SHRM/Mercer Entry-Level Applicant Job Skills

October 11, 2016

​The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in collaboration with Mercer and funded by the Joyce Foundation, conducted the Entry-Level Applicant Job Skills Survey. The Entry-Level Applicant Job Skills Survey sought to better understand the skills most commonly assessed in the hiring/selection process of entry-level job candidates, especially “soft skills” such as communication, dependability and reliability, integrity, and adaptability. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 15 million job openings in the U.S. in December of 2015, while the unemployment rate was 4.9%. Many of those jobs continue to be left unfilled. Much has been published about the gap between the skills/competencies employers are looking for and the skills job applicants possess.

The results of this survey provide a better understanding of what skills are being assessed by employers, and how they are being assessed, in order to guide educators in preparing individuals for entering the workforce, especially those who have historically encountered obstacles to entry-level employment. Key findings include:

  • More than three-fourths (78%) of HR professionals indicated that dependability/reliability was one of the three most important skills for entry-level positions. About one-half (49%) indicated integrity was one of the three most important skills, and more than one-third said the same about teamwork (36%).
  • On average, about three-quarters of HR professionals indicated that entry-level job applicants possessed the desired level of integrity (75%) and teamwork (73%) skills. About two-thirds reported entry-level job applicants possessed the desired level of respect (69%), dependability and reliability (68%), professionalism (67%), customer focus (67%), initiative (65%), and adaptability (64%); 55% possessed the desired level of critical thinking skills.
  • Overall, one-fifth (20%) of HR professionals were very or extremely confident in their organization’s ability to effectively assess the skills of entry-level applicants; 11% were not at all confident or only slightly confident.
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