Good news for grads — managers are hiring

The tight labor market has companies looking at new college grads to help fill their ranks. Here’s what you need to know about the Gen Z workforce.

It’s a hot job market for job seekers, and one group who could stand to benefit the most this summer is the newest group of college grads.

According to new research from Robert Half, 83 percent of senior managers are likely to hire new college graduates.

Why is the job market so ripe for new grads?

The U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 3.6 percent in April, the lowest rate since December 1969. As job growth surged, with employers adding 263,000 new positions last month, companies began expanding the scope of their search for skilled professionals to include new college graduates to help fill open roles.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently reported an update on college hiring projections: employers now plan to hire 10.7 percent more Class of 2019 graduates than they did from the Class of 2018 for positions across the country. This tight hiring market has organizations more open to hiring younger workers, especially graduates with some experience under their belt, notes Jim Jeffers, metro market manager at staffing firm Robert Half in Madison.

So, what are employers looking for in these young new hires?

“New job seekers need an almost equal blend of soft and technical skills,” says Jeffers. “As most younger workers are pretty tech savvy, softer skills like strategic thinking, communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence have become just as valuable in the workplace as the ability to quickly learn new software. Basic attributes, like good work ethic, a positive attitude, and being a team player, are always in demand and are difficult to train for.”

Locally, Jeffers says Robert Half is seeing a number of fields actively hiring new grads throughout Greater Madison, including:

  • Web developer
  • Data analyst/report write
  • Front-end web developer
  • Visual designer
  • Copywriter
  • Financial reporting analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Executive assistant
  • Case clerk
  • Accountant
  • HR recruiting specialist/coordinator
  • Document coder
  • Help desk support
  • Project assistant/coordinator

However, before companies bring their first crop of Gen Z job seekers on board, Jeffers offers a few key insights about the newest generation of workers.

“This generation came of age during the Great Recession and is graduating into a job seeker’s market, meaning you should be prepared to offer top talent a competitive salary and a great benefits package,” Jeffers explains.

Research by Robert Half shows Gen Z workers prefer to communicate at work through face-to-face conversations, despite their reputation as digital natives who hide behind technology, so employers should offer professional challenges and ample opportunity for growth to retain these individuals.

“Highlight the importance of workplace culture, organizational culture, and being a place where they want to work,” advises Jeffers. “This group doesn’t mind working hard, but they want flexible working conditions and work-life balance, which oftentimes is doable, especially with technology today. The types of perks they want include the ability to modify hours due to commute, telecommute one day per week, work around scheduling requests, hit the gym after work, and log back in from home, etc.”

Member of Generation Z also consider corporate social responsibility very important in that their values — including giving back to the community and community service — align with those of their employer. Businesses are recognizing that they get greater productivity and loyalty from employees who thrive in their workplace environment, even if those new hires will need extra ramp-up time, notes Jeffers.

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Tips for new grads to increase their chances of finding a new job:

Look for new ways to build work history. Be flexible. Consider internships, volunteer assignments, or temporary work to gain experience and build your skill set.

Network — online and off. Many companies don’t advertise open positions, so networking plays an important role in finding out about “hidden” job opportunities. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job, whether in-person at industry association events or using professional networking websites. You’d be surprised at who might be able to help.

Use on and off campus resources. College career centers usually welcome recent grads and can help in your job search. You also might be able to connect with other alumni who can provide advice. Consider contacting your alma mater’s alumni relations department and getting involved with your college’s alumni association.

Don’t overlook your online image. A growing number of employers are searching for information about job seekers, making it crucial for applicants to actively monitor and maintain their professional reputations online.

Find jobs before they’re advertised. Read your local business journals and newspapers to identify companies that are hiring or expanding and send them your resume.

Initiate contact. Research companies you would like to work for and ask for an informational interview to learn more about the organization. It also can help employers get to know you so that you’re top of mind when the company has a vacant position.

Get connected. Companies often prefer to fill openings though staff recommendations, so identify any connections to the firm within your personal network that might improve your chances.

Meet with a recruiter. Staffing executives can be your eyes and ears in the job market. Recruiters also provide useful feedback on your resume and interview skills, and help you locate full-time and temporary jobs.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate salary with your first job offer. Candidates should always try to negotiate their offers — employers expect it. Be confident in your abilities. Prepare a bulleted list of what you bring to the table that you can refer to during the negotiation. Do your research by reviewing the average starting salary ranges in Madison for the position you’re applying for based on your experience level. Lastly, consider the whole offer package. The benefits offered to you are valuable, as well. Perks such as telecommuting options, an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, and wellness benefits can be compelling reasons to accept a smaller salary.

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