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Got a Diploma? Employers Would Rather See These Skills

Credit: Mathias Rosenthal/Shutterstock

With college graduation season underway, the class of 2015 is eagerly awaiting that all-important piece of paper that officially releases them into the working world. New grads often believe that a diploma is their ticket to employment, and in some cases, they're right — but overall, employers are more focused on workplace skills than degrees.

A recent study by ZipRecruiter found that just 21 percent of the jobs posted on its website specifically ask that candidates have a college degree. This is about on par with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' estimation that 33 percent of U.S. jobs require a college degree. While ZipRecruiter posited that the possession of a degree may be assumed for higher-level jobs, it seems that across the board, experience in the field and pertinent skills and training trumped a diploma or a good GPA.

Even graduates themselves have found that skills are more valuable to their careers than their degrees. In a 2014 Glassdoor survey, nearly three-quarters of employees said their employers value work experience and related skills more than education when evaluating job candidates, with 53 percent saying a graduate degree is no longer necessary to secure a high-paying job. [Job Search Tips for New Grads]

There's no question that higher education still factors into career success, as 82 percent of Glassdoor respondents said their college diplomas have helped them in the workplace. But job seekers need to realize that there's more to landing a job and advancing their careers than holding a degree.

"For any employee looking to earn a bigger salary or move up the corporate ladder, they should do their research on how their industry is evolving, including identifying specific skill sets that are in demand," Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor career and workplace expert, said in a statement. "Going back to school may be one way to learn and improve, but there are also nontraditional ways, such as certificate programs, boot camps, webinars, online nondegreed courses, conferences and more."

So which specific skills do today's employers want to see in job candidates? According to ZipRecruiter's analysis of 250,000 of its job ads, the following six qualifications appeared most frequently:

  • Communication (51 percent) 
  • Time management (21 percent) 
  • Ability to work well within a team (19 percent) 
  • Independent motivation (12 percent)
  • Specific experience in Microsoft Office (11 percent)
  • Ability to work in fast-paced environment (7 percent)

Since communication skills are so high on the priority list for many employers, it makes sense that the whole process of landing a job revolves being able to communicate well, said Allan Jones, chief marketing officer of ZipRecruiter.

"When you're writing your résumé, make sure that it doesn't have grammatical errors, that it only has the most relevant information and that it tells your story as a job seeker in a way that highlights your positive aspects in an honest way," Jones told Business News Daily. 

Additionally, Jones advised having a prepared plan for what you can do on day one of your new job to help the company, and explaining that during the interview. 

"That's a great way to showcase your communication skills, and it shows you're serious about the job and the company," Jones said.

Additional reporting by Chad Brooks, Business News Daily senior writer.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.