Sunny Hiring Projections Greet Class of 2015 Grads

By Roy Maurer Apr 24, 2015

Ample job prospects and boosted starting salaries are in the cards for Class of 2015 college graduates, according to several just-released surveys.

Sixty-five percent of 2,175 hiring managers and human resource professionals surveyed by CareerBuilder said they plan to hire new college graduates this year, up from 57 percent last year and the highest outlook since 2007.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Hiring of 2015 College Graduates Survey found that almost two-thirds of 452 HR professionals (65 percent) said their organizations have not yet hired 2015 college graduates, but that 71 percent of those respondents’ companies plan to do so This represents a significant increase, since only 53 percent of organizations responding to the survey at this time in 2013 reported that their companies planned on hiring from the pool of 2013 college graduates.

About one-third of organizations (35 percent) have already hired college students to begin working before or after their 2015 graduation, according to the SHRM survey.

According to the Job Outlook 2015 Spring Update survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, new college grad hiring from the Class of 2015 is expected to increase by 9.6 percent over the Class of 2014. The 162 employers surveyed also indicated positive hiring projections for next year’s crop of graduates, with more than two-thirds saying they expect to increase or maintain current hiring levels for the Class of 2016.

“During the recession, many companies may not have focused recruiting efforts on college graduates because of a lack of openings and limited turnover. But now we are beginning to see entry-level hiring pick up,” said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM. “Compared to recent years, 2015 college graduates can be optimistic in their job search.”

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the positions already filled by students set to graduate this year are full-time jobs, 17 percent were hired for part-time roles, and 11 percent were hired as temporary or contract workers.

Compensation on the Upswing

One-third of respondents to the CareerBuilder survey said they will offer higher pay to the Class of 2015 compared with last year, 57 percent expect no change in salary offers, and 10 percent expect a decrease in starting salaries. One-fourth of respondents will pay $50,000 or more, according to CareerBuilder; nearly half (48 percent) said they will make offers to students before they graduate. The majority of employers (65 percent) said they are willing to negotiate salary offers.

SHRM survey results paint a slightly different picture. Just 18 percent of respondents said they would offer a higher compensation package (salary plus benefits) to 2015 college graduates. Eighty-one percent of companies will offer graduates “about the same” compensation package as in 2014. Less than 1 percent will offer a lower comp package.

“There is somewhat of a disconnect between what companies are offering and what young job seekers may expect in terms of compensation,” said Esen. With limited growth in wages, companies facing recruiting difficulties can offer professional development and workplace flexibility to attract college graduates, she said.

Grads Not Prepared

“New college graduates have better prospects this year than in years’ past, but they still face challenges,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships. Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college.”

The most common reason given for not hiring or planning to hire new college grads in the SHRM survey was “no current openings for recent graduates” (69 percent), followed by “too early to hire for 2015” (24 percent) and grads being “underqualified for open positions” (15 percent).

When asked where academic institutions fall short in preparing grads for work, employers told CareerBuilder:

  • Too much emphasis is placed on book learning instead of real-world learning (46 percent).
  • Graduates lack a blend of technical skills and soft skills (38 percent).
  • Entry-level roles are too complex for new grads (22 percent).
  • Not enough focus on internships (15 percent).
  • Technology is changing too quickly (14 percent).
  • Not enough students are graduating with the degrees my company needs (10 percent).

When asked to name the skills they think recent college graduates lack for the workplace, interpersonal skills was cited by the greatest number of respondents (52 percent), followed by problem-solving skills (46 percent), oral communication skills (41 percent), leadership (40 percent), written communication skills (38 percent), teamwork (37 percent), creative thinking (36 percent) and project management abilities (26 percent).

Recruiting Difficulties

Organizations already recruiting 2015 college graduates reported facing the most difficulty recruiting for positions in science (36 percent), trades (30 percent), engineering (30 percent) and technology (29 percent), according to the SHRM survey. In an effort to overcome recruiting difficulties for highly skilled positions, almost one-half of employers (46 percent) offer training programs for recent graduates with limited work experience.

Information technology (30 percent) and customer service (28 percent) top the kinds of jobs hiring managers are primarily looking to fill, according to the SHRM survey. Other fields in demand include finance/accounting (22 percent), sales (21 percent) and business development (19 percent).

Demand for students with business and technical majors is typically high among employers, and 38 percent of respondents in the CareerBuilder survey named business as the most sought-after major.

Other in-demand majors include:

  • Computer and information sciences (27 percent).
  • Engineering (18 percent).
  • Math and statistics (14 percent).
  • Health professions (14 percent).
  • Communications technologies (12 percent).
  • Engineering technologies (12 percent).

The SHRM survey found that companies are still using traditional methods to recruit college graduates. Among the companies that have actively recruited 2015 college grads, the most effective recruitment methods reported were collaborating with colleges and universities (68 percent), employee referrals (31 percent) and posting jobs on the company website (25 percent). About one-quarter (23 percent) used social networking websites to recruit students. Of these employers, the great majority used LinkedIn (91 percent), about half used Facebook (48 percent) or a professional or association social networking site (46 percent).

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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