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What Employers Want In New Grads
By Dan Gomez-Palacio
Director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center
Published Winter 2019-20, Affinity magazine

The job market is looking good for recent college graduates. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the 2019 class experienced the best hiring environment for new grads since 2007.

Hiring is on the rise in all sectors, which is always great news. However, no matter how strong the market is, finding that first job after college can still be a challenge. Each year, NACE surveys employers who hire entry-level candidates, and the same attributes continually rank in the top five. Above everything, employers want to see strong work ethic, personal initiative and the ability to problem solve. These skills can be shown through work experience (even if unrelated to the aspired field), military service, community involvement and volunteerism.

Young graduates are in a unique position when entering the job market. For those who don’t have as much hands-on training, they can’t sell their resumes on expertise. In the absence of experience, employers turn their attention to core skills.

It is important for young jobseekers to consider how they present themselves. A strong resume and LinkedIn profile should demonstrate the hard and soft skills they bring to the table. These first impressions can make or break a potential interview.

In the Grossnickle Career Services Center, students are encouraged to focus on their potential. This is a good time to pull from class experiences and discuss how their Columbia College education has prepared them for a particular field. Showcasing an ability to communicate effectively is a great way to establish readiness. Examples include excelling in an intensive writing class, having a job that requires top-notch customer service or working successfully on a team.

Employers want to see candidates who are excited to join the field. Internships or consistent volunteer experience express enthusiasm for a chosen career field. New grads can join professional associations (often for a reduced cost while a student) and/or attend local meetings or conferences. Demonstrating a personal interest shows they are serious about the field and maximize opportunities to network with potential colleagues.

Career counseling, networking and resumé assistance are available free of charge to all students and alumni through the Grossnickle Career Services Center. To get started, contact (800) 231-2391 ext. 7425 or visit