Employers Consider College Major in Hiring Decisions

Savvy college graduates have likely heard more than they want to about the talent shortage affecting today’s job market. If they’re particularly skilled, they may even have gotten overly confident, since the lack of good candidates means their job prospects are better. But if these optimistic young job seekers infer that the talent shortage means employers aren’t looking closely at transcript details, they would be wrong, according to a recent survey by entry-level job site CollegeGrad.com.

The survey polled what employers want most when hiring new college graduates and results indicate some 44 percent of employers ranked a student’s major as the top priority for hiring consideration. This number rose slightly from 42 percent in 2007. Interviewing skills and a student’s internships and experience ranked second and third.

In fourth place, the college that students graduated from was the top criterion for hiring consideration selected by 10 percent of employer respondents. This is up from just 1 percent and last place in 2007.

According to the survey, when employers look at a candidate’s major in their initial hiring consideration, they are first concerned with finding candidates who have specific skill sets necessary for success in a particular field.

“Employers are looking for candidates with industry knowledge and the ability to learn,” said Linda Ickes, director of the Career Center at Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University. “A student’s degree and GPA provide evidence of this ability.”

Aside from having the right major, employers repeatedly express in the survey the importance for candidates to set themselves apart. This would suggest while the war for talent exists, hiring managers might be even more picky about who they hire.

To compete most effectively, CollegeGrad.com recommends IT job seekers note the specific success factors necessary for their desired job and then cater their career preparation toward those factors. Those who can communicate these skills through past experiences in an interview setting will stand out.

It also pays to have some experience before entering the job market. Core competencies vary greatly depending on the industry, but employers across the board agree the ability to demonstrate foundational work habits is critical for success in a new job.

– Kellye Whitney, kwhitney@certmag.com

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Kellye Whitney

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