What skills do employers seek in graduates?
Using online job posting data to support policy and practice in higher education
Employers increasingly reach job seekers through online job postings, particularly
for jobs requiring a higher education qualification. Job postings available online
provide a rich source of real-time and detailed data on the qualifications and skills
sought by employers across industries, occupations and locations. Using a sample of
over 9 million job postings in four US states (Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington),
this paper explores three questions. How does employer demand for graduate skills
vary geographically, within and among occupations? For graduates in a general study
field without a dedicated career vocational pathway, like sociology, what occupational
clusters show evidence of employer demand, and what skills are sought? Given the high
demand in the field of information and communications technology (ICT), are employers
looking for ICT specialists open to hiring graduates from study fields other than
We find evidence of variation in occupational demand, and to some extent in skill
demand, within occupational clusters across the four states. We identify three occupational
clusters where sociology graduates are in most demand, with distinct skill profiles.
We also find that, when filling ICT positions, a notable share of employers considers
recruiting graduates from other fields of study while requiring those graduates have
the right technical transferable skills.
Job posting data, we conclude, hold promise to complement existing labour market information
systems and aid educators and policy makers in aligning labour demand and educational
offerings. If analysed and disseminated effectively, such data could also assist students
and workers in making learning and career decisions, for instance by identifying opportunities
to build their own non-traditional path into high-demand, high-paying ICT occupations.
Available from October 13, 2020