Employers prefer candidates with work experience

Not only do employers look for certain attributes on their candidates’ resumes and want them to possess certain key skills and qualities, but they also highly consider work experience when hiring new graduates.

Nearly 91 percent of employers responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2017 survey prefer that their candidates have work experience, and 65 percent of the total group indicate that they prefer their candidates to have relevant work experience. The group of respondents having this preference has dominated over the last several years. (See Figure 1.)

Another 26 percent of respondents prefer work experience of any type. Meanwhile, a mere 5 percent this year say that work experience is not a factor when hiring new graduates.

As far as how a graduate’s work experience was gained, more than half of respondents prefer that it comes from an internship or co-op. (See Figure 2.) Standing at 56 percent this year, this group of respondents has fallen some, down from 60 percent of respondents two years ago and 57 percent last year. The remaining 44 percent of respondents have no preference in how work experience was gained.

Data for the Job Outlook 2017 survey were collected from August 5, 2016, through October 4, 2016. A total of 169 surveys were returned—a 17 percent response rate. The Job Outlook 2017 report is available to members through MyNACE.

Figure 1: Employers’ hiring preferences relative to experience

HIRING PREFERENCE 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
I prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience 64.5% 64.2% 72.5% 74.1% 71.0%
I prefer to hire candidates with any type of work experience (doesn’t matter if it’s relevant or not, just some type of experience) 26.1% 27.0% 20.1% 20.7% 19.9%
Work experience doesn’t typically factor into my decision when hiring a new college graduate 5.1% 6.3% 3.9% 1.1% 4.8%
Other 4.3% 2.5% 3.4% 4.0% 4.3%

Source: Job Outlook 2017, National Association of Colleges and Employers

Figure 2: Employers’ preference as to how work experience was gained

METHOD OF GAINING EXPERIENCE PERCENTAGE OF EMPLOYERS THAT PREFER METHOD
Internship/co-op 56%
No preference 44%

Source: Job Outlook 2017, National Association of Colleges and Employers

By Monica Clem
Monica Clem Executive Director, Career Development and Experiential Learning Monica Clem