Warning: Job Skills Still Required

Despite the hoopla surrounding the best job prospects in 27 years, experts say graduates shouldn't expect to write their own job offers.

The reality is that while companies are hiring more graduates and being more flexible on salaries, schedules, and other benefits, they still have demanding expectations, says Patrick Scheetz, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Students with lower grades, special demands, and little job experience will still take longer to find jobs.

Heather Young, an accounting major at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is still looking.

She says most of the school's placement efforts focus on the Big Six accounting firms, and she wants to work at a smaller company.

She'd also like to stay closer to home to save money so she can pay off her student loans.

"I'm being picky," she says.

She's hopeful about the job market this year, but says most jobs go to students who've done internships in their field, which she hasn't.

Today's recruiters want to see technical credentials (sorry, liberal arts majors), such as degrees in computer science, electrical or chemical engineering, or biochemistry.

They also expect graduates to have career-related work experience and prefer students who have worked their way through college. That shows a strong work ethic, Dr. Scheetz says.

Other factors that influence job offers: a degree from a prestigious college, geographic proximity to the employer, the employer's size, the cost of living in the region, grades, and the applicant's personality.

The most important qualifications for most liberal arts graduates, experts say, include grade-point average, computer literacy, and communication skills, including speaking, writing, grammar, and copy editing.

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