Nearly 4 million college seniors in the U.S. entered their final year with big career dreams and expected to be welcomed by a strong job market. Fast-forward a few months, and these same young professionals have unexpectedly been thrown a commencement curveball and are now entering a pandemic-battered job market that is unlikely to resemble anything we’ve ever experienced.
Members of the class of 2020 rushed on-campus goodbyes, are completing classes and taking finals online, and face jeopardy in their professional plans. Meanwhile, employers are quickly adapting to the changing times, and HR professionals are leaning into virtual tools to ensure efficiency while operating remotely. Things are changing on both ends of the job hunt, impacting everyone involved.
Campus and entry-level recruiting are integral elements of many major employers’ talent acquisition strategy. With this in mind, iCIMS conducted its fifth annual survey—this time in the midst of nationwide quarantines—to gain an understanding of college seniors’ expectations for landing their first post-college job, and to understand employers’ realities as well.
Here are three key findings from the iCIMS Class of 2020 report, along with tips for employers and new graduates on thriving in today’s job market.
1. Get competitive pay
This class of graduating seniors is, on average, expecting to earn $48,781 for their first job after college, and when looking at this data by gender, men expect to make more than $4,000 more than women. The type of work, work perks and benefits, and competitive pay top their wish list when evaluating an employer.
Graduate tip: When interviewing for a job, clearly communicate the benefits you’re looking for and the value, skills, and experiences you will bring to the role. After the interview, write a thank-you note. A previous iCIMS survey indicated that 63% of HR professionals stated they would be more likely to hire someone who wanted slightly more money and sent a thank-you note than someone who wanted slightly less money but did not send a thank-you note.
Employer tip: When surveying employers, many of the HR professionals we spoke with indicated that they are willing to pay a bit more: $54,585, on average. Because of the sharp twist in the job market, employers now have more leverage, given the supply of talent that is now in the market, with job seekers likely looking for stability and a steady paycheck above all. Employers have an opportunity to differentiate their employee value proposition (EVP) and share a total rewards approach when showcasing the benefits of working for the company.
2. Speed matters
On average, college seniors expect the hiring process to take 35 days, with the majority believing they should hear from a recruiter within 7 days of applying. Furthermore, they said that the timeliness of the employer or recruiter/hiring manager is the most important factor during the hiring process.
Graduate tip: Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from an employer right away. It doesn’t mean the opportunity isn’t there—in fact, our platform shows that it takes an average of 48 days for employers to hire entry-level positions. Manage your expectations in terms of timeliness, join relevant talent pools, enroll in text updates from the employer, and know that you always have the option to follow up for a status update.
Employer tip: College seniors want a job and they want one fast, but now they will be facing a greater level of competition against the millions of unemployed people. Whether you’re hiring at a high volume, focused on hiring with greater precision, or simply need to maintain engagement with candidates or furloughed employees, managing your candidate experience is paramount, and technology is your ally. Lean on advanced communication tools such as texting and chatbots, a candidate relationship management (CRM) system, and an offer management tool to speed up hiring, display transparency, and keep candidates informed.
3. Meet them where they are
The top platforms and websites college seniors are using for job search are Google (64%) and social media/job board hybrids such as LinkedIn (64%), followed by company career pages (57%), job boards such as Indeed (57%), and career fairs (57%).
Graduate tip: Continue to look for jobs in a variety of places. Now is also a great time to rely on good, old-fashioned networking. Refresh your social media accounts and use them as a means to connect with industry professionals you admire and aspire to be. Ask questions, reach out for advice, and share your thoughts on industry news—it’s all about gaining experiences and expanding your professional network. And when you are in the running for a potential job, be ready to potentially participate in a virtual event and/or a video interview.
Employer tip: Recruiters looking to source the most relevant and qualified candidates can gain a competitive edge by understanding where candidates can be found online. Ensure career sites accurately portray your employee value proposition and brand, implement a channel that powers 24/7 contact, craft job descriptions to be optimized for Google, and display transparency about the hiring process and current goals. With more than half of college seniors traditionally planning to look for jobs at career fairs, you may need to pivot your strategy to host remote events with recruiters and AI-powered chatbots. While accommodating short-term needs, virtual career fairs also support long-term goals by cutting down on costs, removing location and scheduling barriers, and reducing the time to hire.
As college seniors deal with the emotional aspects of having their final moments crushed by the coronavirus and uncertainty, they must focus on broadening their perspective and expectations. Now is the time to connect, experience, and learn virtually.
Now more than ever, employers must do their part and show compassion, focusing on the candidate experience. They should continue to prioritize their most important asset—their people—and use this time to advance technologies and systems that fuel the future of work and drive business forward.
When both parties shift their focus to accommodate the times, the future suddenly looks much brighter.
Irene DeNigris is the chief people officer of iCIMS.