Re-Defining the Skills for Success: What Hiring Managers Expect by Dr. T. Tylor Behrens

According to Dr. T. Tylor Behrens, Associate Vice President of STRIVE Career Center at St. Mary’s University:   

If a student were to ask 100 career counselors this question: “What skills are necessary for success in the workplace?”—except for a few similarities, chances are that student would hear 100 different answers. In order to reduce confusion and try to dispel some myths, my team of corporate recruiters and university career center leaders conducted an informal, four-month-long study. We interviewed 152 students who were recently offered a job, 159 new employees who were students as little as 18 months prior, and 166 seasoned hiring managers. Quite simply, we asked them the question, “What skills are necessary for success in the workplace?”—and guess what happened? That’s right—lots of different answers!   

The reasons the answers differed are because the skills needed at one phase of the “career-success formula” are quite a bit different from those at another stage. For example, the skills a student must possess to secure a job offer from an employer might differ greatly when it comes time for that student to perform on the job 12 months later. Let’s explore take a look at the three lists. 


  1. Personable  
  2. Upbeat  
  3. Not intimidated to ask questions  
  4. Analytical thinker  
  5. Doesn’t need continuous supervision  
  6. Firm but not overbearing  
  7. Prior work experience  
  8. Goal-driven  
  9. Willing to take on the unknown  
  10. Punctual 


  1. Communicate effectively  
  2. Manage your time well  
  3. Focus on customer service  
  4. Ask lots of questions  
  5. Accept change  
  6. Manage stressful situations  
  7. “Job shadow” a veteran staff member  
  8. Network  
  9. Practice interviewing  
  10. Have patience in the hiring process 


  1. Leadership skills  
  2. Time management skills  
  3. Confidence, but not overconfidence  
  4. Willingness to start at the bottom  
  5. Studying the company ahead of time to save time in training  
  6. Treating your classes like you are at work  
  7. Openness to a wide variety of opportunities  
  8. In an interview, show that the company is #1 on your list and know in advance what you will likely be doing  
  9. Willingness to work in teams  
  10. Deal with rejection.  

According to the article, at first glance, these three lists seem to have very little in common. Sure, effective communication can be found in all three lists, sort of. And sure, time management is important to all three groups…kind of. What does it tell us when there are seemingly no overwhelmingly solid skills that rank #1 or #2 on all three lists?    It tells us that “situational skills” are critical at different phases of life, work, and school. These skills must be developed to meet the challenges of that phase, then the skills must be built upon and sharpened to continue the growth and success a student and new employer desire.  

Complete NACE article here.

By Jeanette Hickl
Jeanette Hickl Jeanette Hickl