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The Hard Facts on the Soft Skills Employers are Looking for in a New Hire

The Hard Facts on the Soft Skills Employers are Looking for in a New Hire

So, you’ve earned your degree in construction services, information sciences, engineering, or any of the many majors available at universities and colleges across the country. Now, you’re prepared to take on the world with the skills you learned specific to your major. However, in today’s increasingly competitive job market, employers are expecting more. Can you lead? Can you express your ideas on paper or when talking to a group? How well do you get along with others? Often referred to as “soft skills,” these attributes are key complements to the “hard skills” you learned in college and will make you much more attractive to potential employers.

But What Exactly Are Employers Looking for in a Candidate?

Today, thanks to the extensive research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates do not have to guess what employers want from their new hires.  According to the research, there are 8 Career Readiness Competencies that prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace. Employers seek out graduates with these valuable soft skills.

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: The ability to exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions and overcome problems
  • Oral and Written Communications: The ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral form
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: The ability to build collaborative relationships
  • Digital Technology: The ability to effectively utilize technology to complete tasks and accomplish goals
  • Leadership: The ability to leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals
  • Professionalism and Work Ethic: Demonstrates personal accountability and effective work habits
  • Career Management: Understanding of one’s skills, strengths, and knowledge
  • Global and Intercultural Fluency: The ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences

Level Up on Your Career Readiness Competencies

“Knowing that these are the skills employers seek is an incredible advantage to the job seeker,” explained Lisa Hibner, Director of the Baton Rouge Community College Career Center. “When beginning a job search, new graduates should be prepared to discuss their career readiness competencies.  We encourage students to reflect on the classroom projects, internships, work experiences, or community and volunteer activities that have offered them opportunities to develop these career readiness skills.”

College graduates who have focused on developing these critical skills and are also able to articulate their competencies in these areas will have a much higher chance of landing a job.

Hibner advises new college graduates entering the workforce, instead of thinking about what you want from your employer; spend some time understanding what they want from you.  Answer these “career readiness” questions before going on any interviews:

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving:

  • How do you typically overcome problems or make a decision?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to overcome a challenge.

Oral and Written Communications:

  • When have you communicated your thoughts and ideas through writing or verbal communication?

Teamwork and Collaboration:

  • Describe a time when you worked with a team to complete a project or task.
  • How do you build rapport with your coworkers or classmates?

Digital Technology:

  • What type of technology have you used to complete various projects?


  • Have any of your personal experiences helped you to become an effective leader?
  • What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make recently and how did you come to that decision?

Professionalism and Work Ethic:

  • Describe a situation where you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Give at least two examples of what you did in previous jobs or in school that demonstrate your willingness to work hard.

Career Management:

  • What skills and expertise will you bring to this company?

Global and Intercultural Fluency:

  • Tell me about a time you worked on a team with individuals from different backgrounds.
  • Describe a situation that required you to consider a different perspective from your own when exploring an issue.

For more information on the Career Readiness Skills, visit the NACE site, or stop by your college or university career center for additional support on preparing for your future career.

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