HR trends impacting 2021 college grads, career centers

From interviews to resumes to negotiating salaries, the important skills all students and alums seeking jobs should know.
By: | June 15, 2021
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A new report from iCIMS Insights confirms a trend that University Business has reported on over the past few weeks: despite their deftness in operating in online spaces, this year’s college graduates do not want to work remotely full-time.

An overwhelming majority – 63% – prefer to be in an office setting several times a week as they sign on for their first jobs, according to the iCIMS’ Class of 2021 Report from human resources professionals and college grads.

“On one hand, the desire for flexibility is paramount for all, but on the other hand, this up-and-coming generation also wants and needs the experience of social connection and ingraining themselves within an inclusive learning culture where physical space matters,” said Jewell Parkinson, chief people officer, iCIMS.

One of the challenges they and future students face, however, is the interview process, which has largely turned virtual. Though 80% of students believe they fare better during in-person interviews, 97% of HR professionals will use some form of video to conduct hirings over the next year, including 55% that will use virtual interviews.

As college career centers prepare alumni and future students for the jobs of the future, particularly those entry-level positions, that trend is one of many that will be important in positioning them for opportunities:

The job market. After a pandemic-affected year, it is improving for candidates seeking entry-level positions, with average time to hire just 6 ½ weeks.

Negotiation. The iCIMS report notes that the average entry-level salary is $66,000 – an increase of 22% over 2020 – but that many new hires are leaving potential money behind. Study authors noted, “While U.S. college seniors only anticipate earning an average of just under $52,000 annually, these individuals are in a much stronger negotiating position than they might realize.”

Where they should be: Students are using these five sources most when applying for jobs: LinkedIn, Indeed, Google, Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter. Career centers should make students aware that companies are looking there as well, not only to pitch their brands but to find talent.

Resumes dropping. Though still a factor in hiring, resumes have fallen out of the top three considerations as HR professionals look more closely at experience and skill sets and in particular, online profiles.

Expect texts: College career centers should make job hopefuls aware that employers more than ever are using texting to connect and hire candidates. About 40% of candidates are still not comfortable with setting up interviews or getting application updates via text, yet a third of HR teams are now using the strategy to reach prospective new employees.

Moving up. A paltry 21% of companies in the study have internal mobility programs for first-time hires, and more than 50% of those workers will leave before their first 12 months on the job. Career centers should ensure their prospective candidates ask about professional development and opportunities for growth during the hiring process so they can find companies that are more likely to meet these needs.