What's Happening? 2010 to 2011 College Recruiting Trends

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by Traci K and BrightMove, The Leader in  Recruiting Software, Staffing Software and Onboarding Software

Every year around this time, Michigan State University polls thousands of employers of all sizes in search of data relating to college graduates in order to generate recruiting trends.  This data varies in type of information from the average salary offer by major to the percent of job placement per geographic region.  Whether an employer or a recent college graduate, the findings from this research study are invaluable when predicting graduate availability, updating on the current market, or simply comparing what is being offered for entry-level graduates across the nation.  Here is a summary of this study:

Despite the gloomy national labor market situation, the college segment of the market is poised to rebound this year. While overall hiring across all degrees is expected to increase 3%, hiring at the Bachelor’s level is expected to surge by 10% according to the 4,600 employers who responded to Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends 2010-2011 survey. Led by upturns in hiring in manufacturing, professional and scientific services, the federal government, and large commercial banks, the Bachelor’s market will enjoy its first expansion in two years. With this good news comes a word of caution. This step is the first out of a deep hole; yet, many organizations are still not in a position to contribute positively to hiring.

The average figures reported above mask what is actually happening in the college job market. In fact, college hiring growth is being generated by only a small group of organizations (approximately 350 to 400) who have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. This group is comprised of two highly optimistic cohorts:

Large companies who are aggressively filling positions that have been open for several years.

Fast growth and small companies who are creating new positions.

The MBA market, which is also awakening, paints a very different picture. An equal number of employers are decreasing as are increasing their hiring. Fortunately, employers who are expanding their MBA workforce more than offset the cuts being made by other companies. This market segment will remain tight as the supply of graduating MBA students is high.

Nearly 40% of employers indicate that they will seek candidates from across “all majors”, focusing more on the skills and abilities needed in the organization than the academic discipline. “All majors” is not a proxy for the liberal arts but a signal that employers are seeking the best talent regardless of major. Business majors will be the strongest discipline in this market with the rebound of accounting hires. Engineering appears sluggish with the exception of computer science and IT students whose market is exploding this year. Some majors will see fewer opportunities, including construction, law, publishing, nursing, social services, and health sciences in general.

Salaries have dropped precipitously in the last two years, from $46,500 in 2008-2009 (at the Bachelor’s level) to $36,866 this year, a decline of almost $10,000. This drop cannot be taken at face value because there are several possible factors at play. Since the 2008-2009 Recruiting Trends study, the sample size has grown exponentially, creating a new baseline for salary information. The decline in the reported average is influenced by the volume of small, mid-sized and non-profit organizations that traditionally have more modest salary offers. The lack of a stronger upward movement in engineering recruiting also may have had an effect. Still, it is apparent that salaries have stagnated during the last two years.

The best recruiting strategies still depend on connections between faculty, students, career services professionals, alumni and hiring staff in organizations. Clearly, career services professionals are challenged to play more of an “agent” role to make these connections happen.

As these hiring trends change, so do the ways in which we recruit.  Are career fairs still considered an effective way by which to secure top candidates?  In the next post I’ll delve into the ways in which we recruit college studetns, discussing the opinions of those polled in the study summaried above and making suggestions on how to move forward, evolving your company’s college recruiting strategies.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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