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  • Internship Experience the Top Differentiator When Choosing Between Otherwise Equal Job Candidates

    April 19, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

    Candidate Selection
    A row of tiny people silhouettes, with one getting chosen from the rest.

    TAGS: candidate selection, trends and predictions, surveys, nace insights

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    Internship experience is the most influential factor employers consider when deciding between two otherwise equally qualified job candidates, according to results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update.

    Employer respondents indicate that a candidate having internship experience in their industry has an edge when making a hiring decision. The advantage is even greater, however, if the student’s internship experience is with the specific company doing the hiring. (See Figure 1.)

    The student’s major is also very influential, as is the student having held a leadership position, having general work experience, and being involved in extracurricular activities.

    Although a GPA of 3.0 or above remains somewhat influential, the average influence rating has dropped compared to last year. This is not surprising as GPA screening has hit an all-time low: Just 56.6% of responding employers are using GPA to screen college graduates from the Class of 2021, a steep drop from the nearly 75% that used this method two years ago.

    The Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey updates hiring projections for the Class of 2021. The original projections were reported in Job Outlook 2021, which was published in October 2020. The Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey was conducted from February 17 – March 12, 2021. Of the 207 total respondents, 146 were NACE employer members, representing 17.1% of eligible member respondents. The Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update survey was also distributed to nonmember companies; this group provided an additional 61 responses. The Job Outlook 2021 report is available in MyNACE

    Figure 1: Influence of Attributes

    Attribute 2021 Average Influence Rating* 2020 Average Influence Rating* 2019 Average Influence Rating*
    Has completed an internship with your organization 4.5 4.6 4.6
    Has internship experience in your industry 4.3 4.4 4.5
    Major 3.8 3.9 4.0
    Has held leadership position 3.6 3.9 3.8
    Has general work experience 3.6 3.6 3.7
    Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, etc.) 3.4 3.6 3.5
    High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.2 3.5 3.3
    Has no work experience 3.2 3.4 3.4
    Has done volunteer work 2.8 2.7 2.7
    School attended 2.5 2.7 2.8
    Is fluent in a foreign language 2.1 2.2 2.2
    Has studied abroad 1.8 2.0 2.2
    Other 3.9 2.1 2.2
    Source: Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update, National Association of Colleges and Employers. *5-point scale, where 1=No influence at all, 2=Not much influence, 3=Somewhat of an influence, 4=Very much influence, and 5=Extreme influence