A Survey of College Recruiting: What’s the First Year of the Century Look Like?

“What do I do? I have three job offers from great companies and 2 from start-ups. Do I go for prestige and stability or for the promise of some fairly quick riches?” This is what I hear from family, friends and college students I run into. It has truly never been a better time to be 21 or 22 and looking for a job if you have a college education behind you. With national unemployment levels hovering around 4% overall – and considerably lower in pockets like Silicon Valley – the 21st century is starting out as an incredible time for skilled workers. WetFeet.com, a five-year old San Francisco dot.com that has focused on the college market since it began, just completed an extensive survey of what is going on in the college job market. And times, as the saying goes, they are a changing. Here are some of the key findings from this survey with some of my comments:

  1. The job market this year is stronger than last year, with students receiving an average of 3.3 offers, up from 2.9 last year. No news to anyone who has been on a college campus in the past 6 months, but does confirm what we all have suspected. And, this makes it even more imperative that we create brands, learn how to market, and begin developing entirely new approaches to reaching these students.
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  3. Yet even in today’s job market, students regard the job search as a difficult process with an uncertain outcome. The report went on to say that the students characterized the job search as competitive, challenging, time-consuming, and stressful. Why haven’t any of us come up with a way to make the job search more efficient? If you take a look at the job search process from the student’s perspective, it IS tough to figure out the best approach. As a student you get advice from parents who are looking at it from their perspective which is most likely outdated and probably wrong, from well-meaning friends who may not be any more knowledgeable than the student, from placement offices that range from fairly good to downright out-of-touch, and from a the corporate recruiters who often seem to intimidate more than to market what they have.

    I have long been an advocate for a portal – yes a real portal – that would guide and direct students to the careers and companies that best match their skills, interests, and geographical preferences. While there are probably a few such companies out there, no one has any significant market share and not one of them comes to mind when a student is asked. Come on your entrepreneurs! Here is fertile ground.

  4. Approximately 84% of MBA graduates and 74 percent of undergraduates are uncertain or doubtful that they will get a job they really want. This ties right back into the previous comments. I know that I have interviewed many college grads who took a job because they felt that it was better to have any job than to have the right job. That’s what their parents and even some recruiters were telling them. With a tad of guidance, many of them could have had a great job and could have gotten one doing what they really wanted to do. I know of one student who wanted to be a cartoon animator or special effects person for a Spielberg-type company. She mailed (this was LAST year and she used SNAIL MAIL because a college advisor told her that was more acceptable than the Internet!) a resume to several companies, never heard anything, and took a job as a Webmaster at another firm. She’s basically happy with what she’s doing, but she still dreams of working in the movie industry. And she still doesn’t really know how to go about making that happen.

    Think what a good college web site – one with solid information, career information and even a listing of the chances a person has of getting that kind of job — at one of those companies could have done for them and for her.

  5. There is loyalty – at least more than I thought. Seventy-five percent of the respondents said that they expect to stay at their first job for two or more years. While I have often thought that most students wanted to stay on for more than a couple of years, they often find upward mobility difficult. Too many companies still try to keep new hires in a job for several years before offering them any promotions or growth opportunities. The new hires then find it much easier and politically less upsetting to simply move to another company. In other work that I do, I find this so often to be the case that I wonder why HR departments haven’t accepted this as a cause of turnover and why they haven’t done something about it. But then, who can figure the workings of most HR departments?
  6. Some other interesting facts that emerged from this study which is available, by the way, at WetFeet.com. The report will be released very soon and you can preorder your copy now. The entire report should help a lot in setting strategy for the coming months.

Facts: Length of a job search for undergrads: 3.7 months. Average number of job interviews: 9.6, average amount of time spent each week on the job search: 2.2 hours. Expected starting salary for undergrads: $45,000 with an average signing bonus of $5,400. The Internet is perceived to the “hottest” industry but when asked which industry they would like to work for management consulting came in first followed by investment banking and e-business consulting. WetFeet.com has done a great job at preparing this – and just in time for planning for next year!

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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