Entry Level Job Seekers: Here’s How to Stand Out from the Crowd

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Most Common Areas Where Candidates Need to Improve Identified by Thousands of References in New SkillSurvey Report; Feedback on Millenials Contradicts Typical Generational Critique; SkillSurvey Offers Key Advice to Help Candidates Increase Their Odds of Getting Hired

More than 1.6 million students will be graduating from college this year and many will soon be searching for their first post-college jobs. The input that prospective employers receive from a candidate’s references – even for entry level positions – can make the difference between a job offer and a rejection. With that in mind, SkillSurvey today released a new study offering insights based on reference feedback for thousands of actual job candidates. SkillSurvey is the leading provider of confidential, science-based reference assessments that help employers make better hiring decisions.

“In a tough job market, you can find an edge by showing your proficiency in the key problem areas that job references commonly identify,” said Ray Bixler, SkillSurvey CEO. “If you’re a job seeker and you’re already showing strengths in these areas, make sure your teachers, past managers and other references know them and are willing to discuss them when asked. If not, this report gives you some good basic guidelines on where you can improve.”

The SkillSurvey study examined job reference reports on candidates for seven of the most common entry-level positions: engineer, finance, IT, registered nurse, sales/business development, sales/account management and customer service. References most frequently came from previous managers and teachers.

References consistently rated candidates highest on values including trustworthiness, respect for diversity, ethics and integrity. Other common top areas included dedication to doing a good job, taking responsibility and dependability. However, references also noted key areas for improvement across each of the job titles:

SkillSurvey Says: Where Can Entry Level Candidates Improve?


  •     Staying up to date
  •     Software proficiency
  •     Independently making decisions


  •     Staying up to date
  •     Explaining financial concepts and information
  •     Using financial data to make decisions


  •     Documenting program and code creation
  •     Understanding computer logic / writing programs to achieve desired output
  •     Handling multiple projects

Registered nurse

  •     Displaying confidence in nursing skills
  •     Instructing others in processes/procedures
  •     Managing time efficiently

Sales/Business Development (sales “hunter”)

  •     Presenting information
  •     Negotiating with others to achieve an acceptable outcome
  •     Attention to detail

Sales/Account Management (sales “farmer”)

  •     Presenting info and advice in a logical, compelling manner
  •     Attention to detail
  •     Persistence when faced with objections

Customer service

  •     Attention to detail
  •     Making high-quality decisions
  •     Communicating clearly

“Although there are clearly areas for improvement, references also generally see entry-level job seekers as an eager, dedicated group of people who are taking responsibility for their actions, dependable and focused on doing a good job,” Bixler said. “It’s a picture that directly contradicts the typical critique of Millennials as ‘entitled,’ ‘demanding’ and ‘lazy’.”

What Can Entry-Level Job Seekers Do to Become More Attractive Candidates?

SkillSurvey offers the following tips based on the company’s experience and database of more than one million job candidates with an average of more than four references each.

  •     Advocate for yourself – make sure your teachers, managers and other potential references    know about your capabilities.
  •     Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your strengths in the classroom and the workplace.
  •     Cultivate your references – check in regularly and keep them up-to-date on your career path.
  •     Try to get a feel for what your references are going to say, especially your areas for improvement.
  •     In addition to teachers, try to have some former managers as references, if possible (even if they’re from internships) – their word counts for a lot.
  •     Always show your gratitude to your references and keep building the relationship by asking what you can do for them in the future.

About SkillSurvey, Inc.
SkillSurvey is the inventor of the Pre-Hire 360® assessment, which recently received a U.S. patent. Utilizing a unique combination of behavioral science, talent analytics, and data-driven benchmarking, SkillSurvey’s Pre-Hire 360® assessment is scientifically proven to drive better hiring decisions and generate predictive candidate insight based upon past job performance. SkillSurvey’s integrated suite of cloud-based software products is being used by over 1,400 companies, institutions and organizations to reduce new hire turnover, improve job performance, attract better candidates, and drive customer satisfaction. SkillSurvey has frequently been named as one of the fastest-growing companies in America by Inc. 5000 and Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500TM. Visit SkillSurvey at http://www.skillsurvey.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

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Joseph Germani
Sloane & Company
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