5 answers

What is most valuable to employers when looking for a potential employee who has just graduated from college?


5 answers

Christine’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

Hi Isabel,

In your career, it will be important to lean on qualities you can bring and the relevant experience. 

When you’re early in your career, you may not have relevant experience because you’re still exploring what you want to do and haven’t had a chance or are still focusing on school, which are both totally fine.

So the most valuable things you can be bringing to your interviews and conversations are going to be the qualities that will show them that you will grow into someone who can have tremendous impact on their platform. Some of these traits can be: curiosity (are you the kind of person that loves to understand everything about what they’re doing and why?), grit (are you willing to do what it takes?). Tell people how you’ve shown this in the past, maybe you were the person that enacted some change in school, started a trend, went out of the scope to learn or do something new like take certification classes.

But most importantly, focus on exploring and finding what you like. Once you do, curiosity and grit (and excitement to do the work) will come naturally because that one seed of thing you liked will extend into relevant activities and work that you may also enjoy.

Hope that helps!  

Christine recommends the following next steps:

  • If you already know what you want to do after college, ask for informational interviews with employers to understand what they're looking. Reach out on LinkedIn to people who work there and ask if you can chat with them.
  • Participate in extracirriculars. It tells employers you want to do more and gives you a chance to find what you're interested in.

Mitchell’s Answer

Updated Birmingham, Alabama

Hi there, Isabel! That's a great question, and one I'm sure is on the minds of most folks graduating with a Business degree. When looking at potential hires, experience is usually a big factor, but hiring managers know that new college graduates probably haven't had tremendous opportunity to gain experience in most fields. And some things, quite honestly, can be learned only on the job in the specific role. So I look for parallels in activities during school. Good grades - not necessarily top of the class but good enough to show a successful effort was made to master the material - show me your willingness and ability to focus on a task and see it to completion, as well as your ability to grasp concepts that are important for future roles. Leadership roles in extracurricular activities such as clubs, campus organizations, sororities, etc. demonstrate drive and willingness to take on added responsibility. Holding a part-time job during school may show dedication, determination, and willingness to go above and beyond, especially when coupled with good grades. I guess the bottom line is that I look for indications from your school years that tell me you would be a good fit for my team in a career role.

Good luck!

Noreen’s Answer


Hi Isabel - In my experience an entry level position likes to see your course work history, what are you interested in. Any part time jobs or internships that could give you an edge. That being said in my opinion it is finding someone that wants to give you a chance. They see you have a good attitude, willing to learn, can get along on a team, and will be easy to manager. It is also important to network. Most leaders want to help people new to the job market. Ask everyone you know what they do and where they work. Also work out a one minute introduction of yourself that shares what you can bring right away to a career option and what you hope to contribute over time. For example I am passionate about growing and developing people, I had the chance to begin work in this area while in college when I mentored through Big Sisters. I believe my positive attitude, willingness to learn new things, and work ethic will allow me to contribute at ABC company and your team.

Courtney’s Answer

Hi there!

The answer is very simple: drive.

I worked as a recruiter for four years before eventually working my way into my field as a content marketing strategist for a digital marketing agency. While I'm pursuing my BA in Creative Writing and English and have my Associate's degree, I landed my current role without any formal training. The trick to it was having drive.

Employers can spot the difference between someone who wants a job and someone who wants THIS job. I'm a firm believer, and so are my current bosses, that techniques can be taught, but passion and drive are things you must possess going into the interview process. Whenever I was conducting an interview, I leaned toward candidates who wanted to excel in their chosen profession. This isn't to say that jobs will overlook educational background and experience in favor of drive, however, it's not something that should be overlooked or underestimated.

Drive is a very powerful tool for anyone interviewing for their first job or simply making a transition into a new field. When I interviewed for my current job, there were a lot of moments when I had to say, "I'm sorry but I don't know what that is." I began to psyche myself out, convincing myself that I was definitely not going to get this position.

But, once I decided to read from the heart and not from what I thought they wanted to hear, that's when everything in my interview changed. I brought up all the sacrifices I had made to get to this point: sleepless nights, working multiple jobs, unpaid internships, contract work, rejections. I had highlighted my grades from school and what I was able to accomplish. My educational background and experience only got me half way; the other included my reasoning for doing all those things I did.

I didn't work two jobs, go to school and have an unpaid internship because it was mandatory; I did them because I wanted to better myself. I wanted my shot in the spotlight. I wanted to become successful. By sharing my experiences, it enabled them to see past what I lacked and instead, see my potential.

As I said, technologies and tasks can be taught. What can't be taught is a can-do attitude and willingness to put in the time and effort to succeed. When you succeed in what you do, so does your company. A happy employee is a successful employee. My recommendation to you is to take the time to think about what you've done in your past and why you've done them. Through that analysis, you'll discover your drive and what will set you apart from the competition.

Courtney recommends the following next steps:

  • Think about what you can bring to the table that has brought you success in the past or at least, got you to where you are now.
  • Speak candidly with your employer about what you want out of this job. Read from the heart.

Renie’s Answer


Hello Isabel,

Adding to other answers, during your interview stay focused on the person interviewing you. Turn off your phone and put it out of sight. Expand on your answers enough to give a well-rounded, thorough answer- do not use one- or two-word answers. A yes or no answer should be followed by a short, succinct reason for the answer you gave. Be aware of you posture and try to avoid overuse of your hands. Be yourself and answer truthfully. By all means, know about the company you are interviewing with - do your homework before the interview!

Good luck!