Class of 2015, things sure do look good for you. I remember back in my day, during the recession, things were different. We applied for jobs uphill, both ways!
In the highest outlook since 2007, 65 percent of employers say they plan to hire recent college graduates this year—up from 57 percent last year, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. And the news just keeps getting better: One third of employers will offer higher pay than last year, and 1 in 4 will pay $50,000 or more.
“New college graduates have better prospects this year than in years past – both in terms of opportunities and salary offers,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “They still face challenges, however. One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships. Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college.”
Keep reading to find out what employers are expecting from recent grads, and how you can capitalize on hiring trends to negotiate a lucrative entry-level position.
Top of the class
Demand for students with business and technical majors has typically been high among employers, and this year is no exception, with 38 percent of employers naming business as the most sought-after major. Other in-demand majors include:
Computer and Information Sciences (27 percent)
Engineering (18 percent)
Math and Statistics (14 percent)
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences (14 percent)
Communications Technologies (12 percent)
Engineering Technologies (12 percent)
Communication and Journalism (10 percent)
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities (9 percent)
Science Technologies (8 percent)
Education (7 percent)
However, those graduates may be expected to bring their education and apply it to a variety of different industries, requiring creative and critical analysis skills from grads. Information technology (30 percent) and customer service jobs (28 percent) top the list of position types hiring managers are primarily looking to fill. Opportunities also abound in finance/accounting (22 percent), sales (21 percent) and business development (19 percent).
Good news for anybody who’s making plans to move out of their parents’ basement this summer: One third (33 percent) of employers who plan to hire recent college graduates will offer higher starting salaries than they did last year. Nearly half of employers (48 percent) say they will make offers to students before they graduate. Expected starting salaries for recent graduates break down as follows:
Under $30,000 (26 percent)
$30,000 to less than $40,000 (28 percent)
$40,000 to less than $50,000 (20 percent)
$50,000 and higher (26 percent)
These numbers, however, are not set in stone: The majority of employers (65 percent) say they are willing to negotiate salary offers.
Real skills needed for real-world work
Hiring trends are in your favor, recent grads, but you’re still going to need to use your brains and change some perceptions to get the job. Twenty-one percent of employers do not feel academic institutions are adequately preparing students for roles needed within their organizations. When asked to name which skills they think recent college graduates lack for the workplace, most of these employers cited interpersonal or problem-solving skills:
Interpersonal or people skills (52 percent)
Problem-solving skills (46 percent)
Oral communication (41 percent)
Leadership (40 percent)
Written communication (38 percent)
Teamwork (37 percent)
Creative thinking (36 percent)
Project management (26 percent)
Research and analysis (16 percent)
Math (15 percent)
Computer and Technical (13 percent)
To overcome these negative expectations, highlight any experience that you have in these areas, as well as awards, certifications or accolades.
Class of 2015 job search tips:
1. Search early, search often
The majority of employers who plan to hire recent graduates (54 percent) begin recruiting college students in their senior year, but more than 1 in 4 (27 percent) start courting students as juniors, sophomores and even freshmen. Start researching companies you’re interested in as early as possible and don’t be afraid to reach out to inquire about part-time jobs or internship opportunities, which are some of the best ways to get your foot in the door.
2. Play up your “real world” experience
Of the employers who believe colleges fail to adequately prepare students for the roles needed at their firms, nearly half (46 percent) say colleges do not put enough emphasis on real-world learning. Be ready to showcase your street smarts by playing up relevant experience from classwork, volunteering and extra-curricular activities, in addition to previous jobs and internships.
3. Update your status
A lot of employers check candidates’ social networking profiles when considering them for a job, so make sure your online presence is ’employer-friendly’ – either by changing your privacy settings or using your social media profiles to highlight your skills, creativity and relevant interests.
4. Think “big picture”
When considering a job offer, focus on the whole compensation package, not just the paycheck. The salary offer might not meet your expectations, but there could be great learning and advancement opportunities, benefits and other perks that make accepting the job worthwhile.