by Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder
The class of 2015 has one more reason to celebrate: In the best outlook since 2007, 65 percent of employers are planning to hire recent college graduates this year, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. Even better, one third of employers will offer higher pay than last year, and 1 in 4 will pay $50,000 or more. This year’s graduates are certainly entering a competitive workforce, with employers and candidates on more equal footing after the recent economic shake-up and subsequent recovery.
That’s not to say these grads won’t face challenges in the job market, though, and hiring new graduates means embracing their capabilities—and building on their fresh slate. CareerBuilder’s college hiring forecast reveals how.
In-demand majors and complimentary industries
A college degree has become more and more common in the twenty-first century, changing the workforce’s demands and priorities. Hiring managers surveyed are primarily looking to fill positions in information technology (30 percent) and customer service jobs (28 percent), as well as finance/accounting (22 percent), sales (21 percent) and business development (19 percent).
Filling those vacancies means looking for the top of the class. New grads enter the workforce with a beginner’s knowledge of their industry, and employers can capitalize on that energy and ambition. Of the most sought-after grads, employers prioritize interviewing and hiring:
- Business and technical majors (38 percent)
- 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)
Along with a growing job market, lucrative entry-level opportunities are becoming more prevalent. One third (33 percent) of employers who plan to hire recent college graduates will offer higher starting salaries than they did last year. Fifty-seven percent expect no change in salary offers.
Offers before graduation are growing, too, as 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.
Preparing for challenges
With such bright prospects, it’s tempting to say recent grads will easily transition to the workforce. However, one in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including short-comings like:
- Too much emphasis on book learning instead of real world learning (46 percent)
- I need workers with a blend of technical skills and soft skills gained from liberal arts (38 percent)
- Entry-level roles within my organization are more complex today (22 percent)
- Not enough focus on internships (15 percent)
- Technology is changing too quickly for academics to keep up (14 percent)
- Not enough students are graduating with the degrees my company needs (10 percent)
These are challenges that employers and educators can work together to fix, bridging the gap between the training educators can offer and the soft skills employers are prioritizing. For instance, when asked 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)
Being aware of these common concerns means looking for grads who showcase excellence in these areas, or customizing job descriptions and advertising around the type of entry-level employee you’re looking to bring onboard. With 2015’s impressive forecast for college hiring, recent graduates are a strong asset that can bring new resources and energy to your team.