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  • What Employers Seek on a Resume

    December 11, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    Candidate Selection
    A recruiter interviews a candidate.

    TAGS: internships, branding and marketing, candidate selection, surveys, nace insights

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    Career services practitioners looking to help college students impress employers with their resumes should advise them to emphasize their problem-solving skills and teamwork abilities, according to results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2018 survey.

    Employers responding to thesurvey said these are attributes—beyond a strong GPA—that they most want to see on students’ resumes. Not only are problem-solving skills and teamwork abilities the most desired attributes, but they are of equal importance. (See Figure 1.)

    Other attributes that employers value and want to see evidence of on students’ resumes are written communication skills, leadership abilities, and a strong work ethic.

    Work experience—and particularly internship experience—also carries a lot of weight with employers. In fact, employers cited internship experience with the organization as the top factor influencing their decision when choosing between two otherwise equally qualified candidates, followed by whether the candidate has internship experience within the hiring organization’s industry. (See Figure 2.)

    Data for the Job Outlook 2018 survey were collected from August 9, 2017, through October 2, 2017. A total of 201 surveys were returned—a 20.5 percent response rate. The Job Outlook 2018 report is available 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
    Problem-solving skills 82.9%
    Ability to work in a team 82.9%
    Communication skills (written) 80.3%
    Leadership 72.6%
    Strong work ethic 68.4%
    Analytical/quantitative skills 67.5%
    Communication skills (verbal) 67.5%
    Initiative 67.5%
    Detail-oriented 64.1%
    Flexibility/adaptability 60.7%
    Technical skills 59.8%
    Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) 54.7%
    Computer skills 48.7%
    Organizational ability 48.7%
    Strategic planning skills 39.3%
    Creativity 29.1%
    Friendly/outgoing personality 27.4%
    Tactfulness 22.2%
    Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker 19.7%
    Fluency in a foreign language 4.3%
    Source: Job Outlook 2018, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Figure 2: Influence of Attributes

    Attribute* 2018 Average
    Influence Rating
    2017 Average
    Influence Rating
    2016 Average
    Influence Rating
    Has completed an internship
    with your organization
    4.6 N/A N/A
    Has internship experience
    in your industry
    4.4 N/A N/A
    Major 3.8 4.0 4.0
    Has held a leadership position 3.7 3.9 3.9
    Has general work experience 3.7 N/A N/A
    Has no work experience 3.4 N/A N/A
    High GPA (3.0 or above) 3.4 3.6 3.5
    Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, etc.) 3.3 3.6 3.6
    School attended 2.8 2.9 2.9
    Has done volunteer work 2.7 2.6 2.8
    Is fluent in a foreign language 2.2 2.1 2.2
    Has studied abroad 2.2 2.0 2.0
    Source: Job Outlook 2018, 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; 5=Extreme influence. (*Note: For the current survey, four attributes related to work experience were added to the original list provided to employers that was used in the past.)