Purpose – The present research aims to explore students’ perceptions of the needs of employers in terms of the personal qualities of higher education graduates. Design/methodology/approach – Questionnaires were delivered to students at four universities in the Chugoku area of Japan. The students were asked to indicate how important they thought each of the personal qualities that would be needed for their future employment, and their own evaluation of their capabilities with respect to each personal quality. In addition, respondents were asked to answer other questions in relation to satisfaction with their courses, job opportunities, and sources of their personal qualities. Findings – The key findings are that job-seeking students tend to have a lower assessment of their own abilities than their perceived importance of those abilities. In particular, students rated their abilities significantly lower in communication and presentation skills. Although they rated themselves highly in terms of optimism, cooperation, and responsibility, they were dissatisfied with their personal traits in terms of taking initiative, having flexibility, and (especially) in demonstrating an entrepreneurial mind. Research limitations/implications – The sample is limited to university students in a limited geographical area of Japan. The generalizability of the results could therefore be questioned. Practical implications – The study represents a useful source of information and impartial advice for undergraduate students planning to find a job, and for higher-education academic staff and administrators managing undergraduate programs.
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