What do you look for in a job applicant? Whether they're creative, decisive, have a genuine enthusiasm for the work, or you're confident they'll fit right in, it's often a combination of qualities and circumstances that tip the scales in one candidate's direction.

But while it certainly pays to graduate from college or even earn an advanced degree, it turns out that a candidate's educational background may not influence a hiring decision as much as you might think. 

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In a recent Gallup survey, business leaders reported that a potential hire's expertise and skills in their field is more important than what they majored in or where they graduated from college.

Of the 623 leaders polled, 84 percent said that the amount of knowledge an applicant has is "very important" and 79 percent said that "applied skills" were very important, compared to the 28 percent and 9 percent who ascribed the most importance to a candidate's college major and alma mater respectively. 

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In a simultaneous survey of the American public about the same hiring factors, the 1,012 people polled generally agreed with business leaders that knowledge (80 percent) and skills (76 percent) were most important, but put they more weight on college major (47 percent) and school (30 percent).

The data, which was collected as part of Gallup's broader research about how higher education prepares students for the working world lines up with how big name companies like Google and others have described their hiring process.

Related: This Simple Strategy Will Make You the Top Candidate for Any Job   

TELL US: What makes a potential hire stand out to you?  Let us know in the comments.