What do you look for when hiring recent college graduates? You probably have a list of skills and qualities that’s specific to your organization.

But in case you’re interested in how your peers go about recruiting and hiring recent grads, you might want to consider a recent survey published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey for the AACU, contacted 400 private sector companies and nonprofits, and asked, among other things, which of 17 attributes the employers considered most important in job applicants just out of college. Five of these stuck out as the most highly valued:

  • Ability to communicate orally and in writing
  • Teamwork skills
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Critical thinking, and
  • Ability to apply abstract knowledge to real-world problems.

Also, nine of 10 employers said critical thinking and clear communication were more important to them than the graduate’s major field of study.

Coming up short
That’s what the employers wanted from recent graduates, but are they getting it? A majority of them said No.

Of the attributes employers said they wanted, communication, critical thinking and problem-solving ability appeared to be in shortest supply among recent graduates. Only 25% of the employers surveyed said grads were well prepared in those areas.

The employers rated grads slightly higher in ethical decision-making, with 30% saying they were well prepared, and teamwork skills, 37%.

Where to from here?
Where does this leave employers who are fishing in the graduate pool for future employees and leaders? A couple of points emerge:

  • You may want to tailor your recruiting efforts to focus on grads who already have some practical knowledge of the way things work. Indeed, 87% of the employers surveyed said they are more likely to hire a graduate if the person has completed a senior project while in college. And 60% said all students should be expected to complete a significant applied learning project before graduating.
  • It’s more important than ever to be a learning organization — one where both new and current employees have opportunities to expand their knowledge on a regular, ongoing basis. If your new hires aren’t as prepared as you’d like, it’s up to you to prepare them. And even if they’re well prepared, they’ll want to take their skills to the next level.

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