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What Employers Look For


What do Employers Look for?

According to an employer survey conducted by Michigan State's Collegiate Employment Research Institute (Sheetz, 1995), organizations seek the following qualifications in recent college graduates. This list can serve as a guide for students wanting to "sell" themselves better or prepare themselves for what employers will want — whether they're thinking about careers or graduate school.

  • Career-related work experiences in their field of study.
    This includes things such as cooperative education assignments, part-time jobs, summer employment, practicums, and internships. College students must learn by doing and being involved in hands-on, practical experiences. While employers look for hands-on experience, they also look for classroom experience with a real-world work orientation including case studies and simulations.

  • Abundant computer work.
    Automation and increased utilization of computer technologies are required for almost every job within business, education, and government agencies today.

  • Problem-solving skills rather than memorization of coursework.
    For achieving results in the future management and leadership environments, college students must have clear critical thinking skills.

  • An understanding of the people aspects of the work situation.
    Examples include team- based assignments, group projects, and associated team evaluations. Employers want colleges and universities to create more project and team environments so students can learn project management skills and strengthen team-player competencies.

  • Communication skills.
    Employers want employees with strong writing, research, public speaking, conversation, listening, presentation, conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills.

  • Well-developed logic and reasoning skills.
    Other related competencies included good judgment and decision-making skills; technical expertise; exposure to high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment; independent goal setting; andtime management skills.

  • A broad knowledge beyond their field.
    Employers want employees to have a broad perspective and broaden their knowledge base. Also, many employers advised becoming conversant in a second language.

  • Leadership experiences.
    Employers look for membership and leadership in extra-curricular activities and development of strong social skills.

  • Training on resume preparation, interviewing skills, career planning, job search skills, and other job campaigning topics.
    Many employers believe that a compulsory course in preparation for life after college is prudent. Coursework in character-building, professionalism, ethics, working with the poor, and professional protocol/etiquette was also encouraged.

Sheetz, L. P. (1995). Recruiting Trends: 1995-96. East Lansing, MI: Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University.

Page by Jeanne M. Slattery