By Brent Rasmussen, President of CareerBuilder North America
For the past several years, college graduates have faced a tougher job market than their predecessors. For the Class of 2013, career opportunities are as promising as they were last year but don’t yet match the strength of pre-recession hiring.
A new study from CareerBuilder and CareerRookie finds 53 percent of U.S. employers plan to hire recent college graduates this year. This is similar to last year (54 percent) and a significant increase from 2011 (46 percent) and 2010 (44 percent), respectively. The survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals highlights an economy that is still in the process of rebuilding. Current college hiring plans trail pre-recession estimates by more than 20 percentage points.
The key to succeeding in this recovering but competitive job market is having the right skills.
Highly skilled graduates in high demand
Recently graduated job seekers can expect to see most hiring coming from in-demand industries. For example, 65 percent of HR managers and hiring managers in information technology plan to hire recent graduates this year. The hiring outlook was nearly as strong for financial services, at 63 percent. Employers in both fields are also most likely to recruit workers for their hard-to-fill positions prior to graduation.
Demand for these roles extends beyond vertical sectors, however. While IT and financial services companies intend to hire more new graduates than other industries, workers in those fields can expect to find available positions across several industries.
In this post-recession economy, businesses continue to focus their resources on positions that have the most potential to expand business and increase revenue. Technology skills aren’t only needed in technology corporations; businesses from health care to retail rely on employees who can keep their networks secure and their software current.
When employers across all industries were asked which roles they intend to hire for, the six most popular responses were:
- IT – 26 percent
- Customer service – 19 percent
- Finance and accounting – 16 percent
- Sales – 16 percent
- Business development – 15 percent
- Health care – 12 percent
Post-graduation concerns don’t stop at the job hunt; the Class of 2013 wants to know they can find a job that covers their living expenses, including those student loans they’ll be repaying. Fortunately, 27 percent of surveyed employers plan to pay recent graduates higher starting salaries than in 2012. The bulk of starting salaries fall between $30,000 and $49,999, with 49 percent of employers starting graduates in that range. However, 25 percent of employers will make offers lower than $30,000 and 25 percent will pay $50,000 or more.
What matters most
Experience is always a primary concern for hiring managers. Job seekers straight out of college frequently find themselves with the most current education available but lacking in hands-on experience. New graduates should keep in mind that employers are willing to look at a broad range of experience, as long as it is presented as directly related to the requirements of the position.
Seventy percent of employers consider internships relevant experience, but volunteer work and involvement in school organizations are also viewed favorably, with 46 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Employers are also willing to consider relevant class work, such as research projects and term papers, as well as leadership in a fraternity or sorority.
Employers are looking for signs that a new graduate knows what the business needs, and the best way to convey that is to display knowledge of the position and the company. Beyond showing how past experience can help the company, the Class of 2013 needs to show interest in the position. Employers cited a lack of preparedness and overall disinterest in the company as the No. 1 reason for turning away new graduates. During an interview, new graduates should avoid not asking questions, appearing bored and not knowing anything about the company.
Of course, the best approach to finding work in today’s job market is to start searching as early as possible. Employers aren’t waiting until the diplomas have been handed out to find the best and brightest of the class; they’re starting right now. Before graduation day, 27 percent of employers have already begun recruiting for their hardest-to-fill jobs, proving that the Class of 2013 is in demand but needs to stay competitive.
Brent Rasmussen is the president of CareerBuilder North America.