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Employers Seeking New College Grads With Relevant Work Experience

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)BETHLEHEM, PA—Employers have a hefty list of criteria against which they assess new college graduates for employment, and work experience that is relevant to the job is key among them, according to a study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Nearly three-quarters of the employers taking part in NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey said they prefer to hire job candidates who have pertinent experience; just 4 percent said experience didn’t factor into their decision when hiring new college graduates. (See Figure 1.)

“For college students, relevant experience is typically gained through an internship,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

In fact, the internship can be the “foot in the door” to a job with many employers: In a separate NACE study regarding internships, responding organizations reported that 42 percent of their 2011 college hires came from their own internship programs.

“Employers are looking for evidence that the candidate can do the job; the internship offers that evidence,” says Mackes.

Figure 1: Employers’ hiring preferences relative to experience


% of respondents

Candidate with relevant work experience


Any type of work experience (relevance does not matter)


Experience not a factor




Source: Job Outlook 2012, National Association of Colleges and Employers.

About the surveys: The Job Outlook 2012 survey was conducted August 3 - September 23, 2011, among 244 organizations nationwide that hold NACE membership. NACE’s 2012 Internship & Co-op Survey was conducted November 11, 2011, through January 13, 2012, among 280 organizations holding NACE membership. NACE monitors and reports on the job market for new college graduates and related issues throughout the year.

About NACE

Since 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. For more information, visit

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