Employers Identify Four “Must Have” Career Readiness Competencies for College Graduates

When asked to rate the career readiness competencies of college graduates in terms of “essential need,” employers view four as vital, according to results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2016 Spring Update.

NACE’s seven career readiness competencies represent the skills, experiences, and attributes that broadly prepare students for a successful transition into the work force.

Employers deemed their top four career readiness competencies—critical thinking/problem solving, professionalism/work ethic, teamwork, and communications skills—to be between “essential” and “absolutely essential” in the college graduates they are looking to hire.

These results are consistent with those collected a year ago, indicating that these competencies are virtual “must haves.”

Employers Rate Career Readiness Competencies in Terms of Essential Need (2016 vs. 2015)
Competency 2016 Rating 2015 Rating
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving 4.7 4.7
Professionalism/Work Ethic 4.7 4.5
Teamwork 4.6 4.6
Oral/Written Communications 4.4 4.4
Information Technology Application 3.9 3.9
Leadership 3.9 3.9
Career Management 3.6 3.6


Weighted average. Based on a 5-point scale where 1=Not essential; 2=Not very essential; 3=Somewhat essential; 4=Essential; 5=Absolutely essential

Career readiness is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.

These competencies are:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic: Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time workload management, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind, and is able to learn from his/her mistakes.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration: Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. The individual is able to work within a team structure, and can negotiate and manage conflict.
  • Oral/Written Communications: Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside of the organization. The individual has public speaking skills; is able to express ideas to others; and can write/edit memos, letters, and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
  • Information Technology Application: Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task. The individual is also able to apply computing skills to solve problems.
  • Leadership: Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage his/her emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work.
  • Career Management: Identify and articulate one's skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences relevant to the position desired and career goals, and identify areas necessary for professional growth. The individual is able to navigate and explore job options, understands and can take the steps necessary to pursue opportunities, and understands how to self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.