The job market for new college graduates is expected to return to prior levels after a historic decline in 2021, as companies continue to struggle to fill roles and the economy recovers from the COVID-19 economic slowdown, according to the 51st edition of the Recruiting Trends Survey & Report from Michigan State Universities Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI).
Employers report record-levels of optimism, with their outlook the highest since the 2008 recession.
As one recruiter offered in a comment, “Today, we can recruit students anywhere in the country. Though we still emphasize the regions where we have offices and facilities, we are accepting candidates regardless of geographic location.” The recruiting management systems - primarily Handshake - that campuses utilize to support their students’ job search are now open to all students and employers, marking the growth of a more national college labor market.
Universities tout these tools on tours for prospective students. On a recent Fordham University tour, the scripts tour guides followed included the line "We have a great tool for our students to find jobs called Handshake that everyone uses. You can find a job anywhere in the world with it."
According to Mike Garvin, Vice President at The Ambassador Platform (an experience communication management platform for marketing, recruitment, and admissions teams in higher ed): "Career services groups are getting more proactively involved in the return in the economy, and seeing more openings left and right. Universities are promoting career services earlier in the admissions process, and developing them. There's been a big effort as of late to communicate early to prospects how they school is deploying tools and processes to help them as they approach their careers. Part of that is the development of what are essentially mentor-networks where they partner students up with former students as career guides, helping them prep for their career - and since we're all digital now, those connections can be virtually anywhere on the globe."
COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of virtual recruiting formants much sooner than the results from Trends survey several years ago. In the earlier survey, projections estimated that the adoption of digital technologies would occur gradually until accelerating between 2025 and 2030. 2030 arrived in 2020. While some organizations may not be totally embracing virtual technologies, these technologies are here to stay and will continue to alter the recruiting process post COVID.
82% of respondents reported that they used digital or AI assisted technologies in some or all steps of their recruiting process
Over 50% of US employers report that they now recruit across the USA. Employers discussed the importance of candidates having a Zoom presence that entailed being aware of their environment that employers see behind them, being prepared for the interview, and showing interest in the opportunities at the organization. Employers expect students to shoulder more of the responsibility of managing their job search, especially arriving on time and not being a “no show.”
Virtual recruiting events, including interviews, remain plagued by poor student attendance and inadequate technology. Nevertheless, virtual recruiting is here to stay in some hybrid form. Students need to expect to encounter digital and AI assisted technologies as part of the recruiting process.
The advantages incurred by pursuing virtual, digital assisted recruiting practices include the more efficient use of organizational resources: specifically, more effective and efficient use of staff and the reduction of recruiting costs. Fifty-five to sixty percent of respondents indicated that efficient and effective use of recruiting team, organizational members supporting recruiting and other resources as the primary benefit. Nearly 50% also pointed to reduction in costs associated with recruiting as another benefit.
5 to 6 Virtual Interviews per Offer
6 to 7 Virtual Interviews per Offer
7 Virtual Interviews per Offer
8 to 9 Virtual Interviews per Offer
10 or more Virtual Interviews per Offer
Once touted as a "great leveler" when it came to diversity recruiting, digital and AI tools have failed to live up to expectations. Only 36% of respondents indicated that virtual events produced a more diverse applicant pool and only one-third felt that students were more proactive in the virtual recruiting process. Virtual events have failed, at least at this stage, to improve student attendance at recruiting events.
One major disadvantage is the loss of one-on-one connections with students that increases the difficulty of establishing early personal relationships with students. The virtual process makes reading body language difficult as students’ attitude and behaviors (lack of professionalism, respect and preparedness) differ in the virtual space than in the personal one.
The two most pressing problems are:
Employers expect technologies to develop and mature rapidly with more feedback about the virtual process, but they remain frustrated in dealing with current versions of existing technologies. Fifty-nine percent of respondents agree that the best method for college recruiting is physical presence on college campuses – the tried and proven interpersonal approach.
These emerging arrangements mean employers have to navigate various digital resources (LinkedIn, Handshake, applicant-tracking systems, etc) and respond to a constant flow of emails and virtual engagements. Their challenge is to break through the virtual clutter to find the best candidates for their organization. The virtual clutter will only increase.
74% of employers agree the virtual clutter is a major challenge
Sixty-six percent of respondents described the overall new college labor market as very good to excellent. The average rating of 3.88 is the highest reported in the survey, and is a stark contrast to last year, when respondents outlook stood at 2.73.
Respondents felt more optimistic about the job prospects in their own industry sector (grouped according to NAICS codes). About 75 percent described the new college labor market in their industrial sector as very good to excellent. Their average rating of 4.00 places the outlook for jobs in the “very good” range.
Total hires (across all degree levels) will be up 14% compared to a year ago. All degree levels will increase from 18% for associate degrees to 6% for Masters (all non-MBA masters). With nearly all the employers seeking bachelor’s talent, hiring at this level expect to increase by 15%.
The numbers are not yet at pre-pandemic levels. Between 2011 and 2019, more than fifty percent of respondents expected to increase hiring across all degree levels. When COVID hit, this figure plummeted to only 37%. This year the number was 44%.
For the full survey results, please visit the MSU CERI site.
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