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What’s Ahead for College Grads? Let’s Take a Peek at the Job Outlook

The outlook for college grads is not the same as it has been in the past — like, say, in 2007, when 79 percent of employers indicated in a CareerBuilder survey that they planned to hire recent college grads. Still, although it appears the overall job market for 2010 college graduates will remain highly competitive, this year’s job forecast is showing some signs of improvement.

Although the number of employers planning to hire recent college graduates in 2010 is 44 percent — relatively unchanged from 2009′s number of 43 percent, one in five employers (21 percent) who are planning to hire recent grads said they will hire more of them than they did last year. On top of that, 16 percent (as opposed to last year’s 11 percent) reported they will offer higher starting salaries than they did in 2009.

Wait — how high?

  • Thirty percent of employers plan to offer recent college graduates starting salaries ranging between $30,000 and $40,000.
  • Nineteen percent will offer between $40,000 and $50,000
  • An additional 19 percent will offer $50,000 or more.
  • Thirty-three percent will offer less than $30,000.

“Even though companies are gradually starting to hire again, the job market will still be challenging for college graduates this year,” said Brent Rasmussen, President of CareerBuilder North America. “To take advantage of the opportunities that exist, it’s important for recent graduates to start their search early, remain positive and keep an open mind. In addition, networking and showing relevant work experience – whether it is internships, class work or volunteering – can help make your application stand out.”

Work experience — what counts?

When looking at a candidate’s resume, particularly of a soon-to-be or recent college grad, what really counts when it comes to work experience? If you’re only looking at a candidate’s paid work, you ought to broaden your considerations. Experience can come from many places, and particularly in light of a tough economy, candidates are exploring new areas to gain the experience that can sometimes be hard to find in the traditional sense.

Employers reported that the following activities qualify as pertinent work experience for recent college graduates to include on their resumes:

  • Internships – 62 percent
  • Part-time jobs in another area or field – 50 percent
  • Volunteer work – 40 percent
  • Class work 31 percent
  • Involvement in school organizations – 23 percent
  • Helping managing  sorority & fraternity activities – 21 percent
  • Sports participation – 13 percent

More than just that je ne sais quoi

Furthermore, experience, whatever parameters you define it in, is not the only important factor in a candidate’s application. While employers in our CareerBuilder survey said that experience is one of the most influential factors in their decision to hire a recent college graduate, they also pointed to the following attributes:

  • Good fit with company culture
  • Comes in with good ideas and asks good questions
  • Educational background
  • Level of enthusiasm
  • Comes to interview prepared and is knowledgeable about company

Speaking of recent college grads doing their homework, it may be a good time to make sure you’ve done yours by tweaking those tired interview questions. It’s almost graduation time, and while you may be screening new grads, they’ll be screening you too. It’s a new class, with new expectations.  Are you ready?

You can find the full press release about 2010 college graduates here.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.


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