what qualities do employers look fo

What Skills Do Employers Look for in College Graduates?

The world of work has become increasingly dominated by robots and AI, leaving many of us to wonder: Where do I fit in? What can I do to stand out to employers – against the noise, against the competition and prove that I am worth the investment? 

While there’s no doubting that technological aptitude is highly-valued today, it does not top the list of skills that employers are actively seeking. In fact, it doesn’t even come close. You may rest easy knowing that modern employers are still looking for soft skills, human skills, in their future job candidates.  

As a prospective student or college graduate, it can benefit you to know what employers are looking for before you step into that interviewor even into the classroom. This will help you see your future in a different light. In college, you can focus on developing those very skillsets that employers demand. In your job interview, you can highlight those skills, or the ones you excel at most. And in the end, you can walk away knowing that you checked off the important boxes, and that you’re prepared for success. 

Goodwin University offers career-focused degree and certificate programs in Connecticut. “Career-focused” means that our classes are completely tailored towards in-demand careers, and taught by professionals in those very industries. We partner with employers across the state to understand their current needs in the workplace, and we develop our curriculums with those needs in mind. We know what skills employers are looking for among college graduates, and we ensure those skills are fostered and honed in every single class.  

Now, what skills do employers look for, exactly? After speaking with our career network, and reviewing surveys from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Goodwin has compiled a list of the top 10, in-demand skills employers are looking for today. 

  1. Problem-Solving, Critical-Thinking, and Decision-Making 

The World Economic Forum report showed that, across all industries, at least 36% of jobs today require complex problem-solving skills. The NACE survey also ranked problem-solving high on their list, with employers expressing great interest in college graduates who can effectively “make decisions and solve problems.” They desire candidates who can think critically in situations, resolve conflict when it arises, and who can make decisions quickly and effectively, with everyone’s best interest in mind. If you react to problems proactively, and can address problems calmly on your feet, you are a problem-solver. 

2. Teamwork and coordinating with others 

According a recent Forbes’ article, the #1 skill employers are looking for in college graduates, is the ability to work well on a team. They are seeking a person who can collaborate with colleagues (on- and off-line), connect with customers, and manage conflict or disagreements that inevitably will arise. Those who work well on teams are sensitive to others’ needs and are willing to collaborate with teammates to work towards a collective goal. 

3. Resilience and Adaptability 

Employers often state that the best employees are ones who can adapt to any situation, and that are determined to overcome any obstacles that arise. A person who is resilient is able to effectively cope with criticism and setbacks. They stay calm under pressure, and are motivated to complete great work. 

4. Creativity 

Creative people benefit an organization in many ways. Their creativity can be used to develop new strategies, products, and processes, and apply new thinking and technology to improve the way things are done. Creative thinkers can also find unique ways to overcome challenges in the workplace, and offer a new perspective in times of need. It is creativity that makes businesses stand out from the rest, so employers are seeking people with creative skillsets to help make that happen. 

5. Leadership 

Leaders are people who can effectively manage and motivate other people. They have the power to influence others, and an inherent ability to inspire change. At Goodwin, you will find leadership and management courses across our various degree programs, for those who wish to make a difference in their future field or organization. 

6. Desire to help others 

A true team member has a desire to help out other members of their team. A great employee wishes to help customers when they need it. This is true for direct patient care roles like nurses, for law enforcement officers, and also for those employees who may not have direct contact with others every day, like a bookkeeper or manufacturing worker. Employers are seeking good people who want to help others, whether that means helping a patient through an illness, helping a customer find a product, or simply covering a shift for a co-worker. 

7. Verbal Communication and cognitive flexibility 

Someone with strong communication skills will be able to speak in a professional manner, with colleagues, customers, executives, and more. This is valued in just about every field. In business, for example, you need to know how to deliver verbal presentations, sell your products, market effectively, or simply speak with customers and team members. In healthcare, you need to be able to communicate well with other medical staff, as well as patients and their family members.  

And communication is just one component. In addition, you must be able to listen deeply to others, to know who you’re speaking with, and to tailor your communication towards that person. This is called cognitive flexibility. Employers want to know you won’t say the same thing to every patient, or every customer. 

8. Analytical and reporting skills 

Analytical skills are needed in just about every field today. Can you look at a problem and look at it with different lenses? Can you develop a strategy considering all angles? Do you enjoy mining through data, and reporting on progress towards business goals? Can you pull valuable insights from business reports? These are just some of the many ways you can manifest analytical and reporting skills. If you don’t have these skills now, rest assured you will develop them in a postsecondary program. At Goodwin University, students are taught to dissect and understand data, to think critically about different situations, and to utilize specific research methods that will help them in their field. 

9. A positive attitude 

Studies show that almost half of employers will not hire a young person who does not have the right attitude. While the “right attitude” is somewhat subjective, it’s safe to say that employers are seeking candidates who have a positive outlook, that are eager to get started, and that have a strong work ethic.  

10. Technical knowledge related to the job 

Last, but certainly not least, is technical knowledge. While employers are absolutely seeking soft skills in job candidates, there is no underestimating the power of technical, field-specific knowledge. If you are going into healthcare, for example, you need to know your sciences. You need to know how to deliver patient care, and treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. If you are pursuing a manufacturing career, you need to know how to operate certain equipment and software programs. You need to know about the materials you will be working with. And if you are going into a business-related career, you need to know the fundamentals of marketing, budgeting, and strategizing. These are just examples of the essential technical skills needed within certain fields.  

Due to their high-value, it is important to find a postsecondary program that will equip you with these technical skills. If you know what field you want to pursue, find a skills-driven, career-focused program that will help you get there. Seek a program that offers both classroom and practical training. Find a program that offers you real-world, in-field experiences (for example, through an internship). You may even look for a program that is taught by others in the industry. In the end, you want to ensure that you are fully prepared to succeed in your career. That is exactly the goal of Goodwin’s degree programs. Our career-focused courses teach both career-focused, technical skills and versatile, soft skills, making for well-rounded and valuable job candidates. 

As technology advances and evolves the workforce, there is one constant – the need for human skills. Skills that will enable you to work on a team, to empathize and influence, to solve conflicts, and to communicate effectively. A Business Insider article puts it best when author Melanie Curtin writes: 

It is the very things that make you human — your willingness to cover for a coworker whose mother is sick; your desire to help two radically different teammates work together; your heartfelt appreciation of a manager who had our backs — that will make you the most valuable. 

Teamwork, problem-solving, critical-thinking, and leadership, combined with the technical skills that apply directly to your field of work, will position you for a successful career. Once you’ve developed these skills, the key will be to showcase them through your cover letter, resume, and interview. As a career-focused college, Goodwin has a dedicated Career Services team that helps students and alumni into jobs they love. We can assist with cover letter writing, resume building, and even hold mock interviews to prepare you for your job search and application.  

If you know where you would like to go, and would like help getting there, you can always contact Goodwin University. Call 800-889-3282 to speak with our admissions team, or request more information about our career-focused programs online.