In a class of 2017 study by iCIMS, an HR recruiting software provider, a whopping 91 percent of college seniors said they have the skills necessary to get the job they want. There’s just one problem: 98 percent of recruiters surveyed say they receive resumes from applicants that are not qualified for the position. Additionally, 62 percent of these recruiters think entry-level applicants need to improve their familiarity with the company and its industry before heading to the interview. In short, college seniors think they’re ready — but employers do not.

Recruiters agree: one activity in college makes all the difference.

For this study, iCIMS surveyed college seniors and recruiters. For parents of college students, the most valuable piece of data has to do with getting that coveted first job after graduation. Specifically, when asked what college students need to do to better prepare themselves for entry-level jobs after graduation, 98 percent of recruiters said internships were the magic bullet. Having relevant work experience is the single biggest competitive advantage your college student has when trying to land that first gig out of school. Here’s why:

Employers want the students who will get up-to-speed the fastest.

Christopher D’Arcy, the vice president of human resources at Liaison International says:

“We actively source new grads who have had at least a semester/summer in the specific field. Firms in the SAAS world or any technology enabled service business must provide a robust onboarding program and the recent grad/new hire who can have a running start is invaluable. Both the employer and employee benefit immensely.”

If your child has done an internship, odds are they’ll find the onboarding process at the employer a lot easier.

Employers are seriously focused on students justifying their salary.

Ted Harding, the vice president of human resources at Jounce Therapeutics says:

“New college grads with high-quality intern experience separate themselves from their peers because they can quickly assimilate and add value. The key to getting the most out of an internship is to take ownership of specific deliverables. Detailing key accomplishments on your resume and discussing how your work contributed to the bigger picture will separate you from your peers. There are innumerable job skills you gain in an internship — how to conduct yourself in a meeting, how to “manage up,” or develop and deliver a presentation — that are key to quickly assimilating and adding value in a new role.”

Students who know how to leverage what they learned in an internship can prove to employers they will save or make the company enough money to justify the cost of hiring them.

“Real-world” experience is what employers look for in the interview.

Mary Paris, the senior recruiter at QuickBase says:

“We hire interns and co-ops each semester to help us with critical projects, to learn about our business and partner with cross-functional teams. Students that take advantage of internship opportunities set themselves apart in the interview process through their ‘real-world’ experience and valuable learnings.”

The more your college student can walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk in the interview, the better the chances of getting hired.

Urge (no, nag!) your college student to get an internship — they’ll thank you later.

If your child hasn’t done an internship and is still in school, encourage them to go to their campus career center ASAP to get guidance on finding one. If your child is about to graduate and no longer has the opportunity to do an internship, make sure they get extra help in planning a proactive job search and preparing for interviews. The better they are at targeting the right employers and selling themselves in the interview, the more likely they’ll be able to overcome the lack of an internship on their resume.

Source: Inc.