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Purpose: Higher education institutions play an important role in the economic growth of any country, through skills and productivity of their graduates. Employers have some expectations about the skills the graduates possess when they graduate out of universities. The purpose of this paper is to examine the skills employers look for in graduates before they hire them. Design/methodology/approach: Using a structured survey instrument, this paper gathered data from 50 organizations employing over 50 people. The data consisted of 21 skills the employers rate as important. These skills were categorized into four dimensions: analytical skills, career professional and readiness skills, communications skills, and personality, leadership skills and team/group work. After checking the reliability of the scale, [a chi-squared] test and rank correlation were used to analyze the importance of these skills. Findings: The findings from a study of employers in the northeastern part of USA suggest that the top six skills and competencies rated with highest importance by employers were: interpersonal skills/works well with others; critical thinking/problem-solving skills; listening skills; oral/speech communication skills; professionalism; and personal motivation. Of all 21 skills, the highly ranked skills needed were interpersonal skills followed by critical thinking and problem solving and listening. Originality/value: This study provides new insights about the changing pattern of skills students need to secure before seeking employment.