Student Info & Guide

What Skills Do Employers Want?

by on September 10, 2014 | Top Stories

If you graduated recently or will be graduating in a few months, chances would be that you are looking for a job. While some of us can afford to be picky about where we want to work, the reality is that the picking is largely done by the employers.

So assuming you have the basic things required by employers – a first degree, internship experience and an extracurricular activity record – where does that leave you in terms of your competitive edge when vying for a coveted job?

According to an article in The Guardian, graduates who have already secured a job are told by employers that grades don't matter as much as skills in the job market. Increasingly, employers look more at skills than whether students obtained a first- or third-class degree.

So what skills exactly do employers want?

In a survey carried out by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in the US, the top 10 personal qualities or skills employers seek are:

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  2. Ability to work in a team structure
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell or influence others


It is interesting to note that the list emphasises transferable skills that are not confined to a particular job or field of study. Rather, these skills can often be gained through the course of a student's college or university experience. Whether it's through coursework, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, internships, competitions, or group projects, these experiences help students build and refine these indispensable skills.

NACE also found out that the skill employers want the most, that is, communication skills, is the one that they find most lacking in graduates. Yes, we know you've heard it over and over about how communication skills are important but here's another reason why you should do something about it. It would seem that the most-desired skill sought by employers is no different right here in Malaysia.  According to the article "The top 20 skills you need to develop your career" in, communication skills top the list.  The other factors mentioned include the following (though one might argue that some items on this list qualifies more as an attribute than a skill): analytical and research skills, flexibility/adaptability, interpersonal abilities, ability to make decisions and solve problems, ability to plan, organise and prioritise work, ability to wear multiple hats, leadership/management skills, attention to detail, self-confidence, public-speaking, tactfulness, creativity, ethics and integrity, strong work ethic, ability to accept and learn from criticism, sales and marketing, computer and electronics skills, mathematics, and programming.


So if you're still in college and wondering how to make yourself more marketable by the time you graduate, take note! Studying for a good grade is important but it's not the only thing that matters. Find activities that you're interested in and make sure you sign up for it – and we don't mean the half-hearted kind of participation. If you need help to improve your communication skills or writing skills or your competency in using computers, ask for help! Sign up for a course, or talk to someone who can mentor you. If you think you're too busy now (as a student) to develop and strengthen your skills, imagine how busy you'll be by the time you are a working adult. Get started today – you won't regret it!


Article references:

Job Outlook 2013, National Association of Colleges and Employers

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