address this? Understand what your employers/bosses need, and understand your role clearly. The more you can understand the agenda of those supervisors above you, the more likely you will understand what needs to be done. A good manager should make time maybe once a week or once every two weeks to check in with your progress (or your team), see how things are going, review your direction, and check to see if you need assistance with something, or have questions. If this doesn’t happen, start a dialog with him/her about this. This might be the first step in taking initiative. Your supervisor may be busy, but he/she will be impressed with your desire to do your job better (and ultimately make him or her look better!)
If you are an employer, or in a position to hire people, what do you look for in new hires?