December 11, 2023
Graduate Skills

American Employers Call for Employability

Beyond Degrees: US Employers' Call for Universities to Boost Graduates' Employability

American employers have revealed which skills they’re looking for when hiring recent university graduates and how U.S. universities can best prepare young people for the workplace in the 2023-24 Global Employability University Ranking and Survey (GEURS).

When thinking about the role of universities in graduate employability, employers in the U.S. were outliers in stating that universities should prioritize graduate employability rates as a Key Performance Indicator. In line with these expectations, they suggested that career counseling services are a crucial factor in the employability of university graduates, again to a much greater extent than managers in many other countries. (This attitude toward on-campus career services aligns with broader higher education trends in the U.S., where a recent National Association of Colleges and Employers report showed that American universities are putting more resources toward campus career centers to ensure that graduates are successful at finding employment.)

“U.S. employers stand out in their belief that universities should prioritize graduate employability as a central benchmark of educational success to align their educational goals with the real-world demands of the job market. In line with this, they stress the importance of extensive career counseling, a key element in ensuring that graduates are well-equipped for the modern workforce." states Sandrine Belloc, Managing Director of Emerging.

U.S. employers tend to value the development of transferable soft skills and transferable technical skills rather than pure specialization, which until now could more easily lead to securing a job.

U.S. managers suggested that in order to prepare students for their first jobs, universities should provide their students with a professionally oriented curricula that enable students to learn important professional skills like teamwork and problem-solving abilities.  

American employers, like many of their peers in the 21 countries surveyed, said that the ability to work on a team was the most important skill for recent graduates seeking their first job. Other important skills recent graduates must have when applying for a first job are the ability to manage their time and solve problems effectively. American hiring managers offered further recruitment insights and said that it is important that new hires possess self-confidence and are thorough in their work.

Employers in which countries or regions ranked these experiences as the most important Universities can offer students to enhance graduate employability

A few other notable differences can be seen in the key graduate employability drivers from the perception of American employers as compared to employers in other countries. For example, employers at American companies put much greater emphasis on the importance of intercultural learning experiences and the internationality of universities, which suggests greater expectations that new university graduates will at some point in their career be working across borders or in a foreign country. Likewise, American employers said that it was important for university graduates to develop social, environmental and cultural awareness during their academic experience, which shows a sensitivity to the recent emphasis on how companies approach environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues.

Interestingly, American employers’ desire that university students have university education with professional concerns does not mean that university education should not be well-rounded. They instead stressed that universities should give their students a high-quality liberal arts education taught by top-notch educators using innovative learning methods.

More about the GEURS:

First released in 2010, the GEURS is the employability ranking consulted most by employers worldwide. The Global Employability University Ranking and Survey, is an independent global research project on graduate employability which has been produced and commissioned since 2010 by Emerging It is conducted by the specialised consulting and polling institute Trendence. Published annually first in the New York Times and subsequently in the Times Higher Education.

Emerging, the organizer of the annual GEURS, is a consultancy firm dedicated to corporate clients to help them optimise recruitment and establish tailored partnerships with HE institutions. Pioneers in promoting the employability of young graduates and professionals, they help organisations and governments implement sustainable employability policies. Their experts work side-by-side with senior leaders from the world’s top corporate and academic organisations.

The 2024 GEURS derives its analysis from 100,700 votes from 11,560 operational and international managers, i.e, human resources staff and the managers of first-time employees, in 21 countries. The employers canvassed for this year’s ranking are responsible for hiring 800,000 new graduates in  2023-2024. It is published this year in conjunction with the Times Higher Education (THE).