How Employers and New College Hires Can Work Together In 2013

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Can U.S. employers and newly minted college graduates -- just six months from entering the tough U.S. job market -- get along without driving each other crazy?

Call them the odd couple of the U.S. employment market. Employers have been reluctant to hire your workers, and the unemployment rate for the 24-and-under demographic approaches 12%.

Young workers, especially college graduates looking for an immediate return on their cash-sucking tuition costs, aren't thrilled that companies aren't exactly welcoming them with open arms.

U.S. companies expect collegiate hires to have good grades and at least some relevant work experience (usually via an internship). But they want so-called "soft skills," too. On the top of their most-wanted list are good communication skills.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a Bethlehem, Pa.-based consumer advocacy group, a solid combination of good grades, work experience and a demonstrated aptitude for team skills and communicating is the fastest path to a great job.

"Just over 78% of employers screen candidates by GPA," says Marilyn Mackes, executive director at the NACE. "Also important is related work experience. Less than 5% of employers say that work experience doesn't factor into their hiring decisions."

Her advice for new college grads looking to break through in the job market is simple: Get good grades and beef up those soft skills by participating in more outside activities, such as doing volunteer work, playing on an intramural team or taking a leadership role in a campus organization.

College graduates are also making it clear what they want from hiring companies - cash.

That's a departure from years past, when previous graduating classes said they wanted a good health care plan before signing on to a firm. With the advancement of health care reform, though, college graduates, as well as any American between the ages of 18-26, can stay on their parent's health care longer, "making medical benefits somewhat less critical in their list of priorities," says the NACE's Mackes.

That changes the equation.

"Salary increases, the 401(k) match and various insurances provide a financial net while tuition reimbursement supports the graduate's ability to acquire new skills and gain or retain value in the job market," she says.