University students out of step with employers on what employers really want in new hires

A NEW survey has revealed the skills that employers value and how different they are to what university graduates think are important. The QS Global Employer Survey 2018 has highlighted the misconceptions students have about what skills employers want and the areas where there is a graduate skills gap.

For the report released last month, more than 11,000 employers were surveyed around the world and their answers were compared to responses from 16,000 prospective students.


A key finding is that students relatively overvalue the importance of creativity and leadership skills, and undervalue the importance of flexibility/adaptability and teamwork.

The development of soft skills, such as team-playing and resilience, had become almost as important as the technical skills and knowledge acquired during a degree. What are known as “enterprise skills” such as problem solving, communication, teamwork and digital literacy, were in demand.SwinJune

The skills employers ranked as the most important for graduates:

  1. Problem solving
  2. Teamwork
  3. Communication
  4. Adaptability
  5. Data analysis
  6. Resilience
  7. Organisation
  8. Technical skills
  9. Creativity
  10. Leadership
  11. Language
  12. Commercial awareness

The skills students thought were the most important:

  1. Creativity
  2. Organisation
  3. Problem solving
  4. Leadership
  5. Teamwork
  6. Communication
  7. Resilience
  8. Commercial awareness
  9. Adaptability
  10. Technical skills
  11. Language
  12. Data analysis

India Students

The biggest difference between the two answers was for creativity, which students placed as the most important skill but employers ranked ninth among their priorities.

This was followed by data analysis, which employers ranked highly as the fifth most important skill but students ranked 12th.

Students were also confused by leadership, which they ranked as fourth most important, but employers rated as 10th.

Employers also rated adaptability highly, in fourth place but students put this in ninth place.

The only skill to feature on the top three for both employers and students was problem solving.

The report suggests students around the world underestimate how much employers value flexibility/adaptability and analytical skills, as well as resilience. They wrongly assume creativity, leadership and organisational skills are more important.

Our Employability Skills Master Class helps students align with what employers want, and builds in the skills to thrive in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.



Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

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