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  • The Attributes Employers Seek on Students’ Resumes

    April 19, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

    Candidate Selection
    A close up of a candidate's resume.

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

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    With fewer employers screening job candidates by GPA, it is increasingly important that college graduates demonstrate certain attributes on their resumes. For example, students should highlight their teamwork and problem-solving skills, as nearly eight in 10 respondents will be looking for evidence of them on the resumes they review. (See Figure 1.)

    While the order of attributes employers seek on resumes has remained somewhat consistent over the years, a few subtle changes have emerged this year. For example, verbal communication skills were seventh on the list of attributes last year, with 69.6% of respondents seeking them. This year, verbal communication skills moved up to fourth on the list, with almost three-quarters of respondents looking for some evidence of them on a resume.

    Creativity is another attribute that has garnered increased interest from employers this year. Almost 30% of respondents will seek creativity on resumes, compared to less than one-quarter last year, when it was the second to last attribute on the list.

    Falling from third on last year’s list to 10th this year is work ethic. Although challenging to demonstrate on a resume, more than 80% of last year’s respondents sought evidence of it. This year, slightly less than two-thirds of respondents will look for evidence of work ethic on the resumes they review from college graduates.

    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: Attributes Employers Seek on a Candidate’s Resume

    Attribute Percent of Respondents
    Ability to work in a team 81.0%
    Problem-solving skills 79.0%
    Analytical/quantitative skills 76.1%
    Communication skills (verbal) 73.2%
    Communication skills (written) 72.7%
    Initiative 67.8%
    Leadership 67.8%
    Technical skills 67.8%
    Flexibility/adaptability 65.9%
    Strong work ethic 65.4%
    Computer skills 59.0%
    Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) 57.6%
    Detail-oriented 56.1%
    Organizational ability 39.0%
    Creativity 29.8%
    Strategic planning skills 28.3%
    Friendly/outgoing personality 25.9%
    Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker 19.5%
    Tactfulness 17.6%
    Fluency in a foreign language 3.4%
    Source: Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update, National Association of Colleges and Employers