The War for Talent Comes to Colleges

Jan 16, 2015
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

NACE signing bonusCollege graduation may still be five months away, but if you haven’t already been out on the campus recruiting circuit, you’re behind.

Two out of three employers started recruiting in the fall. About half have definite plans to hit the colleges this spring. For everyone else, if you start now, you may have a crack at hiring a humanities major or a senior earning a B.A. in education. Good luck, though, if you have reqs for computer scientists, engineers, or accountants.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers the outlook for college seniors in 2015 is much brighter than it has been.

The organization’s Job Outlook 2015 survey found employers plan to hire 8.3 percent more graduates this academic year than last. And if last year is any indication, the actual percentage could go even higher.

Better than a third of employers in the twice yearly NACE survey rated the job market for the 2014-2015 crop of graduates as excellent or very good, more than twice the percentage who said that in the last two years.

Need more evidence of just how competitive campus recruiting has become? Consider that 66 percent of employers — an “all-time high,” says NACE — will boost their starting salaries an average of 3.6 percent. Slightly over half intend to offer signing bonuses, the largest percentage saying that since the start of the recession.

Perhaps it’s needless to say, but these bonuses and salary increases will only be going to students in the most-sought after fields. As has been the case for the last several years, seniors in finance, accounting, mechanical engineering, and computer science are the most in demand, with more than half of the surveyed employers saying they’re looking to hire students with degrees in these areas.

Those who accept offers will get bonuses ranging from an average of $3,700 for accounting majors to $5,300 for newly minted chemical engineers.

Somewhat more than two-thirds of employers intend to screen candidates by GPA, with 3.0 by far the most common cutoff.

Grades are just the start. the NACE survey found large percentages — upwards of 70 percent — who will scan resumes for evidence of leadership, teamwork, written communication skills, problem-solving ability and a strong work ethic. Far fewer will look for signs of creativity, tactfulness, or entrepreneurial talent.

When deciding whom to hire, employers say teamwork, problem solving and verbal communication are among the top soft skills to influence their decision. Having relevant work experience is also highly important.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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