77% of students want practical experience in next 6-months

Posted August 19, 2020 by

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted virtually everyone globally, but what hasn’t been well discussed yet is the impact on college students and recent graduates who are just starting to search for part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs next summer.

Parker Dewey recently surveyed several thousand students enrolled this fall. Some were members of its micro-internships platform but many weren’t in an effort to eliminate their membership as a potential selection set bias. The findings echo the mostly anecdotal feedback that College Recruiter is hearing from its employer customers, career services, and candidates.

For decades, employers have largely focused on flying hiring managers and recruiters around the country in the fall and again in the winter to meet with students on-campus including through information sessions, career fairs, and interviews. To these employers, engaging students where they attended school was deemed to be of utmost importance, but it was always questionable to us how accurate that perception was. Did students really want to meet with employers on-campus?

Parker Dewey’s survey is consistent with what we’ve heard for years: students don’t really want to meet with employers on-campus. They’ve done so in droves because they’ve seen it as a means to an end. They have little desire to dress up in a suit and spend 20-minutes in a tiny, stuffy interview room with a recruiter who is about to fall asleep and a hiring manager who won’t stop asking inappropriate and, at times, illegal questions. They have less desire to be herded like cattle into a gymnasium where they’re expected to line-up to have the opportunity to speak for seconds with a recruiter who likely won’t remember anything about the meeting later that day.

So, if students don’t want to meet with employers on-campus, what do they want? Well, what every other job seeker wants: a job. Students want to learn what it is like to work in an industry and even with a specific organization by doing the work itself. They want to work for you part-time, for a season, through an internship, or even full-time as an entry-level hire. According to the survey, a massive 86 percent of students prefer to engage with employers through “real work experience”.

Do this large majority expect to be paid? Most of them do, and College Recruiter has always advocated for all employers to pay for all work. To not pay employees is to ask them to subsidize your business model, and a young adult who likely has massive student loans should never be in a better position financially than an employer with hiring needs. According to the survey, 65 percent of students place value on being paid.

When asked to look toward the next six-months, students said that they need:

  • 78% — More experiences to build their resumes and get their foot in the door. The very high percentage is likely due in large part to the large percentage — 78 — of undergraduates who reported that COVID-19 disrupted their summer plans. Incidentally, those in graduate school weren’t exempt. Overall, 69 percent of students had their summer plans disrupted due to the pandemic.
  • 67% — More information about who is hiring and the jobs they’re offering.
  • 59% — More information about the jobs themselves and how best to apply for them.
  • 27% — Earning course credit when working on a project. This is consistent with the conversations that I’ve had with students. Many schools offer — typically with a fee — course credit for the successful completion of an internship that is approved by the school. Some require them. And some even require that the internship be unpaid, which effectively means that the student needs to pay for course credit for an internship for which they’re not being paid. Quite frankly, it is outrageous that schools require students to work for free even more outrageous that the schools also require the students to pay for credit for the, ahem, privilege of working for free.

So, if you’re an employer and struggling to figure out how best to engage with and then hire the students your organization needs, you’re probably wondering how best to engage with students. According to the survey, what students want are:

  • 87% — Real work experience with a company. Micro-internships and other project work lends itself well to this as you can bring on a student to do real work for you on a very limited basis, but that work will allow them to better understand you and you to better understand them.
  • 54% — Company websites. Virtually every medium- and large-employer has invested significant sums in building robust and informative websites. That money isn’t wasted, but let’s be honest: few employer sites are actually engaging. Informative? Yes. Engaging? No.
  • 54% — Information sessions. In the past, these were typically held on-campus and often featured a hiring manager or two standing up in front of a room, thanking the dozens or hundreds for coming, and talking for a few minutes about the organization and its hiring efforts. Candidates could then informally discuss with the employer representatives the opportunities, application process, whatever. This year, expect that these will be held online through the use of the best virtual career event platforms.
  • 51% — Career fairs. I can’t imagine any of these being held in-person this school year, at least not indoors. Every school that I’ve had contact with has canceled their in-person career fairs and shifted them to be online, and they’re greatly struggling with the technology and pricing. Career service offices have largely relied on selling booths to employers in order to have enough money to pay their staff and fund their operations, so I hope that the shift to online goes well. We recently put together a list of the 19 best virtual career fair (event) platforms.
  • 39% — Job ads. At any given time, College Recruiter has hundreds of thousands of job posting ads for part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs. Many are well-written. Many include graphics such as the employer’s logo and even career-related videos. But none allow for true communication which is so important to true engagement. That’s okay. They’re not designed for that purpose. Jobs ads should lead to engagement, but they’re not the appropriate vehicle for employers whose goal is to engage with candidates.

Finally, the survey asked students what they’re still unsure about when it comes to finding an entry-level job upon graduation. In short, students have a lot of uncertainties. It isn’t that they’re dumb or uncaring. Far from it. Members of this generation, Gen Z, have no memories of life without their country being at war, without economic strife, without natural and manmade disasters. Economic security consistently ranks at or near the top of their primary, work-related goals, so when they express uncertainty, it is because they want to know, not because they don’t care. What students are more unsure of when it comes to landing an entry-level job upon graduation are:

  • 87% — What to expect from an entry-level job. Employers have an opportunity here to separate themselves from their competition. Don’t just tell the candidates what qualifications they need for the job. Also paint a picture for them of what working in your organization will be like, both during and after COVID.
  • 66% — What types of organizations they might be interested in. Again, this is an opportunity for employers. Candidly talk about the pros and cons of your type of organization. Are you small and dynamic but therefore best for candidates who embrace change? Are you large and bureaucratic but therefore attractive to candidates who like process? Are you government and therefore less likely to offer high pay but more likely to offer good job security and benefits?
  • 60% — What roles exist and how to apply. You may think it is obvious that candidates should go to your website to search for openings and apply online, but let’s be honest: many employer sites make that process excruciating. Hopefully, yours doesn’t. If it doesn’t, showcase that. If it does, help them.
  • 43% — How their classes relate to their career paths. A surprisingly large number of students select majors based on their interests and have little to no knowledge of what types of jobs align with those majors. At College Recruiter, we’ve tried to make that easier. Our job search engine maps majors to related occupational fields so you can search for a job by entering your major and we’ll then show you jobs that line up well with that. As an employer, tell candidates what majors you’re seeking (or not if that’s easier) instead of forcing them to read through job titles that use internal jargon and have little to no relationship to the names of majors the students are more familiar with.
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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters | Tagged