4 amazing opportunities that will help your high school student develop the skills that top employer

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

What do employers really want?

A high GPA? Top class rank? A degree from the Ivy leagues? Surprisingly, no. While those things may help, there are far more qualities and skills that recruiters are looking for in recent college graduates.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a career fair at a local university. Over 130 company reps from firms like Lenovo, MetLife, and Sherman Williams as well as non profits and government agencies were on the lookout for grads that met their hiring standards. I took the opportunity to ask many of these employers what they were hoping to find in recent grads and what students could do to make themselves more employable.

The top qualities employers want to see in students...

I asked recruiters to tell me what the most important qualities were in their hiring decisions. I included things like GPA, work experience, and internships as well as “soft skills” like communication, problem solving, and organizational abilities. I also asked about character qualities like integrity and compassion. What ranked at the top of every single list? Integrity and communication skills. Problem solving ability was a close second as well as hard work, and for some fields, tech experience.

The representative from Sherman Williams noted the need to find students who are willing to put in the hard work that it takes to succeed in the business world. Often, millennials expect to immediately have the autonomy and success that is the result of years of hard work. A hiring manager for Lenovo’s sales training program says she looks for confident students with excellent communication skills, regardless of their college major.

The three items hiring managers most often take notice of...

According to a 2013 survey conducted by Chegg, Inc. hiring managers most often take notice of three items; initiative/leadership (93 %), participation in extracurricular activities related to one’s field of study (91%) and completion of a formal internship (82%). A rep from the healthcare technology firm Optum confirmed these finding, saying that when he sees a student who has contributed open- source code to a sharing site such as GitHub they move to the top of his resume pile. Computer Information Systems students who have created apps or participated in hackathons are also noticed more quickly.

What does this mean for high school students?

While we may think that high school is too soon to worry about post college employ-ability, this is far from accurate. Here is a sampling of a few of the amazing organizations that help students develop the exact skills that employers told me they are looking for; communication, problem solving, leadership and tech experience.

First Lego League

First Lego league offers events in 88 countries with over 255,000 participants. Students design, build and program a robot to compete against other teams in solving real world problems. While using science, technology, engineering, and math they also develop critical thinking ability, team work, presentation skills, STEM skills, and creativity; all things that employers value and are not always taught in the classroom. www.firstlegoleague.org