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The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: What Recruiters Look for in Business Graduates

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The purpose of this paper is to better understand what recruiters are looking for in potential job applicants. Past studies tend to be unclear on how GPA ranks in relation to soft skills (traits and social skills important in interacting with others). Also, most of these studies were conducted at either Ivy League colleges, where the admissions policies filter students by academic ability and might dilute the importance of GPA to recruiters, or in Fortune 500 companies, where expensive training programs shape employees and may make academic performance less important than other qualities. Our survey of recruiters at a regional university career fair found that factors demonstrating soft/social skills ranked highest in recruiter preferences. Surprisingly, GPA and work experience tended to be least important to recruiters. Minor differences were found between Fortune 500 and non-Fortune 500 recruiters, but preferences were largely consistent between groups. By understanding this apparent shift in recruiter preferences, universities can better position themselves to help students develop desired skills. In addition, this study has important implications for brick and mortar universities struggling to find their place among all the online alternatives, as focusing on programs to develop soft skills may be a competitive advantage for them.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • College Student Journal publishes original investigations and theoretical papers dealing with college student values, attitudes, opinions, and learning. Topics include the areas of undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, and may also include selected contributions dealing with college preparation.

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