Today's college grads bring with them entirely different expectations about jobs and employment. This has big implications for the recruitment process.
By Haley Carroll
Two powerful forces are encouraging this change. First, organizational demand for new graduate hires is on the rise, creating a highly competitive < college-recruiting > environment. Hiring of both undergraduates and MBA students is expected to grow substantially, due to world-wide employer expectations that their organizations will continue to grow and expand this year and beyond.
Second, millennials and Generation Z are entering the workforce, bringing new expectations about jobs and employment. Both age groups are notoriously impatient, demanding and tech-savvy. This means the recruiting processes for new graduates must be quick and painless -- from simple aspects such as the application process and interview scheduling to more complex ones such as branding, communication and attraction. To stay ahead of the competition, it's essential that organizations understand these generations.
College Labor Market is Growing
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, more than 50 percent of employers worldwide expect their organization to expand or grow during 2016, and they're also gearing up to recruit new graduates. As a result, the college labor market is also growing -- with new-graduate hiring expected to increase by 15 percent.
For bachelor-level graduates, hiring is projected to increase between 8.3 and 15 percent over 2014-15 levels, according to reports from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. Roughly two-thirds of bachelor-level graduates will be hired through on-campus activities if the same trends continue. According to the CERI, hiring of technical majors is expected to expand by 24 percent, with electrical engineering, computer science, and mechanical engineering majors identified as the highest sought-after degrees. Hiring of business majors is also expected to increase by double digits -- 22 percent -- with accounting, finance and marketing majors identified as the most in-demand degrees. The growth in demand is occurring across most industries and among organizations of all sizes, with large organizations in particular expecting to increase their bachelor-level graduate hiring.
In-Person Interviews Are Still Key
A tight labor market is often described as a "war for talent." Today, < college recruiting > could be described as a "race for talent," driven by the fast-paced, tech-dependent nature of millennials and Gen Z. Overall, the < college-recruiting > process is evolving to be more streamlined, flexible and instant for candidates. Organizations must also evolve to keep up with the competition or risk losing top talent.
* Streamlined. Say goodbye to any lengthy or time-consuming application processit will swiftly deter these younger candidates. Make sure the job application is streamlined so you don't lose top talent to organizations with more efficient processes. For example, some organizations make it easy for potential candidates to apply for open positions via LinkedIn and other platforms with just a few clicks.
* Flexible. Due to the number and assortment of technological devices in todays world, these generations are used to having anything and everything available at their fingertips. This is the definition of flexibility, and the < college-recruiting > process should be no differentat least, this is what millennials and Gen Z believe. Talent software now on the market lets candidates use their mobile devices to accept interview invitations, self-schedule interviews and make real-time changes.
* Instant. These generations crave instant communication. This can take several forms, including texting or chat messaging via Skype. Millennials and Gen Z also like constant interaction, which text and chat facilitate. College recruiters can use these communication forms hand-in-hand to keep in touch with top talent.
More employers than ever have embraced technology for recruiting, which will help them in the race for top talent. According to NACE, 78 percent of organizations use social media for < college recruiting >, up from 70 percent in 2013-14. Organizations are using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to weed out less-desirable candidates prior to on-campus interviews. Organizations also are steadily increasing their use of video interviewing, which can help them further narrow the field of candidates before conducting in-person interviews. Both of these factors may explain why on-campus interviewing is still cited as the most-effective recruiting strategy by 80 percent of organizations, even as the number of on-campus interviews has declined. In fact, organizations report that almost two-thirds of their new hires are recruited through on-campus activities. So, even as organizations continue to integrate more technology into their recruiting processes, the truism remains that in-person and traditional techniques are the most effective for attracting and selecting top candidates.
The effectiveness of in-person recruiting may be a factor behind the 73-percent increase in the number of full-time recruiters per organizations from an average of 8.2 in 2011 to 14.2 in 2015. In-person, high-touch activities such as career or job fairs and information sessions help organizations build relationships with university staff and students. This also is key to building brand awareness -- the piece of < college recruiting > cited as the most important by respondents to the NACEs 2015 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey Report.
More Than a High Salary
Due to the growing and competitive labor market, 66 percent of organizations expect to increase their starting salaries by almost 4 percent and more than 50 percent of organizations will offer signing bonuses. However, if an organization wants to attract top talent, it will need to offer more than a high salary. Millennials and Gen Z place high value on workplace diversity, building relationships, and making a positive social impact.
* Workplace Diversity. Millennials and Gen Z are the most diverse generations in U.S. history -- made up of the highest representation of minorities to date. These generations expect outright inclusion of all people and seek out employers who share their values. Employers are beginning to take this into account -- almost three quarters of organizations reported having a formal diversity recruiting plan in 2015, according to the NACE.
* Building Relationships. While both generations love building and maintaining multiple social networks online, they also are interested in building relationships and social connections in-person. Recruiters can begin building relationships with potential college recruits through on-campus activities that will have the added benefit of increasing brand recognition as well. Communication also is essential for building relationships, but it's important for recruiters to reach out via the communication methods preferred by millennials and Gen Z -- text, chat and video. But these interactions must be authentic and one-on-one or in a small group.
* Making a Positive Social Impact. Millennials are highly interested in making a positive social impact on their communities and the world, so college recruiters must emphasize how job opportunities at their organizations can do just that. Organizations also need to highlight how jobs will be meaningful for Gen Z, but for an entirely different reason. Gen Z is very entrepreneurial, with studies showing that more than half of them expressing interest in starting a business. They tend to cite two important reasons for wanting to start their own businesses: First, so they can be their own boss -- this may allude to concerns about maintaining a comfortable work/life balance. Second, they feel they can make a bigger social impact this way. The second reason makes it all the more necessary for organizations to highlight ways in which employees can make an impact and find meaning through their work -- even at a medium-to-large organization.
Millennials and Gen Z are at the forefront of the < college recruiting revolution -- the main catalyst changing the process into one that's candidate-centric. Organizations must transform the technical aspects of recruiting to be more streamlined, flexible and instantaneous in order to keep the interest of these generations. But, more importantly, organizations must transform how recruiters attract top talent. Millennials and Gen Z require more than a high salary -- an organization's culture is now a big selling point. College recruits are looking for jobs that are meaningful and seek out organizations that are inclusive, diverse, authentic and socially responsible. Organizations that understand who they are recruiting and how to attract these generations will win the race for top talent.
Haley Carroll is a research specialist at the American Productivity and Quality Center, specializing in human resources, process improvement and financial management.