Girl Graduate Image by fredy martinez enamorado from PixabayiCIMS has published its Class of 2023 report. The annual report examines the survey results of 1,000 US college leavers and 500 HR/recruiting professionals. The demographic is noteworthy because this is the first set of graduates born in the 21st century who spent most of their college time during the pandemic.

The report is quite short, at only eleven pages, but it packs a wealth of data points and analysis. It is loosely divided into 7 sections. It has a few comments by iCIMS leaders and a mini case study from Hospital Sisters Health System.

Meet the Class of Y2K

It looks at the current graduating generation and notes some interesting facts. Gen Z now makes up 25% of the US population, and half of this generation comprises people of colour. Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok are the social media platforms of choice.

Top stats at a glance

Draws out the key data points from the report, which include some interesting insights for recruiters:

  • 40% of college seniors would not apply for a job if the salary range weren’t included in the job posting
  • Grads expect an average salary of $66,467, this is roughly $8,000 more than employers expect to pay ($58,317)
  • Female grads expect to earn $5,500 less than their male counterparts

The survey of HR professionals uncovered that 89% require some previous work experience for entry-level roles. Is this unrealistic, considering that COVID hindered them from finding jobs?

The use of Generative AI is increasing, with 25% saying that they have used AI bots to write their resume. However, candidates must be aware that 39% of HR professionals say using AI tech during the hiring process is a deal breaker. However, as Al Smith, CTO at iCIMS, notes, this is a two-sided coin. Can recruiters expect to be able to use generative AI themselves, whilst frowning on candidates from doing so?

So no one told you life was gonna be this way

Life, job hunting and expectations are different post COVID. 97% of seniors are considering roles outside the natural path of their major. 60% plan on taking a gig or hourly job. Their priorities for their role are also noteworthy:

  • 44% expect opportunities for growth or advancement
  • 36% want a stable company and job security (52% said layoffs put them off joining a firm)
  • 30% expect job perks or amenities

The job market is tougher, with an increase of 44% in applications, with 26 applications per opening compared to 20 in 2022. Many want to land a job quickly, 64% within three weeks and no more than 3 interviews. The report does not show whether the search for job stability has increased from last year.

COVID changed career aspirations

The desire to work in healthcare and education dropped by 64% and 62% between 2019 and 2023. Technology has become more popular, 56%, compared to 44% in 2019. Not only has it changed career aspirations. Preferred engagement channels have changed, with one case study noting the success of TikTok in attracting students.

Its like you’re always stuck in second gear

The report throws up an interesting dichotomy. While more companies are looking to increase entry-level hiring (53%) this year, 90% of recruiters want previous experience, and 26% want three or more years of experience. Is this an entry-level job, though?

For some, internships are not the same as real employment experience. This issue may already be causing challenges, with 49% saying they found it difficult to find a job within their profession.

Salary expectations fall (slightly) back to earth

While salary expectations have fallen slightly ($70,000 to $66,467) over the last year, they are still well above recruiters’ expectations. Graduates are also ambitious, with 84% more aiming for six-figure salaries than in 2019 and 66% more than in 2022. Perhaps the biggest concern is the wage gap perception for female graduates, as noted above. They have lower expectations of salary but higher expectations of benefits and overtime pay.

Post-COVID, candidates are less concerned with the well-being support offered. 42% of female respondents (down from 70% in 2022) and 38% of males (63% in 2022) expect mental health support from employers.

Myth Busters

This section disperses a few myths built around the younger generation today. Is this next generation just out for a higher salary? No, they expect a decent wage but also look for flexible working hours and expect to be paid for overtime. They don’t mind working for people of their parent’s generation. ¾ of Gen Z employees would accept a job if their manager were substantially older.

Finally, there is a myth that the new generation has ever shorter attention spans. While the average attention span has dropped from 2.5 minutes in 2004 to 47 seconds, it is not just that of the latest generation. 35-44-year-olds have a shorter attention span than 18-24-year-old job seekers!

In summary

Laura Coccaro, chief people officer of iCIMS
Laura Coccaro, chief people officer of iCIMS

There are some fascinating data points in this report that are noteworthy for US recruiters. Laura Coccaro, chief people officer of iCIMS, said, “This is the first Class born in the millennium to hit the workforce, and they are doing so amid a challenging macroeconomic environment with the noise of layoffs after spending the majority of their college years in a pandemic. Its no wonder they crave stability from their employers.

“While these concerns are valid, its not all doom and gloom. Our data shows employees are hiring for entry level roles at a steady rate, and more than half of HR pros surveyed plan to increase entry-level hiring this year, While ‘dream jobs’ may look a little different today, many are out there and within reach.

“As this cohort of talent hedges their bets, hiring teams will need to reframe what it means to attract, retain and grow talent.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

An interesting report that demonstrates the evolving nature of both candidates and the recruiting process. There are perhaps two insights that recruiters must consider. Why are female candidates expecting a lower salary when they join the workforce? Can recruiters do anything to bring equity to the workplace when they hire? Is there a better message they should be telling?

Secondly, recruiters must consider how the younger generation engages on social media to get the best candidates. For too long, recruiters have relied on job boards and traditional routes. Today they must go where the candidates are, which isn’t always job boards and newspapers. If they want to attract the best candidates, they need to look at video engagements that help attract students.


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