How to Instill in Your Students the 3 Traits Most Important to Employers


The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a survey in August of 2016 that yielded some interesting results in terms of what employers care about the most when sorting through candidates’ resumes. The top three traits that employers seem to prioritize the highest, based on this survey, are a candidate’s ability to work on a team, their problem-solving skills, and their communication skills. So how do you ensure that students at your institution are fully prepared to be scrutinized by employers in these areas?

Ability to Work on a Team

A whopping 78% of respondents to NACE’s survey answered that they put a huge amount of importance on a candidate’s ability to work as part of a team.
One way to ensure students at your school develop this trait is to encourage professors to regularly assign group projects. It’s true that many students dislike group projects, but the reasons for disliking them happen to be the exact obstacles students will someday have to combat in the workforce: difficulties caused by communication issues, challenges when a team member doesn’t follow through, and the unavoidable need to make compromises. While students may groan their way through these assignments, it’s a tremendously useful way to have them practice these tough skills that employers prioritize so highly.
Another way to do this is to strongly encourage students to join extracurricular groups. The hierarchies often present in teams or clubs are very similar to the hierarchies students will someday be part of in the workplace, and it will teach them how to get along and work with others.

Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills came in second on NACE’s survey with 77% of respondents saying they prioritize this trait in applicants. This is a broader and perhaps more difficult skill to teach, so career counselors and advisors will want to make sure students are taking a combination of courses that inherently require problem-solving. Examples of courses like this could be anything from life skills courses to high-level thinking courses, like philosophy or legal studies. Career counselors and academic advisors should work together to make sure each student is taking classes that are challenging enough and require them to think outside the box.

Communication Skills

Coming in third on the survey was communication skills, with 75% of respondents saying this is a top priority.
Some people excel more at verbal communication and some more at written; one of your goals as a career counselor is to make sure students are proficient at both. If a student is an eloquent speaker but cannot communicate effectively in writing, you should guide them towards some resources that might help them express themselves more clearly in this format, like an on-campus writing workshop or your campus’ writing center. Likewise, if a student is great at writing but is not as impressive at communicating verbally, you might suggest they attend a public speaking class. Either way, it will be uncomfortable for the student at first to try and communicate in the way that is harder for them, but they will ultimately benefit from it greatly when it results in enhanced communication skills later down the line.

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