Employers: GPA Not the Most Important Thing for Job Seekers

A new survey also shows U.S. companies aren't so interested in liberal arts majors.

A student registers at the Barnard College Career Fair on Sept. 7, 2012, in New York City.

Employers saw students' grade-point averages as least important in a recent survey.

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A recent job search study reveals some not-so-great news for English majors still in college.

Less than 2 percent of U.S. employers said they actively recruit liberal arts majors, and almost three-quarters said that universities are only “somewhat, but not realistically” preparing students for the workforce, according to a survey released Tuesday by the research firm Millennial Branding in partnership with Beyond.com, a career networking website.

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Most companies surveyed said that “cultural fit” carries the most weight when considering an applicant, while grade-point average mattered least, according to the report, which surveyed human resources professionals and job seekers from different generations.

Employers said the hardest jobs to fill are geared toward engineering and computer information systems majors, followed by jobs for those in medicine and nursing. The least difficult applicants to find were liberal arts majors, underscoring the fierce competition for jobs among those in a corresponding field of study.

Demographics are playing in the favor of recent college graduates, says Bob LaBombard, chief executive officer of GradStaff Inc., a Minneapolis-based firm that offers outsourced applicant interviewing and college recruiting.

“Baby boomers like myself are marching towards retirement and exiting the workforce, or at a minimum working reduced schedules and so forth,” he says. “A lot of industries are not well-prepared for that change and even though they know it’s been coming, they haven’t acted on it and now they’re being forced to.”

LaBombard says there’s “inefficiency” in the market because employers are unsuccessful in connecting with the right candidates, and young job seekers don’t know where to find work.

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GradStaff has found that more than 80 percent of young Americans looking for a job wanted to work with small or medium companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, LaBombard says. According to the ADP National Employment Report in April, more than 74 percent of new jobs added that month were with small- to medium-sized businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

“We feel that the unemployment rate at the entry level would actually be lower if the market were more efficient,” he says. “We think it’d definitely be in single digits.”

The jobless rate for Americans 20 to 24 years old was 10.6 percent in April, according to figures from the Labor Department.

LaBombard also says one of the biggest mistakes he sees young job seekers making is not growing their network through alumni and professors.

The Millennial Branding survey similarly showed that more than 70 percent of employers said they’d give high priority to a candidate referred by a current employee.


Corrected on May 27, 2014: An earlier version of this story misstated the size of company most graduates wanted to work for, according to the GradStaff survey.