NACE Job Outlook 2016: What Employers Want to See on Your Resume

Posted By Terri Williams on January 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm
NACE Job Outlook 2016: What Employers Want to See on Your Resume

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has released its Job Outlook 2016 report. The annual survey of the 201 member employers helps college students and recent graduates identify hiring trends and understand some of the major factors that affect hiring decisions.

Hiring of recent college graduates is expected to increase by 11%. Companies that are increasing their ranks stated that they were trying to build their talent pipeline and replace retiring workers. Companies that were not hiring as many new graduates in 2016 listed budgets, reduced company growth, and restructuring as the reasons they were not adding as many new employees.

The report also reveals a bit of vitally important information: which attributes, qualities or features of a recent graduate will make them more desirable. Knowing this information can help candidates craft their cover letter and resume to their advantage.

On a scale from 1 to 5, these are the rankings for how certain attributes influenced an employer’s hiring decision:

Attribute Average Rating
College major 4
Has held leadership position 3.9
Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, etc.) 3.6
High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.5
School attended 2.9
Has done volunteer work 2.8
Is fluent in a foreign language 2.2
Has studied abroad 2

5-Point scale: 1 = No influence at all, 2 = Not much influence, 3 = Somewhat of an influence, 4 = Very much influence, and 5 = Extreme influence

Among NACE respondents, a candidate’s college major has the most influence, followed closely by leadership experience. Extracurricular activities and a high GPA are also heavily weighed.

Employers want to see leadership and teamwork

It comes as no surprise that a potential employer would want a candidate with a relevant college major and a relatively high GPA. But why are leadership skills and extra-curricular activities so important? And how can college students develop skills and gain experience in these areas?

In today’s workplace, organizations place a huge importance on making sure new hires are the right fit for the company’s culture, according to John Krautzel, vice president of marketing and member experience at Beyond. Krautzel tells GoodCall that a study conducted by his organization found that 56% of HR professionals value interpersonal skills over technical expertise.

“With that in mind, more organizations view ‘soft skills’ as a high priority when vetting potential employees,” says Krautzel.  He advises college students to take advantage of the resources available to them and to participate in student organizations and professional development committees. “Not only will you learn valuable insight into your future career, but you’ll be able to point to hard examples of your ability to lead a team and work well with others,” explains Krautzel.

If you need ideas regarding college activities and organizations, Neil Halloran, coordinator of internships at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi University, in Garden City, New York, provided GoodCall with a plethora of possible choices:

  • Join a business society, e.g. Accounting Society, Marketing Society, and strive to be an officer in that society. For example, a treasurer or president will develop leadership skills and, more importantly, get results working with other students and professors. A strong officer will understand the meaning of working as a team.  Successful leaders are also very strong team players.
  • Become a Resident Assistant (RA) or Hall Director. You will develop skills in handling people and working with university management to ensure the health and welfare of your particular dorm or facility.
  • Volunteer for university events that assist charities and any worthwhile cause. The experience learned would enhance a student’s awareness of current events and contribute to a society that needs help.
  • Work toward gaining internships in the business world outside the university environment. The student will learn how to work with business professionals, develop a network with business executives and be trained in skills offered by that company.
  • Join an athletic team; learn the true meaning of leading a team and working as a team.
  • Be an active participant in the classroom. Volunteer for roles as team leader if your professor gives you case study assignments. Be responsible. Work on your communication skills in the classroom. Don’t be passive.
  • Take leadership assessment tools to “know yourself” and know your strengths and weaknesses. Some examples are: Myers-Briggs, DisC, Firo-B and Leadership styles.
  • Participate in any certificate program that deals with leadership and/or teamwork.

However, gaining experience is only a part of the puzzle. Graduates also need to highlight these soft skills on their resume. According to Krautzel, “We know that often, recruiters can be inundated with up to hundreds of job candidates per day so you’re lucky if you get five seconds to sell yourself as a worthy candidate.” He advises candidates to highlight their strengths upfront on a well-structured resume. “Start with a brief objective statement can highlight any experience, coursework or attributes that are applicable to that specific job or industry.”

Krautzel also recommends networking. “Building relationships with alumni, professors or club sponsors can open up unexpected doors, or at the very least yield a valuable letter of recommendation, which is helpful in any job application.”

But candidates who don’t have a lot of leadership and teamwork experience aren’t necessarily “unhireable.” For example, Rod Adams, U.S. recruiting leader at PricewaterhouseCooper says his company is committed to developing leaders at all levels. “To do this, we’ve embraced a fresh and distinctive leadership model called the PwC Professional that enables our people to develop skills that will help them grow their careers – at PwC or beyond.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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