2014 Student Advisory Report: What Employers Think

Communication Skills Rank Highest Among Employers

School of Business and Information Technology Employer Survey

Kaplan University Collaborates With the Society for Human Resource Management for Final Installment of the “If I Were You” Student Advisory Report


Results from the third and final installment in the series of Kaplan University’s “If I Were You” Student Advisory Reports have been released. This latest report from the School of Business and Information Technology, in collaboration with the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), focuses on insights from top employers across various industries on the key personality attributes and professional skills when it comes to hiring for business and information technology (IT) positions in their company.  

More than 3,000 employers from SHRM’s membership pool were selected to participate in the “Career Tips for IT and Business Job Applications” survey. SHRM serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM’s membership spans 140 countries and more than 575 affiliated chapters.

Some of the key findings include: 

  • Outside of education training and experience, communication (94%) and critical thinking skills (73%) ranked as the top two most valuable skills for business, IT, and general job applicants in today’s workplace.  For IT job applicants, technology/social and digital media (72%) and critical thinking (67%) topped the list for most valuable skills. 

  • When asked what one strength a person needs to gain a competitive edge in their field or position, the most popular response chosen by HR professionals for both business and IT sectors was a person’s adaptability to change. 

  • Employee referrals and national online job boards were reported to be the leading resources for recruiters.  Larger organizations are more likely than smaller organizations to report college recruiting, internal job postings, and job fairs as sources to find their most qualified business job applicants.

Click here to access the full report.

To access the earlier phases of the advisory report, click here.

Our Expert Sources

Who are the employers that contributed to the report?

  • Minimum of 3,000 members of the SHRM were selected to participate; response rate of 13%
  • Respondents ranged from the managerial level up to C-Suite executives
  • 34% multinationals
  • 68% for-profit privately and publicly owned corporations
  • 9% government agencies (federal, state, and local)

What You Need to Know

The advisory report offers insight and information on the personal and professional traits that can help secure job opportunities for graduates seeking employment and advancement in the business and IT sectors. Specifically, the report provides a detailed review of:

  • The most valuable skills for business, IT, and general job applicants in today’s workplace
  • Strengths that can give business, IT, and general job applicants a competitive edge
  • Leading resources for recruiters when seeking out business and IT job applicants

The report also includes a collection of pieces of advice from HR professionals to job seekers.

Featured Employer Quotes—Words to the Wise

The “Words to the Wise” section below shares some valuable words of advice from employers to prospective applicants to help them stand out from the crowd and land the job.

“Have a solid understanding of the industry they have in mind. They should also make sure they fully investigate and study the company(ies) they wish to be employed by.”

“Know about the company and the position you are applying for. Make sure the position is a good fit for you and for the company.”

“A lot of time, we are looking for potential rather than current skill sets. A great candidate who has the right attitude, strong work ethic, and the desire and ability to learn and grow will always stand out.”

“Be honest in evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, but remain confident enough to go outside the box when you are looking for a next position.”

“Be prepared to share examples where you personally have demonstrated the skills required for the position. Share examples where you have identified a solution to a problem, the impact the problem had on the business and the overall results.”

“Because IT is an ever-changing and innovative field; it is important for the applicants to be on top of all cutting-edge technology, especially the technology most closely resembling the company they wish to be employed by.”

“Obtain certifications in niche technologies as this will make you highly desirable by multiple companies across different industries.”

“Know your value yet realize you are a service provider and the employees in your company are you customers–aim to serve them.”

“Networking with other IT professionals seems to work best with the industry.”

“Demonstrate that you can relate well with those who do not understand the ‘IT world’ and that you can look ahead and see what may help the business move ahead, with respect to IT technologies.”

“Share examples where you have worked in a team environment, how you collaborated and communicated, [and] what your role was vs. the role of others on the team.” 

Access Student Advisory Report Phases: Faculty, Alumni, and Employers Surveys

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