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  • Key Attributes Employers Want to See on Students’ Resumes

    January 13, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    Candidate Selection
    A recruiter reviews a student's resume for certain key attributes.

    TAGS: candidate selection, surveys, nace insights, students

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    As they are reviewing college graduates’ resumes this year, employers are focused on finding evidence of candidates’ problem-solving skills and teamwork abilities.

    NACE’s Job Outlook 2020 survey found that beyond a strong GPA, problem-solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team are the most important resume attributes to employers. More than 91 percent of employer respondents are seeking the former in the candidates they are recruiting, and more than 86 percent want proof of the latter. (See Figure 1.)

    Other top attributes this year are a strong work ethic and analytical/quantitative skills. The top four resume attributes that employers are looking for this year were all among the top six “most wanted” in the Job Outlook 2019 report.

    Last year, the largest percentage of respondents was focused on written communication skills. These skills fall to fifth on this year’s list of resume attributes.

    Also dropping on the list this year is initiative, which fell from the fourth most sought-after attribute last year to eighth this year.

    The largest drop this year appears at the bottom of the “wish list.” Although fluency in a foreign language remains the least sought-after attribute, the percentage of respondents seeking it has tumbled from 11.2 percent last year to just 2.9 percent this year.

    Data for the Job Outlook 2020 survey were collected from August 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019. This year’s data collection not only surveyed 905 NACE employer members, but also 2,229 employer organizations that were nonmembers. A total of 150 surveys were returned; 115 were NACE members and the remaining 35 were nonmembers. The Job Outlook 2020 report is available free to members through MyNACE. Nonmembers can purchase the report through the NACE Store.

    Figure 1: Attributes Employers Seek on a Candidate’s Resume

    Attribute % of Respondents
    Problem-solving skills 91.2%
    Ability to work in a team 86.3%
    Strong work ethic 80.4%
    Analytical/quantitative skills 79.4%
    Communication skills (written) 77.5%
    Leadership 72.5%
    Communication skills (verbal) 69.6%
    Initiative 69.6%
    Detail-oriented 67.6%
    Technical skills 65.7%
    Flexibility/adaptability 62.7%
    Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) 62.7%
    Computer skills 54.9%
    Organizational ability 47.1%
    Strategic planning skills 45.1%
    Friendly/outgoing personality 29.4%
    Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker 24.5%
    Tactfulness 24.5%
    Creativity 23.5%
    Fluency in a foreign language 2.9%
    Source: Job Outlook 2020, National Association of Colleges and Employers