College Grads Wanted: What Employers are Looking for Now


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Some 1.8 million college grads will be entering the job market soon and employers are waiting. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of human resources professionals surveyed by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said their companies plan to recruit from this year's class of grads.

"The fact that a majority of respondents reported plans to hire college graduates is certainly a positive sign for this year's pool of entry-level job seekers," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "This, combined with continued improvements in the overall economy, contributed to an optimistic outlook for this year's graduates."

Just 12% of respondents said that while they have recruited college graduates in the past, they have no plans to do so this year. And nearly 10% said they never recruit college graduates, preferring candidates with "a few years" of work experience.

"Last month, after 51 consecutive months of net job gains, private-sector employment finally surpassed the pre-recession peak," said Challenger, referring to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Over the past year, an average 4,525,000 Americans were hired each month. In February, after hiring nearly 4.6 million new workers, employers still had about 4.2 million unfilled job openings. All of these trends bode well for those entering the job market this spring."

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports starting salaries for 2014 graduates have edged up 1.2% from a year ago. Health sciences careers saw the biggest bump in beginning pay, increasing 3.7%. Business grads, one of the top-paying entry-level professions, can expect a starting salary of just under $54,000, down slightly from a year ago.

"While the overall outlook for college graduates continues to improve, the job search will not be easy, by any means," Challenger says. "It is likely that they will be competing for entry-level job opportunities with those who have been in the workforce for one to five years. They may even be competing with older workers. The job search for this year's graduates will definitely require an aggressive approach."

More than one-third (36%) of employers surveyed will be searching for candidates with specific and technical skills related to their industries. The ability to work in a team environment was selected as a primary skill that will be sought by 14% of employers, while strong written and verbal communication skills was selected by just 8.0%. Problem solving was the must-have talent for just 4.0% of the potential employers.

Approximately one in four HR reps said most of their entry-level recruits would be hired through an internship program. Another quarter would come from online job boards, while slightly more than 20% of the companies said on-campus recruiting visits and job fairs were the primary source for their entry-level recruits.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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