Recruiting Grads: Employers Miss Chances To Address Life After Starting Salaries

By Theresa Minton-Eversole Feb 27, 2008
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Employers are ramping up for the spring college recruitment season, and early indications point to a good job market with higher starting salaries than last year for the Class of 2008, according to the latest quarterly salary survey results published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers(NACE).

But campus recruiters are going to be facing a future workforce that is made up of workers who are as concerned about what the company can do for them as they are about how they might contribute to the company’s success.

Although early data are limited, the overall average starting salary offer reported in the winter issue of NACE’s Salary Survey is 4 percent higher than the average starting salary offer in winter 2007.

“It is important to recognize that this overall average masks some variations among different academic disciplines and among majors within those disciplines,” said Edwin Koc, NACE director of strategic and foundation research. “Still, at this early juncture, our data suggest that new college graduates are in demand.”

Two-Way or No Way Demands

Among the business disciplines, marketing graduates are expected to enjoy healthy starting salaries that are on average 5 percent higher than last year, bringing the average salary offer to $43,459. On the other hand, accounting, finance and business administration/management graduates—also expected to draw starting salaries in the mid- to upper $40s—will see increases of only 1 percent to 2 percent.

Many graduates with technical degrees, including computer science and engineering, also are drawing higher starting salaries, with average percentage increases ranging from 3.5 percent to as much as nearly 8 percent, depending on the specialty area. And, as a group, liberal arts graduates started the year on a high note with a 9 percent increase, bringing their average starting salary offer to $33,258.

Such salaries might initially get graduates’ attention, but new survey research by Experience Inc., a career services firm for college students, shows that employers that share what else their company can do for these potential employees will have an even greater impact on graduates and a higher likelihood of hiring them.

In Experience Inc.’s 2007 Job Description Survey released Feb. 26, 2008, a majority of college students and recent grads agreed that companies do not do a good job of communicating key information such as corporate ethics and reputation, career advancement, and training opportunities in their job descriptions.

For the survey, 117 students and recent grads from 35 different states reviewed actual job descriptions from five global companies across a variety of industries. Respondents evaluated these blind job postings based on their effectiveness in communicating the position, its requirements and benefits for prospective employees.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said the companies were good at describing basic job qualifications and responsibilities, and 72 percent said they did a good job explaining how a position fits with the applicant’s skills. But the results also showed there is a clear gap between what members of the Millennial generation value in a job and what employers included in their job descriptions.

Percentage of Millennials Who value These Characteristics:

Percentage of Millennials Reporting the Companies Did Good/Excellent Job Communicating These Characteristics:

Company reputation and ethics (70%)

Company reputation and ethics (46%)

Career advancement opportunities (70%)

Career advancement opportunities (45%)

Professional training (66%)

Professional training (36%)

Fifty-four percent of respondents rated the companies’ communication about their ethics and reputation as fair to poor, while 55 percent rated communication about career opportunities as such. In addition, 64 percent of respondents rated the companies’ communication about training opportunities as fair to poor.

“Our research shows that many organizations need to reassess how they write their job descriptions, changing from what companies want to a description that better explains how the position will benefit candidates,” said Jennifer Floren, founder and CEO of Experience Inc. “Providing information about career advancement, professional development and work/life balance will help employers stand out among the competition.”

Among the tips cited in Experience Inc.’s white paper, It’s Time for a Job Description Makeover,to make job descriptions more effective:

  • Make job descriptions succinct and understandable, including company overview and industry information as well as a description of the employee’s role within the organization and key reporting relationships.
  • Include details such as the number of hours expected per week, basic duties and responsibilities with percentages of time allocated to each, and the amount of travel associated with the position.
  • Share stories of how employees in similar positions progressed if career path information is not available.
  • Be specific when listing benefits (e.g., note tuition reimbursement amount).

Theresa Minton-Eversole is manager of SHRM Online’s Staffing Management Focus Area.

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